Beyond Diversity Day: A Q&A on Gay and Lesbian Issues in Schools
reviewed by Laurel Lampela - 2004
Title: Beyond Diversity Day: A Q&A on Gay and Lesbian Issues in Schools
Author(s): Arthur Lipkin
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham
ISBN: 0742520331, Pages: 261, Year: 2004
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It is evident by reading newspaper accounts from across the country that many school districts are proving to be very difficult environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) teens and adults. Schools are coping with an increasing number of grievances filed by LGBT students and teachers because the schools are not effectively addressing their need for safety and their right to attend school or work in a harassment-free environment. Quite often, teachers, principals, district supervisors and superintendents are at a loss for ways to address these issues effectively. They do not know where to seek answers to questions they have quickly or do not bother to ask the questions and may ignore or minimize the problems LGBT students and teachers encounter on a daily basis.
Arthur Lipkin in his book Beyond Diversity Day: A Q&A on Gay and Lesbian Issues in Schools provides answers to over 180 questions that teachers, administrators and counselors may have or questions they may encounter in the future. Lipkin believes that heterosexism and homophobic bigotry will eventually vanish because the attitudes, values and behaviors of young people will change, and he encourages schools to play a role in that change. The book’s question and answer format provides teachers and administrators with an easy way to get quick answers. The seven chapters address homophobia and heterosexism, counseling LGBT students, gay teachers, gay families, school reform issues, resistance to change, and changing the curriculum. What makes this book so practical and handy is that there is no need to read the book or even the questions from individual chapters sequentially. One can pick up the book and read from any page at any time and get quick answers to valid questions.
Chapter 1, Homophobia and Heterosexism, begins and ends with clear answers to very basic questions including “What is homophobia?” and “what is internalized homophobia?” Most questions in this chapter are unambiguous, and the answers are well informed; yet an answer to one question begs for elaboration. Lipkin notes, “it is possible that male homosexuality entails different combinations of factors than lesbianism does,” (p. 19). As a reader, I would like further discussion and clarification about this statement. Is this supported by research and to what particular studies is he referring?
Chapter II, Homosexualities, provides answers to questions about homosexual identity formation, homosexuality and multiple minorities, homosexuality in other countries, and differences between gay men and lesbians. Most of the questions posed are thoughtfully worded and provide clear and concise answers. However, one question, “Do black lesbians have an easier time?” (p. 29) could have been reworded so it didn’t appear to be a leading question and bias the reader to believe that black male homosexuals may have more difficulties. Another question provided an answer that was misleading. Lipkin noted, “until recently urban gay males were acculturated mostly in bars … lesbians socialized in friendship circles and the women’s community,” (pp. 23-24). Although, many middle class lesbians may have met in the comfort of each other’s homes, working class lesbians were forced to meet in bars located in dismal areas of cities. Faderman (1991) notes that the lesbian bar (and alcohol consumption) became an important institution in the 1950s and because of this many lesbians began to join 12-step recovery programs in the latter part of the century.
Interspersed throughout this chapter and the others are numerous gray boxes with, what at first seemed an overload of information gleaned from newspaper articles throughout the United States and other countries. At times these numerous boxes tended to disrupt the flow of reading. I felt I was being bombarded with facts from newspaper accounts of gay and lesbian harassment, bashing, and discrimination. As I continued to read I noticed I wasn’t as bothered by the boxed information. It could be that I got used to it or maybe became numb from account after debilitating account.
Chapters 3 and 4, Counseling GLBT Students and Their Families, and Gay Teachers and Gay Families, are excellent resources for school counselors and teachers. In Chapter 3 Lipkin provides commonly asked questions specific to the counseling field and addresses such topics as teens and their families, multiple minority teens, teens with disabilities, and transsexual youth. Chapter 4 begins by providing teachers with questions specific to their profession. Lesbian and gay teachers can find answers to questions about the perils and benefits of coming out to colleagues, students, and parents. One of the highlights of this chapter is a list of points that schools can use to become more sensitive to lesbian and gay parents.
Chapters 5, 6, and 7, Effective School Reform, Progress and Resistance, and Changing the Curriculum, can be used for workshops and seminars that focus on providing teachers and administrators with concrete examples for creating a respectful and productive dialogue about homosexuality. Chapter 5 provides administrators with useful information on legal issues, Gay/Straight Alliances, and working with the community. Included in Chapter 6 are guidelines to prevent unintentional injuries and violence and how the opposition has reacted to anti-harassment policies in schools. Highlights of Chapter 7 provide advice to teachers on raising gay issues in the classroom.
The book concludes with lists of resources for LGBT students and their families, checklists for teachers, and recommendations for further reading in the appendices. Overall, the book is an excellent resource for teachers, counselors and administrators who want to become better informed about issues related to LGBT students and teachers and who want to discover ways to create effective school reform.
Faderman, L. (1991). Odd girls and twilight lovers: A history of lesbian life in twentieth-century America. New York: Columbia University Press.