Category Archives: OFC Staff and Interns

The Importance of LGBTQ Inclusive Education

maraineyBy Maya Berkley, Policy Intern 

Growing up queer and of color, the endlessly vast reach of queerness did not spontaneously occur to me, and it certainly was not taught to me until I reached college and began pursuing a minor in GSFS and actively seeking out classes in my school’s Africana Studies Department. Learning about history in college in a way that intentionally includes historical figures who look and love like me has helped me feel more represented and engaged in my own learning and the history of this country. I know that if I had had access to facts and information about LGBT people throughout elementary, middle and high school, I would have a better educational foundation entering into college, as well as a more pronounced interest in the history I am learning because it represents the diverse, beautiful United States that I am a part of. Though I have taken multiple classes in multiple disciplines in an effort to bridge the gap in my/my college/my country’s cultural and academic understanding of black queerness, I recognize that my understanding of the cultural and historical implications of my identity are limited by the framework within which I was presented my history; my culture.

This summer, however, I have been able to vicariously experience a more LGBT-inclusive primary and secondary education through my work interning with Our Family Coalition (OFC) and working with a history teacher at Berkeley High school. We are developing a curriculum to teach the Harlem Renaissance with a focus on the many black and LGBT identified prominent figures of the era. This will provide California teachers with tools to comply with the FAIR Education Act and most recent revisions to the History Social-Science Framework .This work is not only extremely rewarding for me, as a queer artist of color with an intended minor in GSFS , but it also allows me a totally new perspective on the Harlem Renaissance that California’s students will soon have the privilege of engaging with at a much more pertinent point in their academic careers. This is one example of the many ways that California’s groundbreaking decision to rewrite its History-Social Science curriculum to be more inclusive of LGBT history will positively impact its students for years to come.

An inclusive and diverse History-Social Science education is essentially not only to provide all students with the most accurate and unbiased representation of history possible, but for many students from marginalized communities, it is one of the many first steps in developing a healthy self-concept in a world that would have them do otherwise. I find that I am constantly unlearning myself as a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped for and by white cis-hetero people, when I am in fact a black and queer person living in a society built and shaped by black people, queer people, other people of color, Muslim people, immigrants, those living with disability, as well as white cis-hetero people.

gertrudepridgettFor example, I really enjoying listening to and creating blues-folk music, and for a long time, my image of blues and folk music was white; I thought of Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac; modern blues revivalists like Hozier. This was the framework I was given to understand music within- black people created hip hop, the rest was white. It wasn’t until high school when my musical framework was challenged. I learned that blues music began as black music, was, for a while, the called and responded-to voice of black sorrow and joy, both individual and collective. Still, within this framework, it was the music of straight black masculinity. It wasn’t until this summer, when I began my work on this summer that I came to realize just how many black, queer, femme musicians created blues music, and the many art forms that stemmed from the Harlem Renaissance. Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley, Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, these are just a few examples of black queer women without whom there would be no blues, and as a result, no jazz, no rock, no hip hop, no American culture as we know it. I am grateful that I have a chance to unlearn a history that either intentionally erased or otherwise failed to include the history of so many marginalized communities, however,  it is not my job.

I should not need two years and counting at a private liberal arts college to understand my place in this nation’s history. Education should not be unlearned, and this is what makes California’s newest revisions to its History Social-Science Framework so important- it empowers students to create positive change by showing them that people like them have always shaped the world that they live in. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, same or many gender-loving, gender non-conforming, gender expansive people that we now peg with the umbrella title of LGBT(Q) have always been, and will always be, a part of every culture, every era, every great movement in the United States. In this world. Whether marginalized or celebrated, tolerated or embraced, we have always been here.

Out of the Dark: Emboldening Schools to Welcome Everyone

By Rick Oculto,
Education Coordinator at Our Family Coalition

8b68132b-157e-44b5-87e1-2ac91f7bbd5dOnly a few blocks from the White House is a building with giant glass windows. You can see right into the main meeting room from the street and every floor of the building is exposed to the light of the outside world. Even if you wanted to hide, it would be difficult. On the walkway to the entrance the ubiquitous blue and yellow equal sign hangs proudly from its façade. This is the national headquarters of the powerful LGBTQ rights machine known as the Human Rights Campaign. It is not ostentatious, but sleek, clean, and unapologetic… a marked difference from how the rest of the country is accustomed to talking about LGBTQ issues; under hushed whispers in the dark. In many places, gay is still a dirty word.

The week of Halloween, on the top floor of this building, on arguably the most exposed floor were about forty people from across the country dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ youth and families never had to hide again. The irony of the impending holiday was not lost on me. The fact that many people in LGBTQ communities find solace in this holiday because it allows us to assume identities that are not always socially available to us also did not escape me. As trainers who have put ourselves on the frontlines of addressing issues of difference, we have encountered a great diversity of difficult situations. And now, we were charged with sharing the knowledge on how to do that; how to come out of the closet about our own experience, and how to create spaces that allowed others to do so. The task ahead would not be easy.

As a trainer, you never know what the participants will bring to a discussion. Many times it can lead to very deep and meaningful exchanges and sometimes the intersections of everyone’s identities crash into each other like a multi-car pileup on the freeway. When that happens, just like a freeway, everyone’s got to slow down to make sure we can all move forward together. If not, all traffic comes to a dead stop.

groupatFCT-1So, here we were eight floors above the ground in a glass room filled with eager minds and good intentions. Each face represented a story of struggle, and hardship, and tenacity to have come to this place to create and sustain inclusive spaces for everyone, but especially for those who have traditionally been unwelcome. And then it happens… as we go into examples of our communities, the inevitable and pernicious stereotypes about the threat each of our communities might pose comes to the forefront; first about gender, then about race. Everyone is on alert. The mood of the room went from jovial to urgent as representatives from each community plead their case for better understanding. Any amateur facilitator would have shied away, changed the subject, and inevitably hampered learning. We slowed it down and leaned into it. After all, we were here to help everyone better navigate identity, not ignore it. No one in the room was an amateur. We moved forward together.

The Human Rights Campaign has been criticized for its myopia and exclusivity, specifically on its actions around transgender issues and people of color. In recent years the organization has taken some initiative to address those shortfalls with some success. The Welcoming Schools Approach and the training of facilitators to address difference is part of the outcome of that effort. For the past five years Welcoming Schools has operated as a program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation with the mission to make schools more welcoming of diverse families, inclusive of LGBTQ-issues, address biased based bullying, and to support transgender and gender expansive youth. It has been a labor of love that has grown and evolved as the national conversation on difference has taken center stage. It was formed out of the need for representation of LGBTQ individuals and families and has been tempered by the passing of Leelah Alcorn, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Seth Walsh, along with many other events. There has always been an undercurrent of liberation; knowing that the topics Welcoming Schools touched upon would thrust those issues uncomfortably into the light. The visceral experience of the aforementioned events further molded the conversation in ways that were more responsive and inclusive. Our Family Coalition, in conjunction with the other Welcoming Schools trainers, have been at the heart of this cathartic shift.

It was a long three days. There was laughter and tears and conversations that would have never have happened in the dark. The impact of Welcoming Schools had been constrained by a small and dedicated group of about ten people responsible for several regions around the country. After this 03f0b4a8-1985-4ef6-b0bb-a391540325d6training there were now thirty more. We have not found the panacea for the disparities we find among our communities because there is no one thing that will address the myriad of issues that impact our different identities. What we have found is a way to recognize, respect, and celebrate our differences without diminishing or excluding one another. With the inaugural facilitator training, these practices will have an even wider reach.

At the end of the week, with few hours to spare, I was able to take my traditional walk down the Washington Mall. Autumn in DC smelled differently than it did in San Francisco. I was joined by a colleague that would become a new trainer a continent’s length away in the Puget Sound area. We passed the White House with lines of children in Halloween costumes visiting the President and First Lady, passed the World War II Memorial and found ourselves at the reflection pool where only a little over fifty years earlier thousands upon thousands gathered together to recognize and affirm the humanity of our African-American brethren. A short while away stood the Lincoln Memorial lit up against the eastern dusk and we realized we were on the same path.

9462b4ce-5f04-4d9b-80b8-d83ab9b98ef9“I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all [people] are created free and equal.”

–          Abraham Lincoln, July 10, 1858 Speech at Chicago, Illinois

Just the Beginning

By Michael Mortensen,
an Our Family Coalition Communications & Media Coordinator for Summer 2015

It is 9:12 and the San Francisco BART train will be coming any minute.  I make my way through the crowd, and squeeze into the closest car.  Today is my first day at Our Family Coalition as a communications intern, and I cannot be late.

I have been looking forward to starting this internship since the moment I applied.  Ever since I visited San Francisco this past December, I knew I had to get an internship there.  “Communications intern needed for Bay area LGBTQ Family non-profit”.  I have always wanted to get involved in the LGBTQ community, I am great with kids, and it is in San Francisco!  This was the perfect internship for me.

I quickly learned that the working with Our Family Coalition is so much more than posting on Facebook and sending a few tweets.  On a daily basis I was challenged, and almost convicted, by my previously held beliefs and opinions.  I thought I knew about the problems and discrimination LGBTQ families faced, but this Arizonian came to realize that he still had (and has) so much to learn.

Our Family Coalition provides an outlet for Bay area LGBTQ families to come together and create a world of inclusion, advocacy, and social justice.  This includes creating LGBTQ education, supporting policy, and gender neutral bathrooms.  Coming from a conservative state, this was all very new to me.  It never occurred to me that these issues existed, and how important fighting these social injustices are for children and families.

I had the privilege to witness history in the making at San Francisco City Hall an early June morning, to hear mayor Ed Lee, NCLR’s Kate Kendell, and Gavin Newsom speak about this win for America.  I still cannot believe that I was literally there when Marriage Equality became nationwide, and at the place where it all started, at the heart of San Francisco.  And yet, this was only the beginning.

Before this internship, I thought marriage was the final step to LGBTQ discrimination, but there is still so much more to be done.  Transgender rights, black rights, LGBTQ adoption and foster care, and LGBTQ family protection are just some of the many issues OFC is tackling.  Our Family Coalition is making a real difference in the Bay Area, and throughout my time here, I was educated on these issues and their importance.  Before, I thought “hey, this doesn’t affect me” but now I am beginning to realize that yes, it actually does, because it affects everyone.   I have the freedom to marry, but I cannot take this for granted.  It took decades of hard work and unprecedented violence for change to happen. I no longer want to stand on the sidelines watching social justice take place.  I want to be in the crowd and on the front lines, demanding change

Living in the Bay Area this summer, I grew my digital communications skills, maturity, but most importantly I developed a new responsibility to use this momentum of change to make a difference.  I want to inspire others back at home to join the crowd, educate themselves, and advocate for real equality.

On Queer and Racial Justice: A Walk with Reality

sibuTo live in an environment which criminalizes being queer can be quite a drag.  so one can only imagine my excitement when I got selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders which gave me an opportunity to live in the United States for a total of thirteen weeks. From the media, I could tell that being queer in the US is not the same as being queer in my country. Or so I thought.

One thing I keep saying is that the media representation of the US is really not quite what is on the ground. Back home, I have to deal with the consequences of being queer. In Zambia, I live a pretty interesting life depending on the particular space I find myself in. I must mention that I participate in the queer movement, feminist movement and these feed into the general human rights movement. What I find particularly interesting about the spaces I find myself in are the layers of different kinds of ‘treatment’ I receive. Within the queer community, I am considered a leader so there is an interesting way that I am treated. It is with respect and my opinion matters there. When I get into the feminist space, well, I get in that space as queer and that sort of drops the respect and the weight my opinion carries because I am queer. In the general human rights space, I go in as queer, young and female. In a male dominated space with the older generation taking the lead, you can only imagine the value my opinion gets.

In the U.S on the other hand, my existence comes with an extra layer, my race. You see, my race is not really a problem when I am in my country, where the population is predominantly black. I have only had very few instances where I directly encountered a situation, which highlighted white privilege.

I arrived in the US four days after the Charleston church shooting at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. The media covered the story widely. I do, remember the framing of the crimes that have seen black young men being killed and I realized that there was a certain way the media was framing the shooter at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was not that he was racist or that he was a criminal. Rather, I was struck at the almost ‘victim’ representation he was getting. People talked about him being a troubled child and how that led to him shooting 9 people and he received more than decent treatment from the cops.

A few weeks later, the story about a black woman, Sandra Bland hit the media. She was arrested for a wrong signal on a highway in Texas. I saw the arrest video and it was completely horrifying. One would think that she was being arrested for shooting 9 people and not a traffic offence. Sadly, the lady was found dead in her police cell and the police said she ‘hanged herself’ which did not make sense to me but that is a blog for another day. Anyway, these two stories to me symbolised one thing if not more, that racial injustice was alive and kicking in the US.

I realised that not only was I in danger because of my sexual orientation, my race was also a point of discrimination during my entire stay. It gets worse when one is a low-income earner.

One of the programs during the Fellowship was being attached to an organization for professional development experience and I am so lucky to be working at Our Family Coalition. One conversation which has come up is the queer movement and the involvement when it comes to racial justice. I feel that the intersectionality between race and sexual orientation and/or gender identity is something that cannot be ignored as these are two of the most fundamental strands to one’s identity. They contribute hugely to one’s sum of parts and how they are positioned in the various systems in the US society.

To discuss gender identity and leave out race especially in the US reminds me of the time when the women’s movement discussed middle class, white women’s issues and made women look so homogeneous when that is not the case in reality. This meant that others felt left out in this struggle and the struggle did not address their needs. The result of this was a fragmentation of the women’s movement. Same principle applies to the queer movement as queer people are not positioned in a homogenous way. People need to realize the privilege they come with in different queer spaces and to make a conscious effort to include issues that affect other queer people, race and ethnic background being paramount.

I get that marriage equality was a huge step for the movement. But on close inspection, I wonder who it really is serving. In as much as marriage is a declaration of love, it also expresses issues like economic security and stability. With the number of homeless and unemployed queer people, I am not sure how this would benefit them. I am left thinking of the homeless, queer youth of color, low income earners and the Trans community and how this law benefits their different struggles and the question I find myself asking is who defined this agenda?

For a while, I actually thought the people that have families in areas like San Francisco are white gay men as they are the ones who are frequently profiled. I was amazed to see so many different family formations (with white families being dominant still) at a campout which was recently organised by Our Family Coalition. I wondered why POC queer parents were not profiled more in the media and I realised it’s the race issue. To pretend that in the queer movement, race is not an issue would only mean ‘othering’ issues that are fundamental to people’s existence.

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Since coming to the US, one thing is clear. I am scared not only because of my sexual orientation but my race too. I do understand that there are more progressive laws as compared to the country I come from but my fear is not that of the law but the law enforcers themselves and how the media profiles people like me, a black, queer woman. Never the less, I plan on enjoying my stay in San Francisco and learning as much as I can.

Biography: Sibusiso Malunga has over 5 years experience in human rights work with a specific focus on LGBTQ rights as well as women and girls rights. She has experience in HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives as well as economic empowerment for women in rural areas. Sibusiso is also largely involved in regional feminist organizing and she is active in the young African feminist movement. She is a co-founder of an LGBTQ organization called The Lotus identity based in Zambia, which works on advocacy, capacity building, and research and documentation. She was selected for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a Young African Leaders Initiative by president Barrack Obama which brings 500 young leaders from across Africa to some top universities in the US for six weeks intensive training in leadership skills. 100 of the fellows remain in the US for the professional development experience and Sibusiso is currently a fellow at Our Family Coalition in the policy department.

A Celebratory Bookmark

by MJ Morrissey, Our Family Coalition Education Intern

Atfap-valentinesbookmark-2015-1  Our Family Coalition, we understand that our families are not simply members of the LGBTQIA+ community; they are members of the black community, the latin@ community, and many other communities. That while our focus is to provide resources and support to queer headed households, we cannot fulfill that promise or meet that expectation unless we are able and willing to address the needs of these other communities as well, and the ways in which those identities coincide and intersect with being LGBTQIA+.

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We always have and always will bring an intersectional framework to our actions. We do this because we cannot advocate for only one part of our identity/identities. Social justice work requires us to be aware of our differences and identities, know when and where they intersect, and acknowledge that they are inextricable from each other. To advocate for equality means that when we advocate for one identity that we must not forget the others. For more on intersectionality and its necessity to the work of social justice, we lift up the words of Audre Lorde:

fap-valentinesbookmark-2015-2It is in this light that we are proud to present our most recent creation: a bookmark that celebrates Valentine’s day, Black History Month, LGBTQ history, and promotes inclusion in schools. This bookmark, which draws its design from the kente cloth of South Ghana, also features the the LGBTQIA+ rainbow colors and a quote from June Jordan, highlighting just one of the many ways in which the identities of queer and black can intersect.

The original idea behind this came from one of our own family liaison members, Meghan Lewis, who was seeking to highlight and bring to light the specific intersection of queerness and blackness as we headed into Black History Month. Our Education and Communication teams, which were behind the intersectional idea from the start, helped bring the design to life and are proud to announce that 8 different schools in the East Bay will be receiving and distributing these bookmarks to their students as Black History Month draws to a close and Women’s History month begins.

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As always, we want to empower each of our families and remind them that Our Family Coalition is always open and looking for great ideas to help represent and lift up the diverse range of families we support. Our Family Coalition was started by families coming together to discuss how we can create more welcoming and inclusive school environments. We began from the spirit of families advocating for families and maintain that vision and goal as we grow. We are always working to do what we feel and know is best, but also acknowledge that if we are to truly stand and say we know what our families need, we also rely on all of you to tell us what you need and/or provide us feedback at any and every juncture. If you have any suggestions or specific ideas you would like to see brought to reality, we are always here. It’s why we’re here. Contact us at info@ourfamily.org!

What on Earth is “Family Activism,” anyway?

By Shareena Clark, Programs Coordinator, Our Family Coalition

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As of late, it seems like the phrase “family values” has been hijacked and co-opted to represent a very narrow and exclusive interpretation of the idea. Fortunately, we are aware that the definition of “family” and “values” is defined by much more than the ideas and actions of a splinter cell of religiosity. Although the extremist definition of family values can at times feel like a black hole pulling progress and positivity toward a horizon of foolishness, it is comforting to remember that all of that malarkey is just a tiny speck on the continuum of love, power, and possibility that expands forever into the past and future.

Yes, we (the LGBTQ community) frequently use the word family in a fast and loose manner that includes biological, chosen, and intentional formations and a host of possibilities that grow with our community; the values of that family are as wide ranging as the colors on the flags that represent us. This handsome assortment of folk – comprised of a melange of identities, ethnicities, practices, races, family structures and on – has a common desire, however. As a community, we wish to be seen, heard, and understood on our own terms. So, in that sense, we are all activists. The force of activism is strong as we persistently work for the good of our various tribes. Sometimes our activism takes the direct form of throwing a high heeled shoe at a police officer in defense of our sisters, while at other times it is in the form of pushing legislation for protections in our places of work and learning, but at all times our communities are active.

FamilyActivismPullquote2Activism is not only a way for us to be visible and heard, it also a means of survival. it is imperative that we do everything humanly possible to ensure the survival of our community and our family politically, socially and otherwise. Like Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Meaning: we, as a family community, need to work for and with ourselves; and for and with other communities who are also marginalized within the current systems of domination. Our collective goal, then, is to free ourselves from oppression, or at least get our subsequent generations a little closer to Dr. King’s famed mountain top. Not now, but RIGHT now. We are long past ready for equity.

FamilyActivismPullquote3But how? What does activism look like anyhow? Protesting? Voting with our dollars? Letter writing? Going off the grid? Boycotting? Wearing a pin? Tweeting? Walking in an “_______a-thon”? Why is it that massive movements seem to flare up and fizzle out so quickly, leaving us wanting? How can I make change all by myself? How can I speak up without endangering myself, my partner(s), or my family?

These are all questions that come up time and again within activist circles, and unfortunately, there seems to be no way to get to a consensus here. What I do know is that activism of any sort is a journey that begins with a desire to see social change. And that journey does not need to be approached alone: We are many families, remember? There is a popular African saying that goes,”if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Through cooperation and collaboration we can explore some of these tough questions together.

FamilyActivismPullquote4It is believed that cooperation is the biggest factor in the survival of a species, (sorry Darwin, your theory has gone the way of the barbed wire tattoo). Cooperation is also the key to the survival of an action or movement, and just within your household or circle of friends and family you have a troop of cooperatives. What better activity to bring a family closer, than to work for a common cause? And what better way to build community and camaraderie with others than collaborating with another family in the spirit of social change?

Activism has always been and continues to be an LGBTQ family value, and as the dead prez say, “we won’t stop until we have our full freedom”. Won’t you join us? Bring the kids!

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Registration: Click here!
When:  Sunday, February 22, 3 – 5pm
Where: California Institute of Integral Studies, 1453 Mission St., San Francisco

It’s Time to Make Education FAIR

NARRATIVESAs a person of color that went through the ‘American’ K-12 education system, I felt that the social sciences we were taught did not accurately reflect the history of communities of color or any other marginalized groups–times minorities were mentioned were when we learned about exploitation, colonization, racism, etc. I never understood why inner city schools, such as the one I attended, taught history that was irrelevant to the demographic of the school—most being sons and daughters of low-income immigrant parents. Narratives of significant people and/or historical events were briefly told, if told at all. And of course, they were told through the colonizer’s point of view rather than by the colonized.

Once I got to college, I learned that there were classes that offered an alternative point-of-view to the history I had been taught. The content from these classes differed from what I had already learned in the sense that it presented me with relatable material and material that was more inclusive to the diversity that exists within the United States. Classes I took ranged from ethnic studies to gender and sexuality studies. I found it a bit problematic that I had to go out of my way to seek such courses rather than being presented with the information earlier in my education career; however, I am grateful to have had the privilege to access these resources that helped develop my consciousness and form my identity.

With just four years of getting out of the California’s K-12 public school system, I am excited to know that there are positive changes to the curriculums of public schools coming down the pipeline. In July 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 48—the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. It calls for the inclusion of people with disabilities and LGBTQ Americans’ important historical contributions to the economic, political, and social development of California.

Now in 2014, I was disappointed to see that the Instructional Quality Commission really did not fulfill the intent of the FAIR Act since their recommendations to the new social science framework are minimum to none.

In an attempt to align the History – Social Science Framework with the requirements of SB 48, Our Family Coalition (OFC) partnered up with Gay-Straight Alliance Network and the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History (CLBTH) to recommend revisions to the existing framework and submit those to the State Board of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). The revised Framework calls for a transformational approach in which students understand concepts and issues from the perspectives of diverse groups of people.

Here are some recommended revisions by grade and theme that were brought up in the Making the Framework FAIR report that I support:

• Grade 2: LGBT families in the context of understanding family diversity as a contemporary and historical reality

• Grade 4: Central roles played by gender and sexuality in California’s history as a site of rich, contested, and changing diversity

• Grade 5: Variation over time, region, and culture in colonial American practices and laws with regard to gender and sexuality

• Grade 8: Fundamental transformations in gender and sexuality in conjunction with nineteenth-century urbanization and industrialization

• Grade 11: The evolution of modern LGBT communities and identities; twentieth-century persecution of sexual and gender minorities and the growth of the LGBT civil rights movement

The inclusion of the LGBT community in California’s K-12 public school curriculum is long overdue. The LGBT community represents a significant part of the history and social fabric of California, yet their presence in textbooks is nonexistent. I believe the absence of such communities in the early learning stages of youth can affect their perception of the LGBT community. It can be something that they do not see as ‘normal’ thus they may develop a sense of dominancy and begin harassing the community.

As we know, individual students feel safer at school when diversity issues are included in the curriculum; this is true for LGBT students and for their straight peers. Schools without inclusive curriculums see more cases of reported bullying. Maybe if I would have seen myself accurately represented in textbooks, I wouldn’t have to wait until college to truly understand my history and that of my peers.

its timeNow let’s hope that the inclusion of LGBT communities in history and social science classes actually helps students navigate the economic, political, and social development of California rather than just present students with a few token historical figures. It is time to call for a truly representative curriculum that does not exclude to contributions of great portions of our communities, including the LGBT community.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FAIR ACT IMPLEMENTATION AND PUBLIC COMMENTS THAT YOU CAN SUBMIT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

By Isidro Manuel Lopez, communications/media intern at Our Family Coalition and broadcast & electronic communication arts student at San Francisco State University.

 

Lessons Learned: Ashley’s reflections on being OFC’s Policy Intern

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I open the door with butterflies in my stomach. It’s not every day that you get to follow your dream by applying to a policy internship at a progressive nonprofit. It’s not every day that you get the internship, apply for a stipend, find housing, and move across the country, all in one month. I followed a career-related whim to work as the Public Policy intern at Our Family Coalition and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

My heart pounds as typical vestiges of doubt rear their ugly heads. “What if you’re not good enough?” “What if it’s too hard?” “What if the staff is mean because you’re the mew intern?”

All of my fears were quickly put to rest as I met Renata Moreira. The quick talking, but even quicker-witted, Policy and Communications Director welcomed me with open arms. Staff members were quick to introduce themselves with genuine smiles and fun tips on where to visit in San Francisco. I was visiting OFC to get a feel for the office and discuss the specifics of my internship, but before I knew it, I had tickets to go to QWOCMAP, a queer, women of color film festival. I also received an invite to an alternative networking mixer for prospective LGBTQ parents.

All of this before my first day of work! I was overwhelmed, to say the least, but I couldn’t shake the fact that I was overjoyed. Not only was the work environment welcoming, but everyone knew their stuff. As a student leader at Washington University in St. Louis, I am used to working with some of the best and brightest academics in the country; however, to be in a work environment with an array of individuals well versed on advocacy, law, communications, and educational policy made me feel like I was going to leave this internship with more than I had hoped.

AshleyPullQuote1Before long, I started my first official day and was imbued with knowledge of local, state and national laws and policies that affect millions of LGBTQ individuals across the country. I was aware of some of the policies because of my interdisciplinary background in Urban Studies, but most of the information was new due to the mutable nature of our justice system. Working at OFC requires knowledge of these policies and an ability to brainstorm effective ways to combat said policies’ bias and discrimination. One of the main projects that I have been working on, the Reframing Our Families Project, utilizes my organizational, people, time-management and oral communication skills all in one. At first, working on the Project seemed daunting, but with help from Renata and Judy Appel, OFC’s Executive Director, I felt equipped to break down the Project’s main components and develop efficient strategies to complete them.

Besides the beautiful view from the office, there are two things that I will definitely take away from this experience.The first is that the policies in this country need some serious work. Let’s be honest! States like Virginia don’t even allow unmarried couples to adopt and since same sex marriages are not legally recognized in Virginia, LGBTQ couples in the state are not legally allowed to adopt children. Though this may change in due time, this means that, currently, more unplaced children will be denied loving and welcoming homes because of legal bias and discrimination. The more work and research that I do, the more I learn about the significant challenges I will have to overcome as I form my own family. But as I work, I am in awe of the seemingly furtive battles that have already been championed on my behalf.

AshleyPullQuote2The second is that our society needs organizations like Our Family Coalition. As one of the only organizations that deal with LGBTQ headed families, OFC is a rare, but essential gem dedicated to the advancement of LGBTQ individuals and their families. After discovering policies like those in Virginia, I began to develop a large sense of doubt in our political system. However, working at this internship reassured me that there are a slew of organizations, both locally and nationally, fighting for the rights of LGBTQ people everywhere. Being able to say that I was a part of one of them, is truly an honor.

Overall, this internship was a lot of work mixed in with a lot of fun. I’ll be honest, it’s not for everyone. But if you are committed to LGBTQ equality and social justice, then it will be for you, too.