Open Doors and Closed Minds: The Problems the Heteronormativity Task Force Addresses

2017-03-20-45

Eden enjoying a snow day during February 2017.

by Bea Feichtenbiner ’19

Imagine having a best friend opposite in gender to you. Your friend is a boarder but you are a day student. This friend has recently received traumatic news and just wants to lie in bed. You know they need and want to talk to you, but something is stopping you. And it has nothing to do with either you or your friend. Rather, it is George School’s visitation policy. You and your friend are not the same gender and, since the visitation policy is so limited, they cannot spend time in your room. Not even with the door open. What do you do?

That is the question that the Heteronormativity Task Force has been trying to answer.

Heteronormativity. Let us break this word into its two parts. Hetero means “other,” as in opposite gender couples, and “normativity” means what is expected. Together, in respect to sexuality, the word means the normalization of heterosexual relationships. The use of this word has become more prevalent with the rise of the LGBTQ+ movement.

George School, never behind in the area of social progress, began to recognize this term and its effect on the campus and community. Since then, a task force has been created in order to equally normalize all the different sexualities. Every Sunday, about ten people meet to discuss areas where they see heteronormativity on campus and how to change heteronormative policies. Led by Eden McEwen ‘17, the group works hard to brainstorm solutions to all sorts of heteronormative behavior and policies.

The task force was created last year as an initiative by Sam Balka ’16 through Student Council. To date, there are three Student Council Representatives on the task force, along with two returning members who are also on Student Council.

According to Eden, “The Heteronormativity Task Force was created by Student Council to address concerns from the community about the safety and integration of LGBTQ students in the dorms and in the classroom. Last year the task force took strides towards its goals to identify specific places in George School where there are heterosexist biases, to help create a clear LGBTQ policy regarding students in the dorms, and to raise overall conversation in residential and academic life about the preceding issues. The main goal of the task force is to develop a policy for queer students in the dorms that will make George School an overall safer place.”

Some issues the task force is addressing this year are dorm visitation policies and the inclusivity of the curriculum.

The current dorm visitation policy requires that doors must remain open to discourage sexual activity and limit the possibility of pregnancy and the breaking of a major school rule (no sex on campus). Upperclassmen and women are allowed to have members of the opposite gender in their rooms, but, even then, the visitation times are limited. This system conveys a lack of trust to the students and puts those who are friends with someone of the opposite gender in an awkward position.

As for the task force’s focus on curriculum, the English curriculum has little queer literature and the history department tiptoes around major events in the queer community. Additionally, the health curriculum seems to move too fast to properly address different sexualities, orientations, and genders. The Heteronormativity Task Force would like to come up with ways of addressing these issues and, even more importantly, creating a more inclusive and safe space for LGBTQ+ youth.

Next year, the task force will be open to more members of the community without an application process. Additionally, it has been working on outreach lately, collaborating with Open Doors to get a better feel for what changes the community wants to see.

If you have any questions or concerns about heteronormativity, the task force, or life at George School in general, feel free to approach any member  of the task force. Members include Eden, Brooke Angle ’18, Duffy ’18, Samaya Mayes ’18, Ben McCormick ’18, Ben McCormick ’18, Will Street ’18, Kat Stein ‘18,  Jacob Hoopes ’19, Kalani Chen-Hayes ’20, Sidney Gibson ’20, and me, Bea Feichtenbiner ’19.

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Filed under dorm life, Student Work, Students, The Deans' Office

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