Equal Visibility for All

Dear LREI Community,

As most of you are aware, for the past few months the Parents Association’s Lesbian/Gay/Straight Alliance has been hard at work organizing this year’s Visibility: Lesbian and Gay People We Love photo exhibit. For those of you who are new to LREI, a quick review of how this exhibit came to be. A number of years ago the school hosted a traveling exhibit of photographs featuring lesbian and gay headed households. This exhibit, Love Makes a Family, has traveled to many institutions and is really quite beautiful. During one showing, a faculty member suggested that we create our own set of photos featuring members of our community and, thus, Visibility was born. For a number of years, the LREI community has stepped up and contributed a large number of beautiful and moving photographs. Families, alumni, faculty members are donating photos and captions and this year’s exhibit will be as wonderful as those in the past. (It is not too late to donate a photo, we always need more. If you are interested, email visibility@lrei.org.)

One other historical moment. Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School has a long history of involvement in civil rights and social justice movements. Whether it is welcoming teachers into the school who had been blacklisted in their chosen profession or making space for children from segregated schools, LREI has long participated in efforts to bring equal opportunity to all. The Visibility photo exhibit is an action in the same vein. Many members of the LREI community cannot comfortably and safely be open about who they are, cannot marry whom they love and are denied rights that are afforded to others without question. Our hope is that through making these community members and families more visible the LREI community will do its small part to emphasize just how unfair the current situation is and just how important it is that things change.

I want to address two questions that are commonly asked about this exhibit. The first is whether we wouldn’t achieve the same goals by having an exhibit that welcomes pictures of all families in the school. While this would be a warm and wonderful exhibit, as it is in other schools, such an exhibit would suggest that all families are equal. While I believe this to be true, that love and caring are powerful and wonderful no matter who is sharing them, it is essential to remember that while all love may be equal, not all love is treated equally, not all families have the same rights and that some people have to hide their true selves or run the risk of emotional or physical assault. We choose to highlight those who do not see themselves in the mainstream.

“Is this exhibit appropriate for our youngest students?” is also a common question. It is. What could be inappropriate about love and friendship and family? “Isn’t the exhibit about sex?” often follows. No. When younger students see these photos they see friends and loved ones. They see smiles and laughter. Might they ask a question about how two mommies or two daddies can have a baby? Sure. There are many answers to this question that do not stretch what is appropriate or comfortable to discuss with younger kids. If we are going to change the way in which people are treated, if we are going to put an end to discrimination, then we have to begin with the youngest members of our community and not wait until the adults in the world have been able to impart their bigotry.

For the next two weeks, the photos in this show will be on display in the Charlton Street building followed by a two-week exhibition in the Sixth Avenue building. I hope to see you at the exhibition’s reception on March 8th at 6:30PM in the Sixth Avenue Auditorium.

Enjoy Visibility,

Phil

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