Engaging Assignment #5
For my list, I decided to keep track of two vastly different days in my life--a day in my hometown for the holidays (which means more people who know me are present) and a day here in Minneapolis, in my usual routine. These are the main places I frequent:
-My parents' house
-Stores/restaurants/bars around Ironwood (my hometown)
-My previous college
-Jefferson Community School (workplace #1)
-U of M classrooms and common areas
-U of M gamerooms (workplace #2)
My parents' house is hard to classify. While I can't imagine my parents or sister ever doing anything to harm me in any way, it still speaks volumes that I'm not out to them--clearly some mental or emotional safety point is being compromised for me, and so by all technicalities my parents' house is not a "safe space�? because I can't be who I am there, and pretend to be someone else to avoid some kind of unpleasant situation. Stores/restaurants/etc. around my hometown aren't safe spaces either. I'm out to 3 people in my entire hometown, and I would actively fear for my safety if I were to try and, say, use the men's restroom at this point (pre-T, pre-anything else). I can't think of a place that has a unisex bathroom in my hometown, either, so that option is out the window. My previous college is almost like an entirely different community within my hometown, and while I wouldn't feel completely safe there, I would feel exponentially safer within their walls than I would in the rest of Ironwood. 2 of the 3 people I'm out to in Ironwood are previous professors and subsequent good friends of mine, and they're nothing but supportive of me. I can't imagine that other staff in the building wouldn't be, either. The students could sometimes be called into question, though, so that's why I'd classify GCC as somewhat of a safe space. My apartment here in Minneapolis is also about half of a safe space. While it's my apartment and I do what I want, when I want, my roommate is also oblivious to my transgender status and I have no idea if she would be supportive or not. So, to keep myself safe in my home, for the time being I let her call me by whatever name/pronoun combo and try to not let it get to me.
Jefferson Community School is also half of a safe space. While the program staff that I work with in Americorps are all completely aware and supportive of me, the District staff and students are not, and after much pronoun confusion are often blatantly disrespectful (yes, some teachers, too). Luckily we have a unisex staff bathroom in the building, so that makes things much easier. However, it's still tentatively safe; I work with middle school kids, and I'm a small guy so I tend to try to not stir the waters too much, especially if I don't have all of the staff on my side. The U of M classrooms, common areas, and gamerooms have been, by far, the safest space I've encountered thus far. I haven't encountered one problem on campus, and for the most part am confident in using the men's restroom wherever I go. While I had mentioned before that technically my employment with SUA isn't protective of my gender identity, my specific supervisors are more than supportive and are amazing--one even called SUA'S HR people in disgust when she found out that transgender people aren't protected in the EEO policy. While there have been instances where I've felt intimidated on campus, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've felt that way, and the support I've received otherwise seems to compensate for those few times.
These spaces are important because it's impossible to constantly operate as if you're in danger--and if it is possible, it's detrimental to your health. Beyond that, a society without safe spaces can't last because eventually it will self-destruct.
It's hard for me to classify things I encounter as safe for anything other than gender, to be honest. Being white certainly is a privilege and I would have no idea what it's like to not feel safe in that manner. And when I identified as lesbian, 95% of that time was spent in Southern California in places that I can't ever imagine being discriminatory toward anyone for anything; pretty much, my brain interprets things in terms of gender these days. But I am reminded of something one of my 8th grade boys told me during class one day regarding underground gangs and racial prejudice in Minneapolis--he said something like "You can be in danger anywhere you go, it just depends on who's there at the same time.�?