December Retreat Reflection and Nico

I’m writing this post a little over a week after the retreat because I really struggled throughout it and ultimately ended up leaving before lunch on Sunday. I was having periodical attacks of intense emotion and was very overwhelmed so it was best for me to leave instead of disrupting my group’s work any further.

I’m not sure I had a learning journey during the retreat. Considering how to work successfully as a team was interesting and valuable for me but ultimately I felt slightly alienated by the final video on the moral roots of liberalism and conservativism. I felt that it erased an entire massive group of disenfranchised folks who aren’t “convinced that they’re right” but rather want to live safe and fulfilling lives freed of the social structures that are currently prohibitive of that desire. As a queer individual, I can’t leave the “moral matrix” of knowing my right to love because I can endanger my own rights by giving ground to conservatives. This connects to a feeling that myself and my friends in WtS are experiencing right now which is that this program is not structured for people who are living the social issues they want to change. I hear my identity used as an insult every day, the vice president thinks I shouldn’t be alive, my community is subjected to torture, I can’t be honest with my extended family about who I am, everywhere I go I have to question whether I’m safe being open about my identity. I cannot be convinced that any of this suffering is something I deserve. I’m legally a child. I shouldn’t be put through this. But I am. I cannot listen to people who think I shouldn’t love or live because it degrades my self-worth to nothing. I put myself in danger when I speak with people who want me dead. I’m living it.

I respect that WtS is an opportunity for socially conscious folks to explore issues that they are distanced from and I think that’s a wonderful thing. But I feel like there’s not exactly a space within the program for people who are using it to fight for their own rights. For me, doing a month of research on queer rights in schools was redundant; I’ve known each thing I “learned” since I entered the public school system two years ago. This isn’t exactly bad. WtS is no more flawed than any other institution. Bigotry is an integral element of every person, every system. Once we admit this we can confront our own failings and work toward self-improvement. So maybe there isn’t a space for me. That’s okay. I’m going to make one. My gay ass isn’t going anywhere.

That said, I have a lot to work on beyond internal change. My group is still trying to change the shape of the broader social space we inhabit. We have a month before meeting again and a lot of work to do in the meantime. We’ve chosen and assigned tasks. I’m going to be looking for stories of hope that failing educational institutions can see and be inspired by. I’m looking forward to seeing the good things in the world around me.

Image credit to the FBI

Phaedra Miller

2 Responses to “December Retreat Reflection and Nico

  • Colleen Kiley
    5 years ago

    Thank you for writing this! I am inspired and impressed by how honest you are able to be about your experience in WtS. I appreciate how you recognize the strengths and downfalls of the program. This is a brave post. As a teacher, I hope that my students can be as courageous as you and in writing the truths of their own lives.


  • I’m a former Wts participant and my friend and I have been looking through this years blog posts. We particularly found your post to be “correct” so to speak. You are being blatantly honest and that is some of the best content I’ve seen. It’s totally cool that you speak your mind and I know that many can agree. I, myself are a part of the LGBT community and can’t personally tell my extended family for fear of being kicked out. So seeing someone else that has the same experience is enlightening.

    Btw your underlying sarcasm is amazing “I put myself in danger when I speak with people who want me dead. I’m living it.” (If I’m wrong, I’m sorry)

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