Right Relationships of Youth: Entangling Time

Amophrast's picture

Strengthening a Right Relationship that Should Already Exist

When Jason Landau-Goodman contacted me asking if I could help get Rainbow Alliance involved with the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC, http://pennsec.org/), I was thrilled. Yes, I (selfishly) thought. This will increase our relationship with other schools in the area, making our events bigger, and more exciting, and allowing us to have successful activism attempts.

Meanwhile, PSEC continued to grow, having strength in the numbers they were bringing in.

When re-examining what Rainbow Alliance was doing, I felt kind of discouraged, and slightly ashamed. Our connections within the bi-co and the tri-co were not that strong (though they have been getting stronger since joining PSEC). Before PSEC we’ve had virtually no connection with Villanova University, a Catholic-affiliated university that is probably facing a whole different range of problems than Bryn Mawr may be facing. I feel that most of the issues Rainbow Alliance have been facing have stemmed from lack of attendance, which is usually due to several events on campus being scheduled on top of each other. In this generation of Rainbow Alliance, we’ve never had to face issues with administration, our events, or event funding. In fact, because we are an affinity group, we get an extra level of support from the Alliance of Multicultural Organizations (AMO).

At the PSEC Youth Action Conference in October, there were a few discussions about reaching out to closeted students and different ways of providing support (ex: 24 hour hotline run on campus) that I never really thought about as something that Bryn Mawr needed desperately. Or even talking in general about how supportive our campuses are really made me appreciate being at BMC. I think that not having to actively fight for our own rights, equality, and visibility (at least within the Bryn Mawr bubble) breeds apathy. Maybe knowing more of the history of Rainbow Alliance and its past struggles would help fix this.

Thinking about past and the future made me think of T.S. Eliot and Karen Barad, and the way time is entangled in itself—“time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past.”

With this entanglement, as a college student involved with queer activism, what is my job as being part of the “youth”? Especially considering that as a college junior, it won’t be long before I can no longer identify with the affinity of youth. I know that to move forward (to progress) both the future and the past must be taken into account. So my goal is to reach out to high schools in the area.

Radnor High School, Lower Merion High School, Harriton High School, Haverford High School… Especially Haverford High School, which is where I went and having this background knowledge might prove to be particularly helpful in developing a kind of right relationship. I want to bring this project close to home. It would be especially useful considering that most of the graduating students from HHS go on to colleges in Pennsylvania, and could help contribute to getting PSEC involved with their school.

But before I start sending out emails and letters to high schools (to see if they have a GSA in the first place, and maybe to look into starting one if there isn’t? Or providing information about alternatives such as the Mainline Youth Alliance (MYA)), I want to think about what the goals of this relationship would be.

Our focus would not be towards affecting policy (though this might come up, seeing as how this action is inherently political), but rather towards offering a safe, accessible resource. Instead of traveling to a LGBT-centric youth center, we could come to their schools, or communicate via email or even a public page that could be accessed without subscription (so as to not name or out users). Maybe there would be a forum for anonymous questions, though I’m sure these kinds of blogs already exist for general purposes. Through this alliance we could specifically tackle problems such as queer-targeted bullying or harassment in HHS, and in other high schools.

  • Education
    • Q-forum style meeting
      • Gender and sexuality diversity awareness
    • Discussion of current events
  • Experience
    • College student panel
      • Would this distance us too much? Format would have to be carefully considered
      • Would be more effective if it included college students not just from Bryn Mawr
  • Sheer power in numbers
    • Event attendance
    • Activism, outreach for a greater goal
      • Team walk and fundraising at Philly AIDS Walk
      • Volunteer in numbers
    • Unity
  • Advice
    • Hotline? Blog where we answer questions?
    • With interest, set up a mentorship program that can either be like pen pals or meeting/hanging out in person.

 But at the same time, I am worried. Would it be fair to come from a women’s college to a public (co-ed) high school space? Would it make cis-men uncomfortable? Would I be discredited in their minds? (i.e. she doesn’t know our experience) Would my biases influence the way I interacted with them? Would discussions that were supposed to be peer to peer fly over their heads with the theory and politics I have as my background? Would I accidentally (or on purpose) dilute or censor my own opinions because I view them as such a differing group? Would they view my seniority as a sign of authority? This especially considering the fact that I would be going back to a high school that I graduated from. Is it better to have neutrality? On the other hand, I feel like I know the way things work there, I know the environment and I know how it functions. Or am I just out of date and out of touch?

But as Kaye commented on my last paper, there’s no way to speculate forever on what could go wrong. It might be better (and quite frankly, easier) to take these risks and see what happens. I think being aware of my own biases will help me when trying to forge this connection.

Comments

Anne Dalke's picture

past, present, future

Amophrast--
so I just have to start my comment w/ a shout-out and celebration of the way you linked together T.S. Eliot, Karen Barad, and your past-present-future work @ http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/11285 To conceptualize “time present and time past ... both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past” is for me a resonant and strengthening concept...

... and/but I'm wondering if it is helping or hindering you, as you imagine returning to a site of your past, trying to lay work for the future of youth in the area? ("I know the environment and I know how it functions. Or am I just out of date and out of touch?") When you ask, above, "what is my job as being part of the 'youth'?" I heard echoes of the paired stories Paul Farmer tells, about the different ways that gender activists and health activists worked in Guatemala. Is there a way to make your work arise from the youth you'll be working w/, more in line w/ the second story Farmer tells than the first (which is more what I'm hearing in what you propose above)?

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