Since the day we are born, perhaps earlier, since the day our parents receive the
news of our existence, their heads cannot help it but go 100 thoughts per minute. How will my baby be? How would they look like? Would they be intelligent? Would they be a leader one day?
When I decided that I wanted to be a teacher, one of my biggest obsessions was and still is to mark and hopefully help and bring out all the potential of my students and put my grain of sand to the complicated equation that the world is just to try to make it a bit better. One of my students brought to my attention a few weeks ago, something that I was completely unaware of and how not to acknowledge it, makes some part of the society maybe more people that we believe, unwelcome or no included because it does not follow our expectations as a society.
When our parents discover our gender, this big list of expectations appear in front of them where what it is consider socially correct, stands out. I do not believe for a minute that in the head of our parents might cross the idea their children are not going to be what society establishes as correct.
Why does this happen? I suppose, it is because of our beliefs and thoughts are very rooted to this old society or we are too busy to acknowledge something that has always being there although someone has taken the time to hide it because “it was no longer in their interests" For many of us, it is known that in the Ancient Greece, everybody could love who they pleased. Even, in the precolonial civilization, The Inca Empire had shamans called Quariwarmi “men women” very highly considered in the society.
And although, big part of the society is trying to find ways to equalize and create a more inclusive world. The reality is that there are still people who suffer attacks or even get killed because of their sexuality or gender condition as small but radical groups of society, do not consider them equal. And although, people condemn these violent acts and do not feel represent by this minority of radicals, there is still lots to do as teaching people to work on their emotional intelligence and a great educational reform could be one of the pillars where to sustain a new society who can banish the wrong idea that only some are the chosen ones to have the absolute truth.
What happened? Who did decide for all of us what is the correct love? Who can you like, love and who you have to hate or fear?
The failure, I suppose is in the base of everything: education. It is falling apart and no one is trying to stop it, everybody is looking to the other side. Teachers, Social Educators, the LGBTQ+ community and Activist try to do their part but it needs to be a common effort and goal to educate the future generations in the respect to the others. We need to stop looking at people with a frown just because their opinions are different to yours. Maybe listening to the other part, trying to understand their arguments and feelings. Stop believing that what it is already established is the absolute truth could be a good start. We are becoming an egocentric society, too busy working to educate and teach our children, the next generation, to be better than us. In fact, we are creating very demanding and dependent individuals whose role models are tablets, empty TV programs and Tik Tok challenges that sometimes are scary to even look at.
We and I include myself, live in a society divided in between the expectations and what it is treated as “the others, the different”. The breach is that deep that even when people try to close it, suddenly, something occurs and everything crumbles and feels like we are starting all over again.
Having a conversation with one of my Spanish students makes me realize how behind and uneducated we are and how far we are to be a united society where we do not look weird, surprise or talk with condescension tone about what someone established centuries ago about what it is correct and not correct.
As many of you might know already, the Spanish language is a binary language and it only has masculine and feminine pronouns and adjectives which it does not allow people who are non- binary to find linguistically their own space to express themselves as they need to categorize as masculine or feminine which feels as some part of them does not exist. In English, the non- binary people may often refer themselves as they/them but in Spanish is not that obvious. Luckily, things are starting to change slowly and the inclusion of the pronoun elle/elles or the use of the symbol @ or X in the social media when we refer to a group of people is helping to visualize a problem who as a society, we are not aware or we do not want to look at as much because it does not affect to the majority.
One of the most wonderful things to be a Private Spanish Teacher is that you get to work with different students with different realities, backgrounds and experiences that give you great lessons and make you realize how enclose we are in ourselves and how little attention we pay to the others and to their needs.
My student has been studying with me for the last two years and I always admire her for being so vocal about her sexuality and to share with me and the rest of the students who she is so I took the opportunity to ask her some questions about the subject that she kindly answered to me.
1. In your opinion what do you think there are the difficulties that a student faces when wants to learn a language as Spanish which has a binary language?
Student- "I think being expose to a new language where you do not know what kind of pronouns are there for you to use being a non- binary person".
"Also, to find a teacher or classmates who would react in a discriminatory way making you feel vulnerable because of their reaction".
2. How should people react when someone comes out to them as LGBTQ+?
S- “The most important thing is to be respectful of the other person and help them feel safe and comfortable on the situation. The focus should be on their feelings and what they are telling you about their identity. To gather the information about the pronouns that they use or any information or support that they consider necessary to feel welcome and included from the first moment they enter the lesson. It is ok if you do not know everything about the topic but it is vital to be supportive and open. Also, try to be mindful about the different pronouns and if you make a mistake when using them, apologise, move on the conversation and try harder next time to get it right”.
3. Have you ever had a situation in a language school in which you had to hide your sexual identity for fear or embarrassment to the reactions of your classmates or teachers?
S-“When you decide to go to a language school, you go there to learn the language but it is difficult not to be there as a person as most of the times you need to talk about yourself, your interest, your work, what you do in your free time. If you do not know how the teacher or other people in the class will react, you may decide to lie or try to find a way to answer the question without revealing this about yourself, such as leaving out important information. This makes the situation uncomfortable and stressful, and takes up some of your brain and energy that you should be using to learn the language. Also, if you don’t feel comfortable being yourself in the class, you may not feel so comfortable with the language in general.
There might be people who will be completely fine to talk about the subject, some that might take them a bit of time and people who might not expose themselves because they are more cautious about it. Again, respect is the key.”
4. Give me a tip to make the first class more inclusive with everybody
S-"I believe that we should be ready to ask more often about people pronouns rather than assume from the appearance of a person which gender they are."
"Some people may not be used to this question or understand the reason for asking this if the pronouns they use are aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth and how people typically perceive them. However, this type of inclusion will mean a lot to some other students and will help them to feel welcome in the class right away, so it’s good to make this effort.
It would be much easier if you have the language as a support to be able to speak freely about your identity and who you are. It is not enough just to have good intentions for inclusion, we need to act on it, have these conversations at school, with the people around us eventually, we will understand that there are more things that unified than separate us.
This is the reflexion of someone who know very little about the subject, maybe I am only seeing the iceberg tip but I worry about that if we do not try harder, if we do not teach our children to respect everybody, to be kind, I do not want to know what the next generations will become. Just live life, enjoy and let the rest of the people live their life with the same freedom that you have. Don´t judge them as they are not judging you.
Special thank you to my student who has taken the time to answer to my questions and go over and over this post until we find exactly what we wanted to express. Also, thank you to my friends who also contribute with their knowledge and their opinions to the matter and to my partner who always listen to me even in untimeliness time.