Standing Up For What's Real--
My friend, Kristie Stremel, who also happens to be one of my favorite artists on the planet, wrote her friends last week about an experience she had with hate speech in a Garden City Community College classroom. She’s gone public with the experience, and it’s been covered in some of the local media.
As a community college teacher myself, I think this illustrates the dark contradiction to the many ways our society has opened up over the two decades I've been teaching. I've had similar explosions in my own classrooms where people begin attacking folks on welfare, for instance, never even considering the fact some of their silent classmates were either raised on welfare or were receiving assistance at that moment while they struggled to get through college. We need to do more to draw attention to the hidden contradictions that tell the real truth of who we are.
First, I am sending the letter that she wrote to her friends explaining the situation and then, immediately below, I’ve excerpted part of her correspondence with her geography professor about an event that happened in the class (I guess with a sub), and then yet another event that took place at a school assembly. Below that I have pasted other potentially useful links and information.
Below is a letter I wrote to the editors of a few Kansas newspapers near Garden City, KS. The Hutchinson, KS newspaper is putting a news story out today or thursday of this week. I hope others will follow...
What I found in Garden City is heartbreaking and life changing. I have finally awakened from a selfish gay life of "I want equal rights" in which I did nothing to help the people that were fighting for it. The letter below is my account of only my second week at school. I will also tell you the language is being repeated in the classroom. A week after the lecture I was in my geography class and listening to students and guest speakers verbally "gay bash". You can read about that below the letter in an email to my geography instructor.
I am getting ready to out myself to southwest Kansas for what I think is a karmic debt I owe to the GLBT community. Without sounding too dramatic, I would really appreciate any light you could shine on Garden City Community College and Finney County Attorney John Wheeler, so I am visible.
lost and found in southwest Kansas,
Kristie Stremel Date: Thu, 7 Feb 2008 20:34:14 -0500
From: Kristie Stremel [mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org]Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2008 17:26:14
+0000Subject: RE: geography class
Thank you for the email and apology. I can appreciate what you were trying to do for the class.
I'm not sure how much Mr. Doll told you, so I will.
Mr. Doll started a discussion on Gay Marriage and how it was a big issue between Reps and Dems in the election. He then asked the students what they thought, but before he let anyone answer, let the classroom know that he was "ok with gay people, but thought what gays did was really gross".
Then I started to sweat in my desk as I witnessed half of the students VERBALLY BASHED gay people! With every bash, I thought surely Mr. Doll will stop this...but he didn't! ... instead he agreed with a student on how he "felt sorry for gays when they meet God and are judged". While this was being said... I had to listen to a whole other student yelling in the back about how "gays are not as skilled as straight people". Other students are randomly stating (some laughing and giggling) "gay people make me sick", "I don't agree with being gay" and "gays are childmolesters"! After 20 minutes of this, I was SWEATING and nervous.I turned on my tape recorder (that I use for getting quotes for the newspaper) and recorded the last 17 minutes of class.I don't have the stomach to listen to it yet. I have never in my life witnessed such hatred in a classroom. I am still sick to my stomach and wonder if that classroom is a safe place for me be and learn?
Kristie: Again I am sorry for what happened, believe me I am always amazed at the ignorance of people. This is why as I have gotten older, I have almost become a recluse since there seems to be so few intelligent people to talk to. John was a school teacher for quite some, which makes this even more ridiculous. Give me your feelings on how you want to deal with this. I would really like to talk to you in person or on the phone, but that is up to you.
Letter to the Editor,
I attended an assembly Jan. 30, 2008, at Garden County Community College where Finney County Attorney John Wheeler was asked to provide information relating to sexual assault, prevention of sex offenses, and procedures to follow after an offense has occurred. College officials sent notification to faculty through an e-mail that, keeping in accordance with the Cleary Act, all colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid are required to provide education regarding sexual offenses and their prevention. As an interested student, I was eager to learn more, although I was not one of the athletes or residential assistants who were required to attend. It was estimated and reported that more than 100 students attended.
Mr. Wheeler conducted a 30-minute slide presentation in which he discussed and defined sex crimes including: indecent liberties with a child; sexual battery; aggravated sexual battery; rape; and sodomy. During his explanation of Kansas' sodomy laws, and immediately following a reference to bestiality, Mr. Wheeler said, "Homosexuality is a crime in Kansas."
I sat there amid my peers and educators absolutely stunned at what I had just heard. I literally immediately felt nauseated. My heart went out to gay and lesbian students who heard and might have believed the statement made by Mr. Wheeler. I was devastated and hurt by what I found to be hateful misinformation.
Despite of what he presented, I knew that homosexuality was not illegal in Kansas. Kansas law, as it appears in the statute, does outlaw sodomy between members of the same sex. However, that law is unenforceable. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas struck down the Texas sodomy law and in the process all similar sodomy laws. Thereby nullifying Kansas' sodomy law as it pertains to sexual relations between same-sex partners who are at least 16 years of age. [K.S.A. 21-3505(a)(1) and 529 U.S. 538 (2003)].
This kind of statement, no matter how flippant, is what triggers many young lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students to resort to desperate measures including self destruction and even suicide. Yes, I am gay. I am proud of who I am and what I do. I refuse to let Mr. Wheeler, or anyone else, make me into a criminal in front of a gym full of my classmates.
Furthermore, I implore college officials and educators to address this ignorance. I am a 3.6 GPA transfer student and a productive member of society. I came to GCCC in hopes of receiving an education. However, I am now concerned whether this is a place that can provide me and others like me with a safe learning environment. How can I go to class, or anywhere in Garden City, when the Finney County Attorney publicly states, albeit inaccurately, that I am a criminal? I beg President Carol Ballantyne to stop such anti-gay statements as well as to work toward providing ACCURATE education and sensitivity training regarding such issues.
I expect my college administrators, instructors and peers to develop a plan as to how they will mend this rift and make me, and others like me, feel safe enough to attend our classes without fear of being hated or harassed.
Kristie Stremel Garden City, Kan.
Lawyer: Ban on gay sex is still on bookshttps://owa.jccc.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.hutchnews.com/Todaystop/sex2008-02-12T20-46-25
Finney County Attorney - Garden City, KS John P Wheeler Jr. email@example.com
Slide show presentation by John Wheeler can be viewed at:https://owa.jccc.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.cybersilhouette.com/
Garden City Community College801 Campus Dr.Garden City, KS 67846https://owa.jccc.edu/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?URL=http://www.gcccks.edu
Dean of Students
Dr. Carol Ballantynecarol.firstname.lastname@example.org