Asterisk offers workshops and trainings that aim to promote practices of inclusivity within institutions of higher education, with a specific focus on gender and sexuality. This involves discussing different forms of privilege and discrimination as they relate to the categories “woman,” “man,” “queer,” “lesbian,” “straight,” “trans,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “masculine,” “asexual,” “intersex,” “feminine,” “non-conforming,” “fluid,” and others.  

Through these workshops participants will:

  • Learn techniques for becoming effective, empathetic allies
  • Develop language and behavior that promote inclusive communities, including how to talk about and make room for others to use “new” or unfamiliar pronouns and labels
  • Acquire tools for addressing and countering microagressions and other harmful practices of exclusion, discrimination and unintentional intolerance
  • Master effective ways of advocating for themselves and others
  • Gain an understanding of the ways we are all profoundly impacted by norms of gender and sexuality
  • Learn strategies for recognizing and responding to unconscious bias
  • Build a portfolio of ways to teach these practices to our students and offer them the resources and support needed to thrive in the academic world

By better understanding the ways that we consciously or unconsciously reaffirm discrimination we may begin to think and act differently. LGBTQIA+ students report suffering from bullying and bigorty at home and in the classroom at alarmingly high rates; according to the 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 70% of LGBTQ youth have experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation, and just 27% say they are completely out about their identity in school. A mere 26% of youth say they feel safe in the classroom, and 51% of trans youth report that they cannot use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The words we choose and the behaviors we demonstrate can significantly impact the experience these students have, both in their personal and professional lives. To talk about the big and small ways that gender and sexual discrimination creep into our lives and discourses, we must rethink the ways we teach, learn, and communicate. This kind of approach asks us to reconsider “learning” as a constant active practice that does not have one single designated space, but is a continual process that occurs through every interaction and experience.

We begin this process first by coming to a shared understanding of certain key concepts surrounding gender and sexual difference, and the cultural and social frameworks of identity formation. We then shift toward discussing differences and assumptions on a more personal and interpersonal level. Together we share and create strategies for recognizing our own conscious and unconscious biases, those of the people around us, and those ingrained in the environments we work in and through every day. Through a series of collaborative activities we work toward understanding the impact of norms and social conventions on the individual and on our communities more generally. All of this aims at stressing the importance of expressions understanding  inside the classroom and beyond, and builds towards a pedagogy of intentional empathy that explicitly disavows exclusion and promotes acceptance and recognition of difference through direct and intentional action, behavior, and language.