When we silence our own voice and we do not share out our story and authentic word, we are not only selling our family and coworkers short, but ultimately we are selling our own selves short.
I can remember the time in my life when I was silenced and unable to understand what that internal voice that was trying to surface was speaking. As a gay Latino male, was I silenced? Or, did I learn early on that in order to “make it” in the “white man’s” world I had to silence myself and not use my own perception to make it in this rat race? That surfacing or silenced message was “Who am I?” and “How can I show up and be safe in every space, from work to my home to my community?” Did I need more safety?
So, as a faculty member at Highline College, I begin to wonder how I can transform my classroom into a living space of transformational leaders. In today’s world with all that is going on—for example, on the good side, the Marriage Equality Act, and on the bad side, the North Carolina transgender law—it seems like we at Highline are in an especially good position to reach students who could be the change agents of the future, given our rich diversity of students and the inclusivity we strive for on campus.
With supportive and open faculty members, students have models from whom to learn and a safe space in which to do so. Colleges and universities have to be strategic and courageous and continue to offer courses that are centered on topics which include sexual orientation, race, and multiple levels of oppression. These courses can be challenging to execute the importance of each topic while trying to employ change within your students.
It is sometimes difficult to differentiate to all learning styles. Sometimes we miss the mark as educators even though we try to be as inclusive and accepting of all marginalized groups – and this is OK as long as we identify, acknowledge and adapt for the betterment. As a practitioner in the field of human services, there are benefits and also set-backs. Trying to teach my students the importance of cross-cultural counseling in and of itself is difficult to even understand, much less teach it to a population that lives within the many confines of each chapter they read about in the text. Allowing individuals to find their own place in the world and to work out the bumps – or life’s curveballs – on their own with guidance and support is vital.
The classroom is a petri dish of sorts and I imagine all the many different chemicals that go into it to make a combustible reaction. That reaction to the information taught in multicultural counseling classes and cultural competence classes is the clashing of diversity within the student body itself. This is an exciting challenge for both instructor and students to perform a dance that allows just enough safety of disclosure and education and are just the starting blocks of growth.
Magallanes earned his Bachelor of Science from Northern Arizona University and his Masters in Community Counseling from Seattle University. Joshua serves as committee chair for the LGBTQIA Task Force at Highline Community College and served on the board of directors for Gay City Men’s Health Project. Currently a faculty member at Highline College, he teaches courses including “The LGBTQI Experience.” For more information, visit www.joshuatherapy.com.