By Gina Rangel-Gross
On May 20 and 21st, Roosevelt junior Emma Williams, along with Genya Shimkin from Q Card and Fatima Arain from the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse, conducted and led seminars in freshman health classes teaching sexual health lessons on topics little touched-on in schools. The lessons of the first day focused on what it means to be LGBTQIA+: defining the term, talking about queer gender and sexual orientations, identity, and gender expression. The second day of lessons focused on personal agency, boundaries, and consent.
“I wanted to give students the fundamental understanding of identity and personal agency that I wish I’d had as a freshman,” said Williams, describing her goals for the project. “I wanted to talk about queerness in a way that went beyond ‘some boys like boys and some girls like girls and that’s okay’, because while that’s true, some people aren’t boys or girls, or some people are both, or some people like both boys and girls, and some people like neither and that needs to be addressed and made to seem okay. I think I would have addressed my own identity much more quickly had I been given a basic understanding like that.”
The idea for her presentations first came about after reading a novel in her Language Arts class which had heavy depictions of rape and abuse. “As we started having class discussions about it, I and a few other students realized that this was the most detail in which we had ever talked about rape in a school setting,” she said, “[It] didn’t really seem acceptable considering that we have health classes that should be best equipped for those discussions. A group of other girls in the class and I started talking about this and how many things we’d wish we would have learned in health class.”
When discussing the hopeful impact of her project, Williams acknowledges that “when talking about issues like this, it’s important to recognize that unlearning a system of thought that we’ve been prescribed our whole lives takes more than two days of class presentations.” Regardless, even if not every student took something away from the presentations, the beginning of this learning process has hopefully begun.
Featured Photo: Emma Williams poses outside of Roosevelt. Photo by Nathan Smith.