Partridge: Education about gender diversity is what our community needs
We at Mountain Pride are disappointed about the harmful rhetoric around gender expression and the backlash against the Eagle County School District, Vail Valley Foundation, and the Vilar Performing Arts Center over a recent performance that students saw on a school field trip. We acknowledge that an apology is appropriate and necessary for the miscommunication, but an essential component is missing from this discussion: education.
Yes, education, rather than an apology for being exposed to gender diversity, is what our community needed in this instance and still needs. We can all agree that school is a place where children are taught to respect one another and to learn to work together, regardless of their differences. Understanding that the concept of diversity takes various forms and is incorporated into many aspects of our life. From religion, gender, culture, family structures, and physical abilities, we are each brought into this world made up of many differences. Learning about and exposure to gender diversity is an important part of that education. A school environment that is tolerant, inclusive, and accepting teaches all children to recognize and resist stereotypes. We need to teach children to celebrate differences, stand up for others, resist bullying, and work together.
It would be remissive not to acknowledge that children are already learning about gender. Information about gender is everywhere, and children receive very clear messages about the “roles and expectations” for boys and girls, as well as the consequences for violating them. By learning about the diversity of gender, all children have the opportunity to explore a greater range of interests, ideas, and activities. removing the pressure of gender roles and empowering all children to be their authentic selves.
Schools should be inclusive spaces where all students feel they belong, including transgender and gender-expansive children. Our children encounter people with different beliefs when they join any community, including their school community. We cannot opt out of diversity and cannot be hurt by diversity. While one goal for learning about diversity is to become more accepting of those around us, not everyone is going to share the same views, and that is OK, but that does not mean we cannot learn together.
If someone does not agree with or understand another person’s gender identity or expression, they do not have to change how they feel inside. Gender diversity education is about teaching youth to live and work with others; it comes down to the fact that everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.
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As highlighted, learning about these topics are critical to building a more accepting community. Mountain Pride supports performances, media, and education that represent the full diversity of people. We celebrate the Vail Valley Foundation and the Vilar Performing Arts Center for the high-quality shows with inspiring messaging for local youth and community members.
Visibility, through artistic performances and classroom lessons, literally saves lives. According to a study done by the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who live in a community that is accepting of LGBTQ+ people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who do not. The conflation of the show and diverse gender expression as controversial threatens the lives of gender-expansive youth and individuals in our community.
The backlash and hate say to our gender-expansive youth, as well as our gender-conforming youth, that they must apologize for their existence that may differ from norms. Mountain Pride stands with and supports our diverse and gender-expansive community. We will continue to push forward, advocate, and fight alongside gender-expansive individuals to express themselves freely without fear of judgment or persecution.
Our community is resilient and deserves to be seen, and Mountain Pride is here to facilitate that through advocacy, connection, community, and access to resources. Mountain Pride is here to help if you would like to discuss or learn more about gender expression. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for support.