For my Capstone, I created an online Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) at Science Leadership Academy, in addition to preparation for the QSA next year. My Capstone began with an inquiry question: How can school communities better support LGBTQ+ students? This question developed over time into another question: In what ways is technology instrumental in overcoming obstacles to connect a community? This Capstone has taken a winding path, with many twists, turns, relocations, and adjustments. The first of many obstacles this year was the asbestos crisis. While the relocation was jarring and unexpected, the online adaptation of school sparked a new vision of what the SLA QSA could be. I created an online SLA QSA, via Discord, a social media platform. Once school returned to being in a physical location, it was a time of adjustment, during which I had to rework many of the plans. From designing posters for the in-school meetings to doing the necessary write-ups for the online SLA QSA to be approved by a lawyer of the Philadelphia School District, I learned and experienced the steps required to overcome the obstacles that come with connecting a community in a time of turmoil. Each time the date and location of the first meeting were determined, there was another relocation. In the end, the online SLA QSA withstood the obstacles that the in-school meetings couldn’t. The final result was an online QSA, as well as a variety of materials that can be used next year, by the future QSA leaders.
The intertwined nature of militarism and nationalism within the United States produces violence, and results in adverse consequences within the nation and across the world. Nationalism operates on the basis of believing oneself to be a part of a superior group, and viewing other nations as inferior enemies. From this stems the nationalist desire to demonstrate and maintain dominance over the group perceived as the enemy, generally through violent actions. This same prejudice permeates society, in how people see and react to each other. When individuals view each other as a threat, violence is the result. This violence links back to militarism, and reinforces a dangerous cycle resulting in countless unnecessary deaths.
Nationalism, or the belief that one’s nation is inherently superior to all other nations, encourages the idea of an enemy. According to Emma Goldman, a writer and anarchist political activist of the early 1900s, “Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.” (1908). A militarist nation operates on the belief that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. In the case of nationalism, the people of the nation believe that they represent the ‘good guy’, and therefore must have the right to a gun. Naturally, the view of oneself as the “good guy” cannot exist without viewing another party as the “bad guy”. A militarist nation views nations that are fundamentally different from it as a threat; these nations are portrayed as the “bad guy”. Nationalism condemns differences of culture, values, beliefs, and other practices or ways of existence. This is founded on xenophobia, which is deeply ingrained in society.
The structure of a nation is mirrored by the society within it. This applies to core values, as well as the ways of dealing with a perceived threat to these values. Just as the military prepares for a non-present war, individuals prepare for a non-present threat. A militarist nation is one that anticipates war, even in the midst of peace. If conflict is not present, a militarist nation will use this as an opportunity to prepare for any potential future conflicts. This is done in the name of protection, yet ultimately achieves the opposite effect. “The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength.” (Goldman, 1908). Just as a nation perceives other nations as the source of this theoretical threat, individual people view other people as a threat. This is the basis of prejudice, and the resulting violence.
This nation stockpiles weapons in case of a need to protect itself. On a smaller scale, each person acts as a nation. Some see the right to bear arms as vital to the protection of oneself and one’s rights. The people of this nation have grown accustomed to constantly having an enemy they must triumph over. Because militarism is the default, people are inclined to create an enemy when no threat is present. As noted by Robert Elias, an author and a professor at the University of San Francisco, “Americans have been preoccupied, perhaps uniquely, with the problem of our ‘enemies’.” (April 19, 1993). Quite often, the people framed as the enemies are those who pose a threat to the social hierarchy of the nation. “Dissidents are not alone among our domestic enemies. We often perceive other threats, especially to our economic well-being, such as from other races, ethnicities, religions, classes, or genders.” (Elias, April 19, 1993). The majority gains privilege from oppressing the minority, as this oppression works to maintain the social hierarchy that advantages the majority, especially those at the top. As a whole, the privileged majority has a superiority complex, believing themselves to be the “good guys”, treating groups of people that are the minority as the “bad guys”, thus using this as justification to oppress them. The primary perpetrators of this are white people, and the victims of this tend to be people of color.
Because the US stockpiles weapons, and there is a president who threatens to use them, other nations react. North Korea is activity testing nuclear weapons. If this works on a macro level, it also has an effect on a micro level. Heavily armed individuals, such as people in law enforcement, are always prepared to use their weapons. Because of the right to bear arms, there are more guns in this country than there are people. It is not always possible to tell who has a gun and who does not. This makes police feel threatened. They act on their prejudices, believing people of color to be the enemy, using this as justification for horrific acts of violence.
In conclusion, the United States suffers from the combined effects of militarism and nationalism. Nationalism creates the nation’s superiority complex, which breeds xenophobia. Militarism has shaped a society in which violence is seen as a viable solution. These concepts and the resulting actions on a macro level are mirrored on a micro level by the people of the nation, and can be seen in the way individuals interact with each other. The result is the preservation of an unjust social hierarchy through the continuation of systematic violence. Ultimately, the intertwined nature of militarism and nationalism within the United States produces violence, and results in adverse consequences within the nation and across the world.
Goldman, Emma. & Paul Avrich Collection (Library of Congress). (1908). Patriotism : a menace to liberty. New York : Mother Earth Publishing Association
Turpin, Jennifer E & Kurtz, Lester R (1997). The Web of violence : from interpersonal to global. University of Illinois Press, Urbana
The purpose of my essay is to explore the impact of identity labels, and the significance they have for individuals in the process of self-discovery. There is also a focus on the role that community plays in self-acceptance. The communication of these concepts was accomplished through recalling my personal journey to understanding and accepting my gender identity. Within this essay, I feel that one of my strengths was integrating a metaphor that supports my main point. I used the idea of a journey to represent the process of self discovery, and a canyon as a metaphor for the barrier between living without a sense of self and existing within a community as an individual defined on their own terms. It serves to define the vast difference between self-realization and self-acceptance. Additionally, I am proud of my success in completing tasks on time. In my next paper, I will challenge myself to clearly establish my main point earlier on in the process. Additionally, I would like to work towards communicating my ideas in a more concise and powerful manner.
For much of my life, I never bothered to reflect on who I was. I accepted what other people told me about my identity, whether I liked it or not. I assumed that any individual’s identity was not self-discovered, but was determined by those around that individual. However, I have learned that my identity, and the process of existing as my truest self, belongs entirely to me. I will not sacrifice my sense of self just to appease society, nor to lessen the resistance I face as a result of my existence and expression of self.
For the past several years, I have gone through an exploration of and acceptance of my genderqueer identity. The first time I thought about it is a memory from when I was in 8th grade. The moment when I learned what the word cisgender meant, something clicked for me. In conversation with a friend, the word came up. I asked what it meant. “Cisgender refers to anyone who identifies as the gender they were born as. That's you and me,” my friend explained. My brain instantly went, “That's not me… is that me? I am not sure.” And then I went on to dwell on it periodically for a significant portion of time, in between long periods of denial.
During those long periods of denial, I often felt that I did not know myself, that I had not yet been given the knowledge of who I truly was. I knew people existed on the other side of the canyon, in a land of understanding themselves and being who they truly were. I did not understand that one could travel from one side to the other. The truth is, everyone has a canyon to cross. Everyone has a part of who they are that they must discover and move towards. The moment we must make a change, we are tempted to deny the journey that has brought us to the moment. We cannot unlive the journey. To sit at the barrier is to waste away into nothingness, to resign oneself to a confused, empty, and meaningless fate. To bridge the canyon is to find validation within. Once having reached a pivotal point in self-discovery, we can connect where we are and where we want to be. It is to build a bridge and pass over the canyon, rather than jump into the abyss.
One of the steps over the bridge for me was to share my thoughts with one of my mothers. I told her that I thought I was genderqueer. We were in a car. I spent the whole ride, on the way to see a dentist, getting up the courage to bring up the topic. Finally, as we got back into the car after the appointment to go home, I told her. Her response crushed me.
“Just promise me,” she said, with a clearly disappointed tone to her voice, “that you won’t turn into a man.” She slid into the car, and slammed the door behind her.
A cocktail of sadness, disappointment, anger at her, self-doubt, and self-loathing welled up inside me, sloshing around. I was either going to cry, or going to explode: her words, now fading into the tense silence, were the smoldering match to my gasoline. “Who ever said that I wanted to be a man?!” I sputtered, “I just want to be me. How is that the first response you, a self-proclaimed trans-ally, have. It’s like you are supportive of everyone, no matter what, until that person is your own kid.”
“Yeah. I guess so,” she unashamedly agreed, as if she saw nothing wrong with it.
We sat in silence.
Many people will cross this bridge with you, and many will try to hold you back. Many people will cheer you on from the other side, and many will demand that you turn away, or else jump. Belonging is not guaranteed. Turning back is to make more difficult the path for the next traveler; to desecrate the faith of the folks across the canyon. Continuing forward is tearing yourself away from the arms that have cradled you and embraced you since you were young. But everyone has a place where they fit in, even if they must travel far to find it. I may not fit exactly in with the puzzle I was packaged with, but I fit in with my community. The more people like me I have met, the more I have learned to accept myself. As I have gained confidence through embracing this community, I have found my place. I have claimed my right to exist shamelessly as I am. I am genderqueer, and my existence is mine. Identity is for an individual to define. To sacrifice one’s well being just to appease others is to peel away and discard the unique meaning of that individual’s existence.
As explained by Jill Soloway, film director and writer of the television show Transparent, “The category of nonbinary or gender-queer feels like a relief to me. It's sort of a safe home, a place in which my self wishes to reside…. I know it’s awkward and hard to understand, but all we have is the language. These words are attempting to catch up to something that is a question of how one exists inside one’s mind or one’s soul.” (Glamour interview, Ann Friedman, 9/14/17)
I knew who I was, but had trouble accepting myself. I had internalized so much of the negative responses and resistance I had been met with. It would be so much easier if I could just be who they wanted me to be. It would be easier if I had never discovered my identity in the first place, but that was impossible. Having a sense of self is a part of the human experience; an integral part of existence. It would be so much easier to opt out of the human experience, but that was clearly not an option. As I struggled with myself, figuring out my identity, I replayed many of the responses of people close to me:
“I never knew you weren’t happy on this side of the canyon.”
“You seemed to fit in so well when you were younger.”
“We would miss you. Just promise me you won’t go.”
“You’ll regret it. I screwed a lot of things up when I was a teenager.”
“I accept that you wish to be over there, so long as you stay on this side.”
“This is just a phase. A trend.”
“Fake. Liar. Special snowflake.”
Where I see my journey to happiness, they see the withering of an image they had of me. They see an imposter killing off the person they thought they knew, wearing the skin of their loved one, asking for help to irreversibly change it.
Am I really a monster? A fake? An imposter? A special snowflake, just begging for attention in a way that is guaranteed to cause me agony and make my life significantly more difficult?
No. Because voices also echo from the other side.
“Change what you cannot live with. Learn to love the rest,” advises a more experienced traveler, already trod on the path I follow.
Among them, is a quote from queer activist Kate Bornstein: “There’s a bunch of people who used to think ‘I’m a terrible person for changing my gender’ or ‘I’m a terrible person because I’m f**king same-sex people’ and people are now understanding that, no, trans is not mean to anybody. Queering up your sexuality isn’t mean to anybody.” (Huffpost interview, James Nichols, 10/10/15, updated 8/10/16)
The open arms of those who have traveled this path before me, cheer me on.
Self-discovery is a process. I am constantly evolving; growing as a person. For a long time, when I doubted myself, I thought that this made my understanding invalid. Now, I feel that doubt is inevitable. It is a landmark along the trail of self-discovery, just before the point of making a decision. It would be so simple to stop, to never cross that barrier.
But if we do not carry on, what are we to do? We must continue forward, as we cannot turn back. Since my first moments of questioning my identity, I have learned to reflect on all aspects of my identity on a deeper level. I am now self-aware in a way I never would have thought possible.
Where do I go now? Many people see a genderqueer identity as highly politicized. It is true that identity in the context of society is political and formative of the present moment, as well as the future of humans as social beings. Labels can be used to create both division and community. But identity on an individual basis has a more fluid meaning. For me, I exist in the way I have always existed: as myself. Now, I put a label on it because that label fits and that label creates a sense of community for me. Identifying as genderqueer connects me to the community that I have discovered myself in. This sense of community so powerful and necessary. My genderqueer identity is made up of me existing and putting a label that fits onto my existence. This has been a long journey for me, and I know it is one that will last forever. I know who I am in this moment, and look forward to continuing to discover myself. I will not sacrifice my sense of self just to appease a society that claims I do not exist.
Throughout the process of crafting this essay, I learned the value of concise and descriptive writing. Prior to this paper, I firmly believed that strong descriptive writing was the key to a successful essay, and that it was necessary to sacrifice all other criteria (such as the word count) in favor of it. My perspective on revising my writing has changed, as I now see that the removal of excess description is not done solely in the interest of meeting the word count. It also serves to increase the overall quality of the final product. Even if the words paint a beautiful image, the essay might still be so abstract that it only holds meaning to the painter. This is the goal of my personal essay: to communicate a concept, experience, or lesson to the readers, and to push myself to improve my writing skills instead of masking an average paper with excessive decorations.
Decisions and Journeys
Taking action, making a decision and acting upon it, can feel impossible at times. I remember a time when indecision and not taking action took me far from home.
It started as I stood at the platform in 30th Street Station, the crowd bustling about. The loudspeakers burst to life, bellowing out the name of the train I was eagerly awaiting. A train pulled up to the platform, and I followed the boisterous crowd aboard, plopping down on a half-occupied two-seater. I sat with a man who stood up two stops later, announced he no longer needed his all-day pass, and abandoned it on the train.
When the following stop was announced, I felt the first inkling of uncertainty. The station names were unfamiliar, and I did not recognize the somewhat familiar faces I usually saw on my way home. With each passing stop, I argued with myself: should I ask what train I was on? Or could I be on the right one? I made up reasons why scenery I passed was so different: “It’s incredible,” I marveled, “I must pass these trees and houses daily, yet only now am I truly seeing them!”
I spent a few more stops debating whether or not I should ask which train I was on, getting further and further from home, trapped in indecision. Before I could ask anyone the name of the train line, it came to a halt at its final destination: Trenton.
My heart pounded with the speed of the roadrunner and the force of a hydraulic press, but then my panic was disrupted as I recalled the discarded all-day pass. Saved! I used the pass to travel back to 30th Street Station, and then home.
Would I find taking action easier in the future? I soon had an opportunity to put that to the test. I had the chance to have my nose pierced. Should I do it? Would it hurt? Would I regret it? This time, perhaps strengthened by previous experiences of acting or not acting, I was ready to take action.
My journey began on South Street, inside the back room of Infinite Piercing. I hopped up onto a table exactly like one that you might find in a doctor’s office… a sturdy wooden frame topped with an oblong, pine green, pleather cushion. It took up most of the room, and was set dead-center, as if it were a stage. My mom sat down in the chair on the right side of the door. The person who was to do my piercing closed the door behind us. The person wiped down my nose with a cool cloth and it felt as if my nose felt like it was trapped inside a closed tupperware container full of hand sanitizer. Then came the piercing. Suddenly, a peculiar sensation started at a single point on my nose. The feeling was like a tiny sparkler. It was pain.
“Yep. There is a needle in my nose. A needle is going through my nose,” my brain stated matter-of-factly. The rest of my face melted away. It was as if my consciousness was a duck, and my awareness of everything except my face was water flowing off of the duck’s back.
And in that moment, I was witness to a bizarre phenomenon; a rare exception to what would generally be considered a faux pas. There was a stranger’s finger in my nose.
Then it was done.
I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a while, I liked my face. Taking action had brought me closer to home, to feeling like myself.
Ultimately, decisions result in action. Whether positive or negative, actions have consequences and result in experience. I am beginning to trust my ability to make decisions based on a gut instinct. On the train, I froze and ignored my own misgivings, my inaction taking me away from my destination, my home. On the green table at Infinite Piercing, I trusted my ability to make a decision, and my action took my toward my destination, self-confidence. Whether it’s a train to get home or a nose piercing to feel more at home in myself, I am learning to navigate my existence on many levels.
My element is Mercury, which is element 80. It has a mass of 200.59. Mercury is the only metallic element that is a liquid at room temperature. It is used in fluorescent lighting, thermometers, and certain types of medication. In Ancient Rome, it was used in cosmetics. This is unfortunate, as it is highly toxic. When choosing what images to incorporate into my print, the first thing I noticed about Mercury was its reflective, silvery surface. The imagery I used ended up being a hand with mercury dripping onto it from a broken thermometer. The process of making this print involved sketching out a plan, redrawing my final design, transferring the design to tracing paper, etching it onto a styrofoam sheet, and using the styrofoam sheet as the plate to print off of after using the brayer to coat it in ink. If I had to do the print again, I would have put in less detail. This would have made it turn out a lot neater. What I particularly enjoyed about this project was that it involved chemistry and art, which are my favorite subjects. It was interesting to be working on the same thing in two classes, as well. Perhaps this helped to reinforce the lesson.
Negative space is the area around the image that is the focus of the picture.
In order to find the negative space in my picture, I aligned all of the pieces on one side, and flipped over every other one from the outside, so that the cut out was a mirror image of the side opposite it.
Seeing an image in negative space is an important skill for an artist to have, as it can help to clearly visualize the overall form of the subject matter.
Seeing the negative space present in a drawing or any other type of visual art enhances the viewing experience, as it brings more contrast to the attention of the viewer.
Introduction: Una puerta
Dasia: Hola! Me llamo Dasia. Ellos son mis amigos.
Amani: Hola, me llamo Amani.
Josh: Hola, me llamo Josh.
Michaela: Hola, me llamo Michaela.
Together: Esto es nuestro mockumentary en SLA!
Scene 2: Informacíon
Josh: SLA es una escuela donde hacemos proyectos, los proyectos no son un problema.
Michaela: Nosotros tenemos proyectos, más que pruebas.
Josh: La clase es fácil. No hay problema nunca. Los estudiantes están stupenedes en la clase.\
Amani: En SLA, cada estudiante tiene una computadora.
Dasia: Nosotros estudiante de primer año vamos al Instituto Franklin los miércoles. (record students in tfi or walking to tfi)
Scene 3: SLA Location
Narrator: Buenos Días, ellos. Bienvenidos a SLA. SLA está en Center City
y está cerca de restaurantes de comida rápida y el Instituto Franklin.
Dasia: ¡Está cerca de 7-eleven y Trader Joe’s!
Narrator: En SLA, cada estudiante tiene una computadora.
Josh: Este es conveniente y muy muy excelente.
Amani: Nosotros aprendemos usar las computadoras en la clase de tecnología.
Michaela: La Señorita Hull enseña tecnología muy bien. Es estricta pero inspirante.
Dasia: Nos gusta la Señorita Hull porque ella nos entiende.
Amani: Nos gusta el Señor Kay porque él es divertido.
Josh: Nos gusta la Señorita Manuel porque ella es divertída y la clase es fácil.
Dasia: Nos gusta la Señorita Giorgio porque ella es fantástica y la clase es interesante.
Michaela: Los Profesores son estupendes!
Scene #5: Lunch room
Josh: La comida es muy buena! Me gustan todas comidas.