This podcast—led and produced by Drew Ceglinski—examines our session with Dome Ravina and Jonatan of Lambda’s Queer@School project. According to the Lambda website, Queer@School is “a group of different people—some of us go to school while others attend university, do an apprenticeship or something completely different. Each of us experiences different forms of discrimination and privilege in our own environment. However, some things connect us. We are all young and we are ready for equality. That’s why every week we meet again and talk together about how we can sensitize and empower young people. In doing so, we focus on homophobia and hostility, but at the same time we think in an intersectional way—so we also try to look at other forms of discrimination.”
Photo Credit: Drew Ceglinski
Andrew Ceglinski—who goes by Drew, because Andrew “sounds too serious” and his grandpa’s name was Andy—was born in Beverly, MA to a Quaker family, and moved to Bath, Maine when he was six. He graduated from Morse High School in 2015, and is now a Geology major and German minor at Colorado College. He’s been a swimmer his whole life, and he came out as gay in summer 2014. He is very passionate about two things: paleontology and brightly-colored pants (not pictured).
Photo Credit: Drew Ceglinski
Joining Drew in his discussion are Kai Mesman-Hallman—a San Diego, CA native and junior at Colorado College majoring in psychology, and Kendall Stoetzer—a junior from Denver, CO majoring in Sociology with a minor in Art Studio.
NOTE: The featured image photo credit also belongs to Drew Ceglinski.
Celine and I during the Farewell Dinner at TV Tower
Writing this was especially difficult. As a result, I’m so thankful that I asked the students to write blogs throughout our time in Berlin so that you all could follow our journey as it was happening. It was wonderful. Dreamy. Exciting. Adventurous. I could go on and on, but I’ll just say that I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience teaching abroad for the first time.
I do want to “say” that, with the help of our Course Assistant and my new ace Celine Barry and Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück, I’ve decided to change the title of the course in order to more accurately communicate its goals and objectives. The course will now be titled “Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin.” During our course, we studied the experiences of Afro-German women, migrants and refugees in Berlin, victims of Neo-Nazi terrorism and police brutality, and LGBTQI communities, to name a few. We also embarked on tours that provided information based on official, state-sanctioned narratives of Berlin so that we could juxtapose them with tours that provided information about the narratives that are often hidden from tourists on the beaten path. This change does not mean the course will radically change, but this new title will better articulate what we actually did in Berlin. I don’t know if I’ll be able to teach the course again – this depends on whether or not my proposal is accepted by the Summer Sessions Committee – but I have high hopes.
The FemGeniuses figuring out how not to be late! Just kidding – figuring out dinner!
Speaking of high hopes, I had high hopes that this group of students wouldn’t disappoint. I think I had such high hopes and expectations, because I know 5 of the 9 students who came with me to Berlin. Those 5 had taken at least 2 courses with me, and most have decided to either major or minor in Feminist & Gender Studies. So, we know each other pretty well. I had also received strong recommendations for the other 4 students, so I didn’t imagine that they’d cause any trouble. Well, I was 99.8% right. I only had to “discipline” the students 3 times – twice during the first week, once during the second, and none during the last week. These things were pretty minor, though, if you ask me: a bit of tardiness, a bit of over-eager loudness, and a bit of inappropriate silliness. I honestly don’t think I need to make any major changes to the course in order to mitigate such issues. Sometimes, these things just happen. Regarding attendance and tardiness, though, I did have a policy that students couldn’t miss more than 2 sessions (not days) without being penalized; however, I didn’t have a tardy policy. The students who were late quite a bit on the first two days were not malicious, but students have to realize – at some point or another – that timeliness is important. I was a few minutes lates myself a couple times – Mercury was in retrograde, after all – but I was never late to a session during which I had asked someone to give their time and energy to our course. I don’t want to seriously hurt a student for honest mistakes, only to communicate the importance of respecting the time and energy of themselves and others. As for the loudness and silliness, I’ll handle that as it comes. No big deal, really.
There are a couple other things I want to change, too, but not in response to anything that went wrong. For example, I think I could implement discussion points in this course as I do in all of my courses. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why I didn’t. I must say that many of the folks we interacted with in Berlin were impressed by the students, as was I. And even though I don’t want to spend a lot of time grading in Berlin or even after I return home, I want to have the opportunity to evaluate student discussion so that I can help them maintain their strengths and improve their weaknesses. Our new friends in Berlin were also impressed by the great questions the students asked. I was, too. Most people who know me pedagogically know that I value good questions almost as much as anything else. So, I also think that I may ask students to develop discussion questions for each of our sessions ahead of time, like I do normally, so that I can help them craft their question-asking skills and also to acknowledge when they do so effectively. We actually did that in preparation for our first guest, Ika Hügel-Marshall, but we didn’t keep it up. We will next time. I’ll also do a better job evaluating the student blogs and student peer reviews of said blogs. I basically made revisions/edits to the blogs as I was posting them and quickly reviewed the peer reviews so that I could post the blogs promptly. In the future, however, I want to take some time to give salient feedback on the blogs so that students know what they should improve. This brings me to another significant change, “Just Us Mondays.” On Monday mornings, I want to spend time with the students for a few hours discussing all of these things, debriefing sessions, and preparing for upcoming sessions. We’ll follow that up with a group lunch before heading to one of our tours. I think they’ll like that, and so will I.
Me and the Frauenkreise Team: Iris, Nina, and Gabi
While our course was “jam packed” with seminars, tours, and visits to important sites in Berlin, that’s not going to change. We’re in Berlin for just 3 weeks, and there is so much to see and do. We aren’t there just to lounge around. We’re there to learn as much as we possibly can. And to be honest, I had more “chill time” than I even expected, so that’s pretty cool. That’s another reason why things were jam packed. We had mandatory sessions each morning and afternoon most weekdays so that we all could have our weekends free to roam the city, hang out with new friends, and things of that nature. On that note, I actually did the math. My regular classes at CC total around 58-59 hours. Our class totaled around 61-62 hours. I think that’s sufficient. I want my students to have the best, most-rewarding experience possible. And really, I want them and/or whoever is financially supporting their experience, to feel that the money was well-spent. Like I once said during the course, “If you wanted to come to Berlin to just do whatever, you could have done that on your own dime and for less money.”
At this point, I’ll note that our sessions at Frauenkreise were open to the public. That also won’t change. It was great meeting other folks in Berlin interested in intersectionality studies, and our open sessions helped us do that. The only problem is that our sessions were held at 9 am, so most folks in Berlin couldn’t attend due to their jobs. However, so that the students and I may have our evenings to roam, that’ll likely stay the same, too. The only thing I’m considering is starting the sessions at 10 am rather than 9 am. Most of our morning sessions lasted approximately 90-120 minutes. So, if we start at 10 am, that’ll leave us enough time to have lunch and head to our afternoon sessions at 2 pm, which will allow us to end our days around 3:30 or 4 pm. Of course, things don’t always go as planned – most of the time that means sessions run a little longer than planned – but I think this “new” schedule will work well, given what I learned this first time.
Carolyn Gammon, Katharina Oguntoye, Me, and Gabi Zekina (Frauenkreise)
Earlier, I wrote that we enjoyed juxtaposing official, state-sanctioned narratives about Berlin and Germany – via tours – with narratives about Berlin and Germany that are often hidden from tourists on the beaten path. Well, I was happy to learn about two other tours that will help us with the latter. During a non-mandatory session at Frauenkreise, I met Carolyn Gammon, author of The Unwritten Diary of Israel Unger. After her talk, I learned that she is a Guide Coordinator for Milk & Honey Tours: Discover Jewish Europe. Sounds amazing, right? I also learned that one of Celine’s colleagues provides a tour of Berlin that focuses on Sinta-Roma history in Berlin. Again, amazing! These tours will definitely make their way to the agenda for next summer!
I can’t even begin to tell you about all of the great people and NGOs that I learned about while we were in Berlin, meaning those that we didn’t get to meet during our course. All I can say is that in order to engage all this fabulousness, I’m going to take Celine and Nicole‘s advice and incorporate more panels into our sessions. Speaking of that, structuring the course the way that I did really inspired me to attempt to team-teach more often back at home. I’ve had such talks with some of my colleagues, and Scott Krzych and I will be team-teaching a Bridge Scholars Program course this year on Critical Media Studies. However, this is something that I’d like to strive to do annually in addition to Bridge, which I also team-taught last year with Emily Chan. I’m very much a dialogue-focused teacher-scholar, so this will allow me to flourish in my strengths more, which is always a plus.
After My Talk: Helen, Me, Annapoorna, Marca, Gabi, and Vicky
Last, I was asked by the Frauenkreise team to give a talk during my time there. So, I did what I love to do most and discussed mediated constructions of race and gender in “Racialized Representations of Women in U.S. Media.” This led to me being invited to actually join the team, which was wonderful. After my talk, Vicky Germain also asked if I’d be interested in recording some of my lectures in order to share them with the world. I’d actually thought about that before, but now I’m motivated to make sure to do so next year. I’m thinking that I’ll start with one session each teaching block, then I’ll post them here so that you all can take a look at my pedagogical work.
That said, I need to thank our viewers around the world for joining in our adventures! Since we started blogging for #femGeniusesInBerlin, the site has received views from Germany and the U.S., of course, but also from some places we’d never received views before, such as the U.K., Brazil, Sweden, France, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Japan, Argentina, Peru, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Turkey, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, India, Spain, Iceland, Poland, Russia, Malaysia, South Africa, Italy, Ukraine, Croatia, Bahamas, Portugal, Tunisia, Denmark, Egypt, Netherlands, Mozambique, Phillipines, Greece, Macao, Tajikistan, Maldives, Mexico, Finland, Macedonia, Israel, and Senegal. I’m still amazed by this, and I’m hoping that my transnational work will continue to thrive in ways that I haven’t yet imagined.
Me and the Daima Team: Nzitu, Me, Jamile, Tina, and Sharon
Last but not least, I want to sincerely and wholeheartedly thank our Course Assistant Celine Barry. All you had to do was be “on call” in case we needed someone to translate for emergency purposes. However, you showed up to and participated in events, and you taught us so much more than we could have asked for. And you did it with such style and grace. We love you.
Berliners, thank you so much for sharing your time and energy with me and my students. You’ve taught us so much, and I can only hope that we gave you all as much as you gave us. I’m really looking forward to building our new relationships, and I’m positive that we’ll be working together for many years to come.
2014 FemGeniuses in Berlin Blog Index: Also, click here to view a slideshow of the course.
Today, during the second day of class, we went as a group to Lambda Berlin, the home to Queer @ School, which focuses on educating students in schools and universities and empowering student bodies in their representation of queer students.
Lambda is an international organization that supports and advocates for LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) communities. Diana Rücklicht, who has worked for Lambda and Queer @ School for eight years, talked to us about their work in Berlin, which led to a great conversation about how issues regarding sexuality are common in USA and Germany and how the socopolitical power dynamics change through time.
When we found the building where they have just recently moved (a former youth center which is now a queer youth center, as Diana told us), Diana and Sannick warmly welcomed us into the group meeting room and treated us with pretzels, cookies, chocolate, tea and coffee. The first thing I noticed was the black and white portraits of beautiful young people holding signs that read, “Schwule? (Gay?),” “Lesbisch? (Lesbian?),” “Bi?,” and “Egal! (Doesn’t Matter!)” There were also loads of brochures/pamphlets/etc. for helping queer youth come to terms with their sexuality, including resources and tips about safe sex.
While we waited for their colleagues Lena and Corny, Lambda volunteers, and the rest of the class to arrive, I had a chance to see a lovely sign in the restroom that reads, “We are so queer that we shit rainbows!” This year, I’m going to make the theme for my toilet “shitting rainbows.”
Lena and Corny also joined us in the talk, and we all introduced ourselves by name and our gender pronoun preferences. Sannick was the first person I met who uses “they” for their pronoun, as they didn’t identify either by she or he. We had a brief discussion about how language limits genders and forces people into a choice to which they might not necessarily belong. In Turkish, we do not have gender pronouns; the only pronoun used is “o,” which sounds pretty progressive even though Turkey is definitely not a progressive culture for liberating people from their gendered categorizations.
Then, Heidi explained the purpose of our class, and how she searched different organizations and groups in Berlin working on race, gender and sexuality. Queer @ School definitely seemed happy to talk to us, as this is exactly what they were doing. Queer @ School is a project Diana and Sannick have been working on for the past few years, communicating with schools around Berlin and leading workshops and educational sessions with students. They said that at first it was difficult to acquire schools and promote their work, but that today there are many schools that contact them and ask them to conduct workshops. Their volunteers talk to and counsel students with sexualities that don’t fit the norm.
Corny and Diana
We learned from Diana that Lambda hosts different groups of youth in meetings for activities and discussions. There are gay-specific groups, lesbian-specific groups, and mixed and open groups that meet. Based on their discussions, Lambda takes important points and shape their work accordingly. Their main aim is to create a safe space for queer youth and to fully support them in their process of self-identification and also their interaction with the heterosexual world. Even though Germany is a relatively open-minded and progressive country, I was surprised to learn that in some states and districts, there are a considerable amount of citizens standing against equality and working to repel government decisions on LGBTQ rights. For example, we learned that a southern German state has decided to include sexual diversity in school curriculums and it almost got repelled by a citizen petition. What I usually experience in countries where I live is that citizens petitions against really bad ideas of governments, and those ideas usually end up passing as laws, increasing the oppressions of marginalized groups.
Politically, Lambda is also working on increasing transgender and intersexual people’s presence in LGBTQ events and demonstrations. The rest of our discussion, then, was about how the internet is affecting the power dynamics by creating anonymous spaces that increase the tendency of aggression and violence, leaving activists vulnerable as it simultaneously allows them to reach out to more people who need to get together in order to stand in solidarity. This is a common problem/development everywhere. We also discussed how the subtlety of homophobia is changing and getting in and out of surface with time. The more extreme and physical violence gets, the stronger victims stand together and fight against it audibly (and hopefully, non-violently).
This made me think of the 1990s in Germany, as the aggression and racism towards immigrants, Jewish, and Afro-German people became very physical and threatening, thus bringing all the oppressed minorities together to stand strong and fight harder. Along these lines, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück’s focus on a need for safe spaces for marginalized communities also makes sense here in order to create an environment where people can talk and feel a sense of belonging, as well as strengthen their solidarity without the “dominating gaze of majority groups.”
After our discussion, we went on a tour of the Lambda office and got cool posters and stickers, which made my day. The stickers with the LGBT, bi-sexual and pan-sexual colours are now in residence on my laptop computer, and the poster with the signs I mentioned above (with “Homophobia and Transphobia? Not with us!” written in German) shall hang on my wall in Colorado.
Beril Mese is starting her senior year at Colorado College this fall as a Music major. Her plan for life is to explore different cultures and its different aspects such as their music, social changes, and philosophies, etc. This means that she will be a very broke person.