Queers and Peers Letter to Faculty

An Open Letter from Queers and Peers to MIIS Faculty

Like all great educators, MIIS faculty members teach by raising authentic situations and examples in the classroom. This is particularly true at the Monterey Institute, where many of our courses focus on the acquisition of a non-native language. Our professors often ask us to talk about our own lives as part of an overall pedagogical strategy.

In many countries, one of the most common subjects for teachers to ask students to talk or write about is romance. What student hasn’t been asked, at some point in their academic career, to talk about their first love or to describe their ideal mate, especially in the language learning classroom? We recognize and appreciate our instructors’ good intentions, but also wish to advise that asking students questions about their love lives in the classroom can cause severe emotional anguish to some gay and lesbian students.

Most if not all gay and lesbian people have lived some part of their life in the closet. Gay people around the world risk varying degrees of rejection, isolation and even death when they choose to – or are forced to – come out. Many of us in the queer community here at MIIS are out as lesbian, gay or bi. But there are also a number of us – from every corner of the world, including this country – who choose not to come out for a variety of personal, professional, and other reasons. Queers and Peers asks MIIS faculty to be aware of the intense pressures unleashed against these students when they are asked to talk about personal romantic issues in the classroom.

One might ask, “What’s the big deal? A gay student who’s in the closet can just make something up.” Indeed, that’s precisely the point. For many gay people, living a lie is part of everyday life. When our professors ask us to talk about our romantic lives in the classroom, they force those of us who do not wish to come out to lie – an unhealthy practice which, for many gay people, leads to depression and internalized self-hatred. For gay and lesbian students who choose not to come out, being put on the spot about personal romantic issues in the classroom can have a deep negative impact.

Queers and Peers is not asking MIIS faculty never to raise personal relationships in the classroom. Instead, we ask that if you do raise topics such as “ideal spouse,” “first love,” etc., please make it one of two options for students to choose from. Offer a second topic – for example, “greatest accomplishment,” “worst day ever” – that students can talk or write about if they prefer. You might be surprised. Even straight students who don’t want to talk about their relationships will appreciate this.

October 11th is National Coming Out Day. Above all, coming out means controlling your own process of coming out. Queers and Peers respectfully asks our professors to show consideration for the LGBT community at MIIS by taking this simple but effective way of eliminating heteronormativity from the classroom.



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