...you'll understand the title in a minute...
Today was quite possibly one of my most FAVORITE days in my educational career which has spanned over some 19.5 years. And what is so ironic about it, is I didn't even have a single class today, but I still spent the entire day, from 9 AM till 8:30 PM in a lecture hall at my school.
Today I chose to take the day off from work to attend a LGBT Symposium. For those unaware, LGBT refers to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals. And also, for those unaware, symposium basically means a workshop/seminar (I say that, because honestly, I had no idea what that word meant, nor how to even pronounce it until yesterday...HA!)
This was basically a first time event for our program to put a symposium of this nature together, so it was free to students and faculty and staff (normally workshops of such nature you have to pay to attend and C.E.U.'s are offered and such). When I orignally heard about this symposium going to occur a few months back, I was interested, but it wasn't until two days ago when I got a copy of the agenda that I was really interested.
Here is a basic copy of the schedule:
9-10 AM Introduction; purpose of the symposium, NASW code of ethics in relation to LGBTs; policy issues
10-10:50 AM Spirituality and LGBT (it was a panel of 4 speakers)
11-11:50 AM Preparing to Disclose to Parents and Questions Parents Have
12:30-2 PM Pizza and a Movie (we watched a documentary called Finding Our Voice: the Gay and Lesbian Community in Dallas)
2:15-3:20 PM Avenues for Providing Support: families, schools, peers (it was a panel of 4 speakers)
3:30-5 PM Transgender Overview and Issues (it was a panel of 3 speakers)
6-8:30 PM A Dialogue with the LGBT Community (it was a panel of 4 speakers)
I had the opportunity to stay for the whole program and each part had it's benefits, but honestly, the panels were my personal favorites, as they were AMAZING! Hearing stories of near suicide attempts, stories of fear, stories of wanting to change--personal accounts are powerful, my friends!
Honestly, I can't really write about this experience right now, as I am still taking it all in and getting off the high I have from the day. I honestly was so intrigued, especially by the trans-gender panel, as that is a topic I am very unfamiliar with and have had very minimal exposure to--and Jerry Springer does not count! HA!
I plan to blog more about this experience soon. Maybe as soon as tomorrow, but then part of me really wonders if I have the ability to put the day in words and even do it justice, as the power of a personal account is hard to capture in written words, especially when it isn't your story, so I'll see what I can do for you (assuming any interest even exists...HA!).
I can almost bet at this point, if an individual with the name starting with Elli- and ending with -son, even began reading this post entry, she is not still reading by this point, as I know where she seems to stand on talking about this subject nowadays. And while we might differ on that, I still love her and for those who might talk to her, they can tell her I still love her! ;)
For anyone else, I honestly would love to hear where some of my friends and other fellow alums of my alma mater stand on this topic--including whether or not they even seem to have any interest at all about it, because it seems more and more I'm finding people from my alma mater do not even want to discuss this topic, as it is not a lifestyle they want to give any support towards (through the mere action of even discussing it). And while I've had the opportunity to discuss it with some of my friends, with some I haven't. And I think many choose not to talk much about it, but if you're interested let me know sometime, because I'm interested. And please don't think just because you think your view and mine will differ that I don't want to hear from you, or that I will try to argue with you, because I highly doubt that will be the case.
I want to end with the email I just wrote to one of the professors in my masters program, who happened to be my past internship advisor. She was on the planning committee for the symposium today.
I just wanted to share with you my appreciation for the LGBT Symposium today.
As a member of the heterosexual community, today’s experience was a MUCH appreciated opportunity for me. Unfortunately, many heterosexuals like myself do not get the type of exposure, or even the “look” into the LGBT community that today provided the opportunity for.
For me, coming from a private religious undergraduate education, talk about the LGBT community was rather restricted unfortunately. I do not say that in anyway to discredit my alma mater, as I believe I got an amazing education there too; however, the topic of homosexuality just was not covered as well as I would have liked—just as there are some topics I wish were covered better in our masters program (no school is perfect). With this being the case, I was intrigued by today’s discussions. And while I like to view myself as a pretty accepting person, it never hurts to hear personal stories from individuals who are from a different “group” from you, in order to get a better understanding to aid in one’s acceptance. Otherwise, as Dr. P referenced today, self-perceived “acceptance” might possibly just be a case of tolerance.
I think in the social work field as we find ourselves (or in a helping profession in general), understanding that each person we encounter is totally unique is importance. And with that being the case, it is important that we are reminded of the importance of hearing the personal accounts and stories, just as closely as we like to hear the statistics and the “cold-hard facts.” Because of this, I greatly appreciated that today was more of a day of hearing the stories of what life is actually like when living as a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or trans-gendered person, rather than it being more of a day of “school” where it was “here are all the statistics and what the journals say about LGBT’s and here are the facts.”
In my many years of my education career, I can honestly say this was one of my most favorite learning experiences, even though I can’t sit down and write you a list of all the “facts” I learned today. Having had the opportunity to be in attendance for the whole symposium, I can honestly say the panel discussions were amazing and greatly appreciated!
Thanks again for this opportunity!