Thursday, November 10, 2011

Promising Practices Conference

I had Workshop M: "It Gets Better". To be honest, I didn't realize just what kind of workshop I was getting myself into. Whatever I was expecting, the presentation blew it all away. Students from URI's LGBTQ group worked hard to put together a movie about the LGBTQ community's struggles and stories. They asked people to share their stories, and overall they had 12 hours worth of footage. They said that it was hard for them to squash all of it down into a 45 minute documentary, but they did it. I'll admit, I thought it was just going to be some sad yet rinky-dink video. The lights went out, and the movie started. Right from the beginning of the video, I was amazed. The effects weren't overdone and it was very elegant looking.
So basically the video was about various people around URI's campus that had a story relating to the LGBTQ community. A lot of professors and people in higher power positions were either gay/lesbian or was very close to a gay/lesbian person. One woman had a very interesting story that brought me to tears. When she was 18, her mom sat her down and told her that she had a feeling that her daughter was gay. (I didn't think to write down names, and I'm very sad that I didn't.) This woman didn't think much of it until a few years later when she realized the truth.She told her mother and the mother was very supportive. However, 10 years later the woman's mother committed suicide. The woman's message to us was that if anyone ever contemplates suicide, thinking that no one would miss them, there would ALWAYS be someone that misses you, that needs you, that wants you in the world. It was so heartbreaking. There were many stories about acceptance, telling the viewers that even when it seems a lot of people aren't accepting or supportive, there will always be someone out there that cares.
One man told a story that made me laugh a little. He was talking about how his brother was gay and when California legalized gay marriage, he and his partner moved there so they could get married. The gentleman stood at his brother's ceremony and noticed that the state of California wasn't sinking into the ocean, Hell didn't open up before them, and fire and brimstone weren't raining down from the sky. It made me giggle because I've often said things like that myself. Unfortunately, this gentleman's brother died shortly after due to AIDS, but at least he died married to the man he loved.
At the end of the movie, all the people who told their stories told us that it gets better. What I thought was really cool was they even said it in different languages, including American Sign Language. The entire movie was just so awesome and well-put together. Afterwards we discussed how we felt. It was nice to see so much support from everyone. We all shared our own stories and, just like in class, everyone had a connection. As for the other parts of the convention, it didn't really leave that much of an imprint on my mind like my workshop did. I'd really like for us to be able to watch the movie in class, just like I'd really like for RI-PBS to pick it up and show it on television. It's an awe-inspiring message that needs to be spread everywhere.
Of course, all the GLSEN articles really connected with the stories told in the movie, especially this one. One of the members of the convention shared her story: her son is in kindergarten and she has a suspicion that he's gay, which she's totally supportive of. However, he's already started being bullied by other kids in school--in kindergarten mind you--and it's so upsetting. To know that kids are being bullied that young is just so heartbreaking. However, it really does get better. There are countless videos that spread that amazing message.
Like I said, the rest of the conference didn't really leave a huge impression on me like the workshop did, although the high school's presentation was pretty interesting. I'll definitely have to use some of the icebreaker techniques that they used!

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