Dealing with gender and sexuality in education

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Queens College Professor Leslee Grey spoke with students Nov. 4, at the “Multiplicities in the Classroom: Understanding Gender & Sexuality Among Multiple Identities” event held in Powdermaker Hall.

Grey discussed the gender roles in the classroom, especially how students identify them.

“It is going against cultural and social norm. Not all of us consider being different people,” Grey said.

Grey noted how society changes and defines what is the norm.

“We don’t think about heterosexuality because we think it is normal,” Grey said.

Grey arranged the audience into groups and provided nine photos of women. She asked each group to rank the photos from most feminine to the least feminine with an explanation to see what everyone thought about the subject.

After the students completed their rankings, Grey showed a video of Alexa Espinado, a teacher living in Mississippi, who struggled to adjust after moving from New York City. The teacher, a lesbian, worried that revealing her sexuality could lead to her being fired. She openly and directly addressed homophobia to her students.

“One boy said, ‘Being gay is a sin.’ I had to say something. I said ‘Don’t ever say that. You need to show respect no matter what you think about the other person,’” Espinado said.

Grey praised Espinado’s decision, especially as a teacher to her students.

“I think she did the right thing. It is important that she did not change his mind and his beliefs but rather framing it,” Grey said.

Abigail Agostino, student, offered her opinion on gender identity and sexuality.

“I definitely think that it is a hot topic these days. I have an open mind about the subject. I am an accepting person towards homosexuals and I think that there should no longer be anymore judgment towards them. Love is love,” Agostino said.

Denzil Charles, student, touched upon society’s reluctance to talk about the subject.

“I think it is a complex topic for social norms. And I think people are afraid to speak about it,” Charles said.

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