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December 2, 2008

Safe Spaces - Kim Hanlon

Places I feel safe include:
My apartment
My girlfriend's house
Caribou (work 1)
Parent's house
Warehouse (work 2)

I feel safe in the places I visit most often. I try to steer away from those places that I do not feel safe at. Some of the places that I do not feel safe include certain sporting events, straight bars, and certain restaurants. I do not feel safe at these places because I get this sense of threat. The sense stems from mostly the feeling of the straight men around me who I get the sense of that they feel somewhat, somehow, threatened by me being in the same space as them. I do not know what it is, but it is just this lingering feeling that I get when I am around certain people. I try and stay away from such people, but I do not go out of my way to in any way, shape or form change my plans because of such people. I will not change where I sit because of them, but I also do not go out of my way to make my presence overly known to them either. I will say that I do feel most safe around other queer/GLBT people and/or atmospheres. It is just a sense of belonging and feeling accepted and "normal". One place where I thought I would feel the most inclusive, but where I have found that I am more of an outsider than anything else, is around my hockey team and community including staff. The one place where I thought for sure I would feel accepted and included I feel more pushed away. Some of them acknowledge me and my sexuality, but others avoid and make me feel more like a non-member than anyone else. It is saddening to me, but it is what it is.

The Club House

Safe space. It's funny now that I think about it. Where do I feel safe? Given some thought I find that it's not places that come to mind, but people I feel safe around. My sister, my friends, my roommates and neighbors in the dorm, my boyfriend; these are the people I feel safe around, that I feel safe being myself. That's what a safe space is about right? Being able to let lose, let go. Not having to stress about keeping an image up all the time. Feeling safe means you can be who you are. It's the people that make the space. There's nothing inherent in the places themselves; it's the people that occupy it that make it matter. Likewise, safe places can quickly become unsafe depending on whether the wrong people show up or not. The only reason these places remain the way they are is that the people there decide to. It can be something as easy as living there to actively making it a safe place. Either way, it's the people that make the space safe.

A few places I frequent are: my dorm, my house, classes, Target, the mall, and Riverdale.

My dorm and classes I’d rate safe. Target, Riverdale, and the mall I’d rate mostly safe. And home I’d rate mostly unsafe.

When I say safe I mean for myself. In these spaces it’s socially acceptable to be who I am. It would be unsafe for people who can’t be who they are, who deviate from the expected norm in those spaces. This is the reason why safe space is important. You can relax there. Take this example. In my safe spaces I feel like I can be my gay self and not get hurt, physically or mentally. Maybe that means excluding the people that would react like that. Maybe my safe space isn’t a safe space for them. Maybe safe space is like a clubhouse. Certain people get in, certain people stay out.

Safe Spaces

There are a lot of unsafe spaces in everyday life. In my opinion, any space that does not promote respect for individuality is not a safe space. Also, any place, public and private, can turn unsafe at anytime, like when a person is put in a vulnerable position. I have always taken the freedom to walk into a women’s bathroom without fear for granted. However, I can understand how sexed bathrooms can be a daunting place, especially when one really needs to use it.

This is the way I look at it: A place is as safe as I allow it to be (unless my life is in danger, of course). I can step into the most conservative anti-gay place and still feel safe if I don’t allow other people’s opinions make me feel bad. Safe spaces come in both a physical form of a safe place AND how mentally safe you feel. If you put yourself in safe places AND mentally tell yourself that everything will be ok, chances are, the place will become safe to you.

These are the places I have been in the last few days:
- My home
- My girlfriend’s family’s place
- The U of MN campus
- Queer Student Cultural Center at the U
- My old high school

I generally feel safe at home. My family is accepting of me, for which I am very fortunate.

I went to my girlfriend’s family’s place for Thanksgiving. We were surprisingly greeted with opened-arms, despite how closed minded some of the people were there. Even though I knew there were people there glancing at us (because of our sexuality), I never felt unsafe. Sometimes it felt like the space was safer for me and my girlfriend than for the people who were looking at us. I don’t really know why – maybe it’s because she and I don’t let people’s opinions bother us… and on the contrary, the other people are afraid of our ‘lifestyle’ and our opinions.

The U of MN campus: Feeling accepted and safe was one of the main reasons I picked this university. I feel safe enough on campus that I can be an out-Asian-tomboy-lesbian on campus. I spend a lot of my time on campus at the QSCC (Queer Student Cultural Center). This space is probably the safest place I can go, not because this place accepts my sexuality, but the people here accept everyone overall.

My old high school: I went to a small charter school in Northfield, MN. I felt safe there generally but unfortunately they do not have a GSA or GLBT group for youth there. I think that the young people need a safe place to go to because as a teen coming out, I sometimes wish I had a home away from home to be myself.

Everyone needs a safe place to go to, public and private, for any reason. This would make for a happier world, I believe, if everyone had some where to go.


Alyssa Sison

Safe Spaces

The Mega Bus
Alterra Coffee Shop
My Roommates Mothers house
Walmart

Over the course of this assignment, I guess you can say I purposely chose location that I knew I would find myself and that I could talk about. I went back to Wisconsin for break and in doing so I had to catch the Mega Bus which most UofM students utilize for its cheap fares. The bus itself is obviously not a “Safe Space? or welcoming in anyway to person who expresses a different gender than what there physical appearance my project, but its bathroom is Gender Non specific letting any person who has to use the restroom, able.
But that doesn’t change the fact of the stares you may receive while entering the bathroom or even making your way toward it. I was accompanied on the Bus by my close Trans friend and she hates trying to make her way to the bathroom and usually holds it until we reach our rest stop. I myself do not have this problem so I did use my friend as an example through the locations I chose.
After returning to Milwaukee with my roommate and our friend, the next morning we eat lunch at a near by coffee shop called ‘Alterra’. The space is hands down GLB friendly, I guess like most trendy coffee shops, but Trans I am not to sure. The bathroom my friend exclaimed our nice because they are hidden around the corner and they lock once inside, she felt no pressure to use the men’s bathroom. So I am not sure if I would consider Alterra a safe space or not. The environment is welcoming and the bathrooms we secluded…
My roommate’s Mom’s house is quite GLBT friendly, my roommate is an ally and a GLBT Minor (trying to make it a major). Her mom is super open and friendly and is willing to talk to you about anything…maybe. Heh! For Thanksgiving my roommates mom had her daughter the ally, two gay males (one being myself) and a trans (m+f) in her home for Thanksgiving and we never brought up gender or sexuality and if it did it would probably never be in any negative context. This being a kind of “Safe Space’ that kind of reminds me of the QSCC on the second floor of Coffman. Making you feel safe and welcome and almost forget you live in a world that is so judgmental on sex, gender and of course race.
The last place I used for my assignment was the Wal-Mart in Milwaukee Wisconsin on Capital. It was predominantly African American and I had grown up in that neighborhood but accepting is not something I could say about exists within those blocks or store. Within the first few seconds of entering the store I was being glared at up and down, and my friend was called out by a young man “Man! That’s a dude!? Not a safe place what so ever.
Its obvious that homes can be more of a ‘safe space’ as well as few public places. Buses are almost always a no and neighbor hoods in which your sexuality of gender is not of common.
After doing this assignment is so apparent that you cant always go home to use a bathroom and you cant always hope while driving through somewhere if a place is going to be accepting or not. The privilege of ‘Gender’ is not something that most people even the GLB community thinks about really, I know I don’t. It was hard to be so self conscious about it for a week. I can only imagine stessing about this on a daily basis.

After recording every place I went I could not come up with a place that was dangerous. But I did come up with one thing that most of these places have in common that would quickly turn them from same places in to dangerous places, and that is anywhere that you have to show an id. Although I did not encounter any safety issues myself, my id is questioned A LOT…and I mean A LOT. I look young and it seems people do not want to believe I am 21. This is a minor nuance and I usually have to show a second form of id in which case I often dump my entire wallet of credit cards on to the counter with my name plastered across each one, declaring, “SEE! I AM AMANDA ERICKSON! THIS IS ME!?
This weekend I encountered this at the following places where I was required to show identification: the liquor store, the gas station, Bath and Body Works, Boynton Health Center, the pharmacy, and Mall of America (they did not think I was 16 so they needed to see an id). With how upset I was after the Mall of America incident (which if you ask me is incredibly prejudice of people’s age to ask to see an id only of people that look young, although we have not committed any kind of crime and are going about our own business) I got so infuriated that I started thinking about the jerks that usually are checking ids. I felt that my dignity and rights were being stripped because of how I look. Then I started thinking about GLBT 1001 and the topics we have been discussing in class and this assignment. What if I had an id in which I was a “female? but I was a man? Or what if my id classified me as a “male? but I was a woman? The discrimination I felt that day could not even begin to compare to the amount of discrimination I would receive if the sex on my id did not match my gender.
I cannot imagine how unsafe these situations would be if you do not have identification that looks like you and categorizes you as the gender you feel the most comfortable in. I think that if I were a transgender individual I would want to be the one causing violent because it is infuriating to have an id questioned or have people tell you it is fake. If it were for a reason like that I can see how violence could easily start. I also can imagine the jerks who usually ask for the ids to start violence because of their bigoted, ignorant, and entitled power-trips they are on.
I was very surprised that literally every place a transgender individual goes to that requires a form of identification is a place of potential danger. Every place, whether well-lit, in public, in private, in broad day light etc. can become unsafe in the blink of an eye because you never know how the person who is looking at your id is going to react. They could harass you verbally, make snide remarks, or just simply resort to violence. It is sad that this is the kind of world we live in.
-Amanda Erickson

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
-My apartment
-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.�?

December 1, 2008

Safe Space?

In my compiling of the list of locations I inhabit on a daily basis, surprisingly, none of them feel unsafe to me. Unless I am alone at night, I usually do not question whether or not my surroundings could be particularly threatening to me.

My Dorm Room: This is a personal space where I live everyday, surrounded by my own belongings and a roommate whom I trust. The doors lock when I want them to and I rarely feel unsafe here. I think this would apply to a member of the GLBT community as well. Besides the sparse mentioning of the rape of a young girl in my residence hall last year, I rarely feel unsafe here in the dorms.

Women’s Restroom: Again, at the dorms. A single sex restroom in which I always feel welcome and safe. As far as a I know, the residence hall conforms to a binary gender system in relation to bathroom assignment. This could be considered unsafe and or at least uncomfortable for someone who is not entirely considers “normally gendered? by common society standards.

My home and hometown of Milwaukee: This is a place I have always felt comfortable and safe in. I live in a relatively quiet neighborhood that has never had problems with crime until recently. The gay couple down the block has been robbed and assaulted by intruders twice in the last year and I have a hard time believing this is a coincidence. I have always felt I lived in an accepting community, but through the eyes of a GLBT individual, I am not so sure.

The U of M campus: This place feels especially accepting to me because of the diverse age, race, religious and sexually orientated population here at the University. Depending on the people encountered, the categorization of safe or unsafe for a GLBT person is up in the air.

I feel this is the way a lot of these spaces can be looked at. I would like to believe that this campus is a safe place for all its students, but then again hate crimes and general discrimination still runs rampant in modern America. I hope one day to live in a world where all people, regardless of their skin, gender, or identity in general, can feel safe.

Reflections on Spaces

Engaging Assignment #5
Ashley O’Neil
After watching the film Toilet Training, I started reflecting on how privileged I am to not have to fear for my safety or privacy when going into public spaces or bathrooms. I also started thinking about how so many spaces in this world are not safely accessible to people who do not fit into the gender binary. Bathrooms are a huge issue, obviously, but there are countless others—basically every public place you can name is or can become a dangerous place to be. These public spaces become dangerous when the person in question becomes vulnerable. For instance, in a shopping mall, there are a huge variety of people, all doing their own thing. In my opinion a large mass of people is a safer place to be than in an isolated area. Nobody is going to give two men holding hands a hard time in a mall, or even pay attention to a cross dresser. But those same people have a good chance of being harassed on a street with not a lot of people around.

My list of places I created included the mall, the streets of the U of M campus, my house, a dining hall on campus, my dorm, women’s bathrooms, and my hometown of Becker. After thinking about all of these and if they were “safe? or not, I came to the conclusion that if it’s public, it’s got the potential to be dangerous to non-gender-conformists. But some are less dangerous than others. For instance, I think of the U as a pretty welcoming and accepting campus. I would feel safe walking around here regardless of gender. The mall, as I said above, is more safe than not simply because of the sheer diversity and number of people. The dining hall might be a little more dangerous, because of the intimacy of it and the high number of people it serves. My dorm-room is safe, because it’s a private space, as well as my home. Women’s bathrooms are unsafe depending on how much you differ from the “normal? woman, and my hometown …That’s one I would probably consider “unsafe.? It’s all white, Christian conservative farmers and such. I remember when I was a sophomore in high school, some students tried to start a GLBT alliance group. Some kids actually came to school the next day with shirts that said “Anti-Gay.? It just makes me shake my head now.

One more interesting piece of information: I was on the Queer Student Cultural Center website for the U of M, and I saw this link that said “Unisex Bathroom Listing? or something along those lines. It turns out that the U has made a Google map of all the known unisex bathrooms on campus. I thought that was pretty amazing. I counted really quickly and I think it’s safe to say that the number is well over 100. I also spotted a couple of unisex bathrooms I’ve seen around here that were missed—so who knows how many unisex bathrooms the campus has. I think it’s a great resource for anyone who has difficulties using binary gendered bathrooms and it made me like this campus a little bit more knowing that there are things being done to accommodate all genders.

November 30, 2008

Engaging Assignment #5

A safe space is a place where individuals can be themselves without feeling threatened, either mentally or physically; an unsafe space is the opposite. Each individual’s interpretation of safe space varies depending on what about them makes them feel most vulnerable. A safe space for me is somewhere where I can present my gender and sexuality in the way I am most comfortable, without having to worry about physical or verbal harassment.

The prison system is a good example of an unsafe space where individuals are treated as though they are less than human–obviously, all inmates are treated badly, but I am thinking uniquely of the cruel policies toward transgender women (as seen in Cruel and Unusual). The denial of hormones was incredibly inhumane–the women were denied the right to express their identity and had to withstand the physical and psychological consequences. Additionally, the placement with men created an unsafe space. One of the women recounts being threatened by a man and forced to be his sexual partner against her wishes, something that would have probably not occurred had she been placed in a women’s prison.

Another example are gendered restrooms (bathrooms that are either “male? or “female?). As seen in the film Toilet Training (I was gone from class, but looked it up online), gendered restrooms can be a source of shame, discomfort, and even violence for trans individuals or anyone who doesn’t conform to typical gender norms. The need for non-gendered bathrooms is explained really well in this letter from Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

On a daily basis, I will almost always be at my high school, at home, or on the city bus between these two places. I would say my high school is a fairly safe space for me–I experience almost no harassment, and generally feel like I can express myself the way I want to without fearing discrimination. I think this is true for most GLBT kids at my school–Central is a pretty open space. On the city bus is somewhere I feel is definitely not safe¬–I feel like I am constantly being judged by others and have been asked about my gender before. I think that for places like the bus or the street, where people aren't necessarily interacting with you but simply seeing you, the more you "pass", the safer you are. Safe spaces are incredibly important–everyone should have a place where they can express themselves without fearing discrimination. Ideally, every space would be a safe space; unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

Continue reading "Engaging Assignment #5" »

November 29, 2008

Engaging #5

Which types of spaces are not safe? I really think that this depends on where you are and other people in that same area at the same time. In terms of what “safe? means, if we define it as feeling no threat and discomfort, then many environments would not be safe for GLBT persons. There is quite a difference between feeling welcome or comfortable in an environment compared to feeling like you are being scrutinized. This would include public spaces like offices. I remember that we had a male to female trans sexual as a temp in our main office about 15 years ago, the mid 90’s. I believe that she was replaced quickly not due to her own discomfort as much as discomfort of some supposedly liberal faculty and administrators. Obviously our documentary “Toilet Training? suggested that bathrooms are to focal point, but that is maybe only because they intensify the feeling of “otherness?
Which type of spaces strip individuals of dignity? Again, here we speak of spaces as physical, but I would include the “ambience? of the space which is determined by the people that inhabit it. An office environment that does not include a male to female trans-sexual as “one of the girls? is really stripping her of her identity and her dignity. In terms of physical space, locker rooms and rest rooms in general might strip us of dignity, since it is pretty hard to be dignified sitting on the potty or taking a shower.
When are spaces locations of violence? When people occupy a space with others where they feel righteous, defensive, outraged, etc, violence may erupt. For example, a GLBT rally might include a GLBT population, but also others there to taunt or exude hate or disgust. Under certain circumstances, this can lead to violence, e.g. our documentary by Stryker on the San Francisco uprising at the Compton’s Cafeteria. I would also think that various charismatic leaders could incite a group to do violence in name of their beliefs, as well as individuals who cannot accept difference. I am reminded of the killing of Matthew Shepherd, a gay young man, maybe 15 years ago in a most vicious way by 2 or 3 other young men. What incited this? Maybe just Matthew being himself.
Log with Commentary:
November 25, 2008
Home: One would hope that the place that we call “home? is safe, but that assumes that the other occupants of the home accept an enlightened view of what GLBT means, as we have been doing in class all semester. Luckily for our son Nathan, both Paul and I support his transition and our home is safe for him. However, should we invite others over at the same time, this safety might disappear, depending on their views. Also, “safe home? can be violated by telephone and internet and other media like TV. For example, my son in law #2 (formerly married to my daughter, now married to my son) has received a lot of “suggestions? from his family about moving back home via phone and internet and comments like “you are not homosexual , are you??
Smith Hall: This is the chemistry building, probably an old bastion of male dominance and the site of the famous Rajender case that pitted a female professor against the U for pay and promotion discrimination. The very lobby as you walk in is full of famous male professors and former department heads. One suspects that the whole building was built to accommodate the male majority. There are the usual array of men’s and women’s rooms. I have a feeling it is a mixed bag in terms of safety and tolerance in terms of use of restrooms and labs. My experience with women in physical sciences is that they have great courage within this male dominated area, especially those that don’t conform to the norm, but it is hard to say if they are safe or not in the environment. At the least, they might not feel comfortable.
Campus Connector: This is a pretty diverse group with a number of folks that don’t conform to the usual hetero stereotype. Basically safe, since most people sit with headphones on or read or sleep.
Office and Classroom Building, St. Paul Campus: Home of my department, Food Science and Nutrition. Faculty and staff are pretty hetero/androgynous looking in an informal kind of way--khakis, polos, fleeces, sweaters, jeans, New Balance shoes, a few skirts. Not many ultra feminine or masculine types. We do have a number of GLBT faculty/staff/students in the department. Although there are no unisex bathrooms, at least my floor has two single unit bathrooms that could be converted to unisex or choice bathrooms. We also have a unisex bathroom in our main office that any faculty or staff could use, as well as any student who knew about it. I would think that our responsibility would be to make sure that any GLBT person that might approach any of us with concern should be able to use this facility. This is also the case in Mayo building where I have another class—two first floor bathrooms have been converted to unisex.
Seward Café: Very diverse in diverse area of Minneapolis. Unisex bathrooms and a different kind of androgynous look than my department, maybe more hip or youthful androgynous. It seems like a great place to be different, both inside and outside in the surrounding neighborhood.
St. Paul Gym/U Rec Center: Personally, I think that locker rooms would be worse than bathrooms, since almost all bathrooms have stalls with doors. In a locker room shower, there is not a place to be different. I don’t regularly go to these anymore, but I remember seeing a number of folks using the female dressing rooms that could pass for males. I don’t remember ever thinking it was unsafe for them, maybe just uncomfortable.

Unsafe spaces- #5

As I kept track of the places that I inhibited, I realized that those “spaces? would not necessarily be safe for everyone. The spaces that I entered included classrooms, public restrooms, dressing rooms, and my workplace. In all of these places there were only rooms labeled “men? or “women? there were no unisex space. Though these spaces were safe for me to enter, they would not be safe for everyone. As shown in the film Toilet Training, others entering these spaces are subjected to violence and abuse. These spaces dehumanize people who do not fit into one of the two categories because there is no place for them and therefore they mean nothing to the larger society. I was surprised that in 2008 many of these spaces still remain closed to people that are non-conforming to gender. However, I think that some places are becoming more open to the idea of developing spaces that are more inclusive.
I also noticed that a lot of the spaces have become safe for people with disabilities. Many of the spaces I entered had things that made it easier for the disabled to access; including handicap bathroom stalls and rooms with brail translations. I think that this is a step in the right directions for other groups that do not fit into the status quo.