Posts Tagged ‘intolerance’

Gender-neutral dorms don’t promote heterosexual cohabitation

January 13, 2011

There’s a new gender-neutral housing policy at my alma mater, Ohio University. Of course, the immediate opposition for some is that heterosexual couples will take advantage of gender-neutral housing and try to live with their significant others. Not only does this argument miss the main purpose of gender-neutral housing, but it also shows some ignorance about college life at public universities.

By the latter, I mean this: Heterosexual couples shack up all the time. They stay at each other’s places, they sexile their roommates, and they even could choose to live together off-campus when the time arises. If you think that gender-neutral housing is going to be what causes an epidemic of pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancies, then you probably haven’t attended a public university recently.

But does it promote or advocate these things? Also, no. These policies discourage couples from living together, and honestly, most couples probably wouldn’t want to live together anyway — and the opportunity already exists once you’re eligible to live off-campus. How many unmarried couples did I know who lived together off-campus (and we’re talking planned it as they were a couple, not lived together and became a couple)? Zero. That’s because in college, people usually want to live with their friends, not significant others.

The people who would likely sign-up for gender-neutral housing would be LGBT people whose sexuality/gender identity doesn’t necessarily jive with the same-sex set-up that dorms typically have. Aaron Teskey, an alum of George Washington University, praised his alma mater for its new gender-neutral housing policy and shared some personal insight:

Like many queer students, I finally came out to my friends and family while at college. It was definitely a process though, and while at school students should be focused on learning, not worried about potential harassment or feel forced to hide their sexuality or gender identity from their roommates.

Teskey’s point identifies the core reason gender-neutral housing is necessary — because there is a very real danger of harassment with the forced same-sex living arrangements. You risk living with someone intolerant or homophobic, and for transgender people the level of intolerance is much worse. Students need to feel safe and comfortable in their living environment, and a gender-neutral living option can provide that.

Parents’ ridicule of Halloween costume teaches intolerance

November 5, 2010

A friend of mine posted this blog on Facebook, which is a mom describing how her five-year-old son wanted to be Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween and was ridiculed not by his peers, but by those peers’ parents:

[A mom] continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.

My response to that: The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.

This was the best lesson of the entire narrative, which detailed how her son was excited about his costume, but grew nervous about wearing it to school because his peers might tease him — which wasn’t even a problem considering that the moms were the ones so outraged and shocked by the costume. It’s a classic example of how intolerance is not inherent or natural, but it’s something that is learned from parents, family, and society in general.

The older the kids get, the more ingrained the ideas of intolerance are — the mom who said it’s a good thing he didn’t wear that to kindergarten had a point (not the one she was probably trying to make), which was that kids become less tolerant as they get older. Though encouraging your own children to be more tolerant of difference is an efficient way to combat that intolerance, while expecting your own children to be intolerant is … ridiculous.

It is obviously the parents who are painting a picture of gender roles and how subverting them is extremely problematic, while the kids are simply a blank canvas with no inclination that whatever the boy is wearing is somehow wrong or inappropriate. And it also shows that the parents are promoting a fear-driven lifestyle — don’t let your kids be different, because their developing their own sense of individuality isn’t worth people pointing out their being different, and they need to learn that fitting in to avoid criticism are valuable qualities. Plus, the lesson of sameness as good and difference as bad is a great one for kids to keep with them.

That her son was five years old and already afraid of ridicule for being different speaks to the fact that his classmates probably were already showing signs of intolerance, which is also disheartening because people at that young age are likely having their creativity and personality stifled because veering away from typical gender roles or the status quo is seen as wrong — and these parents are acting like they are trying to protect children from these “facts of life” while simultaneously promoting them.

If only those moms had seen this boy’s costume and greeted it with bright smiles and compliments — even if the kids were going to ridicule him, they’d take their parents’ accepting of the costume to heart and likely follow suit because they mimick behavior at this early age. Parents need to take opportunities like this and turn them into learning opportunities and lessons for their children — and I hope those shocked and outraged parents read this mom’s blog reaction and take it as a lesson for themselves.