University News

MPCs discuss heterosexism in workshop

Workshop examines marriage rights, discrimination, violence in LGBTQ communities

Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Students gather in the Petteruti Lounge for a Minority Peer Counselor workshop led by MPCs Angelica Johnsen ’18, Timmy Jeng ’18, Kylen Soriano ‘18, Justin Willis ‘18 and Amani Hayes-Messinger ’18.

Updated Oct. 22, 2015 at 6:03 p.m.

Though same-sex marriage became legal nationwide in June, LGBTQ individuals still face a multitude of challenges including discrimination and violence — the subject of a Minority Peer Counselor workshop on heterosexism Tuesday.

The interactive workshop was divided into three sections: marriage rights, discrimination and violence.

The facilitators of the event — MPCs Angelica Johnsen ’18, Timmy Jeng ’18, Kylen Soriano ’18, Justin Willis ’18 and Amani Hayes-Messinger ’18 — began by outlining the structure of the workshop to attendees who were sprawled on the floor with provided ice cream in hand. The facilitators emphasized that attendants should prioritize self-care and exit when necessary.

The facilitators defined common words and terms in LGBTQ discourse and contextualized the LGBTQ movement by citing past movements that tended to focus on white gay males and exclude people of color. They also noted that gay people have often been stigmatized as sick.

Interactive strategies, such as “turn-and-talks,” continued the discourse, allowing attendants to turn to their neighbors and have a small discussion about questions the facilitators posed throughout the workshop.

Workshop leaders began by outlining the different rights that people have in civil unions, domestic partnerships and marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage is important to the gay rights movement, but there are still a variety of issues that exist for the LGBTQ community, the facilitators said.

Participants joined an activity in which they read challenges and restrictions faced by hypothetical partnered couples, in order to draw attention to the lack of rights for couples in civil unions.

This section also included a discussion of the Human Rights Campaign and its critics, including the Pipeline Project. The Human Rights Campaign is a “civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” while the Pipeline Project is an initiative striving for “people of color leadership, advancement and program development strategies for the LGBT movement,” according to their respective websites. The Pipeline Project criticized the Human Rights Campaign as “judgmental, exclusionary and homogeneous,” because it was mostly run by cisgender white males, facilitators said. Further, leaders of the group refused to use the proper pronouns of transgender employees and did not often promote women within the organization, they added.

Facilitators then discussed the difficulties LGBTQ couples have as they “continue to face barriers with adoption and discrimination,” Soriano said.

They then opened the conversation up to the audience, asking what role they thought social norms played in same-sex couples’ difficulty to adopt. There is a “myth in our society that male/female is the only way to have a family,” an attendee said. These social norms are “portrayed in media and politics, and that would definitely affect how adoption agencies work,” the attendee added.

Another student noted that “adoption agencies are usually run by religious organizations that then try to decide what families are legitimate or deserving of” families.

Hayes-Messinger relayed her personal narrative of the difficulty one of her moms had in adopting her, emphasizing the many hurdles same-sex couples must endure.

The second section — discrimination — included stories of LGBTQ people facing discrimination immediately after the legalization of  same-sex marriage in the United States on June 27.

Discrimination is prevalent in the medical field as well, facilitators said, referring to an incident in which a bisexual woman’s gynecologist assumed she had slept with “20 or 30” partners.

One attendee said the example “shows how queer people are hyper-sexualized.”

Facilitators then discussed discrimination in schools, citing statistics showing that the majority of LGBTQ students are harassed, feel unsafe and face discrimination in some form.

Sexual assault “should not be erased under the blanket term bullying,” Willis said.

Attendees learned about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” in which children are marginalized because of sexual orientation and pushed out into juvenile and criminal justice systems. One student pointed out that this is specific to class as well and that this trend usually occurs more in inner cities than in suburbs. “This is not a white, gay issue. This is very much a black/brown problem,” the student added.

The final section on violence discussed how hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals are not considered federal crimes, leaving cases to state and local jurisdiction, Willis said, calling that “particularly unnerving.” LGBTQ people of color are the victims of violent crime at significantly higher rates than white LGBTQ people, the facilitators noted.

At the end, a list of resources and organizations for LGBTQ issues was distributed. The facilitators said that heterosexual students should stand in solidarity with LGBTQ peers and should actively listen to and support them.

“MPC programs are significant venues for consciousness raising,” said Shane Lloyd, assistant director for first-year and sophomore programs. “It’s not often that students have a facilitated opportunity in community with their peers,” he added.

“A more complex understanding of what queer people really face is what I hope” attendees gain, said Jieyi Cai ’17, a former MPC currently involved in mentoring current MPCs.

The facilitators of the workshop declined to comment to The Herald about the event.

A previous version of this article identified the names of several attendees who spoke at the workshop. Their names have been removed due to confidentiality concerns.


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  1. brownstudent says:

    “The Pipeline Project criticized the Human Rights Campaign as “judgmental, exclusionary and homogeneous,” because it was mostly run by cisgender white males, facilitators said.”

    These people are well-meaning bigots, if that makes any sense to anyone. I think most people are drawn to this out of a genuine, if misguided, sense of compassion, but they end up with very insulated, ignorant views and the intense entitlement that comes with spending so much time in an echo chamber.

  2. Jay Materna says:

    What are the common terms for people like me, who like male goats with one ball cut off? Can I get a work shop on that? Will Brown University pay to transport goats from my place?

  3. Emilio Lizardo says:

    “myth in our society that male/female is the only way to have a family, …”

    Apparently they don’t teach biology at this school.

    The “school-to-prison pipeline, …” primarily affect males (90% of the prison population, 95% of police homicides). It’s part of the glass cellar women enjoy.

    LGBTQ is the alphabet of gender failure.

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