Travis Sky Ingersoll, PH.D., MSW, M.ED.
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|Posted on June 3, 2020 at 3:04 PM||comments (1)|
From my book – Like an Egg in a Bowl of Cherries
A Year of Adventures, SARS, Wet-Markets, and Profound Realizations
While Teaching in China
As a college professor, I've been teaching a course titled “Race Relations” for close to a decade now. In that course, I revisit many of my past experiences in China to provide examples of cultural differences, cultural similarities, and to illuminate the many connections that humans have with one other. I also use my experiences to talk about discrimination. In particular racial/ethnic discrimination. As a cisgender heterosexual Caucasian man, I am born with a lot of privileges that I would not readily recognize, if not for the quality education and diverse international experiences I have had.
I share with my students how, while living in China, it was common for Chinese men to become aggressive with me whenever I was walking with a Chinese woman, how groups of men tried to start physical fights with me, spat at my feet, or yelled at me to “go back home to where you come from” to my face. It was also common for me to be followed throughout stores. When this first happened, I thought it was because people were just curious, and wanted to take a look at the strange foreigner walking aimlessly in their store. But after talking to my Chinese friends, I was informed that they were following me because they didn’t trust foreigners and wanted to make sure I didn’t steal anything!
Those experiences gave me a first-hand glimpse at what it might be like for many Black or Latinx men in the United States. To have people assume that you're stealing something when you're just shopping, or to have people suspect that you've committed a crime when all you are doing is going for a jog around the neighborhood, or to experience how certain men become threatened and aggressive whenever they notice you spending time with one of “their” women, can feel downright abusive and depressingly dehumanizing.
Please don’t get me wrong – I love my country’s people – but I also have love for all my fellow human beings, regardless of who they are and where they live. People often mistakenly believe that the politicians and other “elites” that make up a geographical area’s (e.g., country, state, colony, etc.) ruling class, fully represent all of the human beings within the places they exert their power and control. Since many places on our planet are controlled by minority rule (i.e., those at the highest levels of wealth in any given place), this false belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
Wherever I’ve traveled to, I’ve noticed the same disturbing trend that I first became aware of in my own country; that those who hoard massive amounts of money and wealth often use it to exert a disproportionate amount of power and control over the people within the areas that they live. Everywhere I’ve been – 24 countries so far – I’ve seen the same divisive techniques being used. People are always forced into one of two boxes and programmed to narrowly think within an “us vs. them” paradigm. A land’s ruling elite, who are often leaders of large corporations and religious institutions, have been using such divisive tactics for hundreds (if not thousands) of years.
We are socialized from birth to separate into distinct socially hierarchical categories, where we always have people above us to envy and revere, and people below us to pity and loathe. Humans throughout our planet are programmed to divide ourselves from one another based on our skin color, our gender, or sexuality, our spiritual faith (or for not having one), the color of our eyes, the texture of our hair, the way we speak our language, physical dimensions of our bodies, the kind of pets we prefer, the kind of cars we drive, the kind of food we eat, and recently in my own country (during a devastating pandemic), whether or not we wear a potentially life-saving face mask in public places. In order to begin to correct this massive social injustice that has been perpetrated on a global scale, we need true democracy.
A true democracy is one where every person counts, where instead of voter-suppression there is voter-promotion, where those with wealth are stripped of their ability to have a grossly disproportionate influence on the lives of those who represent the majority, where quality education, healthcare, and the means to meet one’s basic needs are guaranteed rights for all.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to amass great fortunes due to their hard work, I just believe that the more you make, the more you should be required to give. No one gets rich in a vacuum. Without people to work, create, and consume, no wealth can be generated. Like it or not, when you break it all down, we humans are all family. And as fellow family members, we have a duty to support one another, to strive for that which promotes the health and well-being of us all, regardless of our differences.
One of the most important lessons I have learned from my travels, is that no matter how different you think people around the world are, when you get a chance to meet them, spend time with them, share a meal with them, and truly get to know them, you realize that the vast majority of Earth’s people are a lot like you. We all create, have pride in our work, laugh, love, have our heart’s broken, and grieve for those we’ve lost. We love our families, our friends, our neighbors, our communities, our animal companions, and the land on which we live. We fret over the safety of our children, the health of our elderly, the well-being of our first responders and everyone else on the front lines who bring knowledge, compassion, and positive change to the world around us.
No matter what our beliefs are, regardless of our superficial physical and psychosexual differences, or what ruling structures govern and control us, the overwhelming majority of humans across the planet are good people. Please remember this fact the next time you are subjected to divisive messaging, for there is nothing the ruling “haves” fear more, than unity among the “have-nots.” Human beings are amazing, and we deserve far better than to be controlled, manipulated, and divided at the expense of our physical, mental and spiritual well-beings; so that the ruling-class elites, often spanning multiple generations, can maintain dictated status quos that have perpetuated and exasperated the many social inequalities plaguing our world. You, dear reader, deserve better!
|Posted on June 1, 2020 at 12:17 PM||comments (0)|
After 16 years, I've finally published a memoir about my experiences living and teaching for a year in Dalian China.
My book can be found on Kindle and on Amazon = ISBN: 979649443777
Like an Egg in a Bowl of Cherries is a memoir that will appeal to those with a lust for life and a passion for exploration. Drawing from hand-written journal entries and emails sent home while living and working for a year in Dalian, China (2002-2003), readers are taken on an entertaining ride filled with humor, sarcasm, and irreverence.
With topics ranging from the challenges and rewards of teaching in China, to dog restaurants, wet-markets, and the SARS Pandemic, the stories within this book will expose readers to a world of interconnections, surprising parallels, contrasts, similarities, and at times, profound realizations.
Table of Contents
Note from the Author (2020)
Arrived and Unpacked
Trimming Hedges, The Hard Way
Downtown Branch School Orientation
First Day of Class at the Branch School
Full Moon Festival
The Bookstore Gig
A Place to Call Home
Trip to the Countryside & Visiting Farmhouses
English Corners, Tutoring, and Ancient Rocks
Three Months of Teaching Under My Belt
Communal Snow Removal
Six Months In = The Halfway Point
Dog Food & Wet Markets
Adventures in Beijing
The Great Wall
The Mongolian Incident
The Machete Man
Yantai by Boat
Exploring an Ancient Taoist Monastery
A Run-In with The Puff-Coat Mafia
Street Food and Cosmic Connections
A Harrowing Boat Ride Home
Politics of Teaching
The Fading Dreams of My Students
I Try to Remain Positive But…
Being Here Can Be Really Challenging at Times
|Posted on December 16, 2019 at 11:10 PM||comments (0)|
To encourage critical thinking and competitiveness, I hold up a prize (usually candy or gift cards) that they will receive if they can tell me ONE such "preference." I've never had to give away anything since I started teaching my Race Relations class close to 8 years ago, and I let my students know that fact. We then discuss "preferences" as a class. I provide examples of true dating preferences as characteristics that cannot be solely attributed to a particular race. Examples I give are skin color (dark skin can be found among Black Americans, Aboriginal Australians, Cambodians, etc.), height, eye color, hair color, and body shape, all of which vary more greatly within ethnic/racial groups than in comparison with other groups.
I then bring up a slide that highlights the Zealot/Defensive Stage of the Majority Identity Development Model. It describes this stage in detail by explaining that the Zealot/Defensive Stage ranges between two extreme reactions: Become a zealot for "minority" causes or become defensive about "majority" views, and perhaps, even withdraw from finding out about multicultural views altogether. In becoming a zealot, the person is often reacting to their own, or to the majority culture's collective guilt. Cultural appropriations and/or over-identification of the identified "other" are common manifestations of this reaction. In becoming defensive, the person either attempts to maintain exclusive contact with majority culture individuals, or they try to defend majority values by pointing out all of the "concessions" made by the majority culture for minority cultures (e.g., Affirmative Action, Marriage Equality, etc.).
The final slide asks only one important question: "What do you think such 'racial preferences' in dating is all about?" Students begin to draw connections, including how it can be a manifestation of the zealot end of the Zealot/Defensive stage of the Majority Identity Development Model. When providing other possible motivations for such behavior, students have given potential motivations such as feeling guilty about their own privileged "majority" status; as an act of defiance against a racist and/or bigoted family system; the possibility that it's an act of revenge against an ex who was overtly racist against a specific group; or in cases where people won't date members of their own race - that it's a symptom of internalized racism, prejudice, and/or hatred.
To conclude this often challenging introspective and thought-provoking exercise, I make sure to emphasize an important personal viewpoint with my students. I let them know that the activity they just participated in is not, in any way, designed to deter mixed "race" dating, and that in fat, I endorse and am fully supportive of everyone forming intimate relationships (or not) with whomever they have a connection to. However, I feel that we should all do so for the right reasons (e.g., connection, attraction, etc.), and not because we are dealing with our own reactions to the uncomfortable realization that we have been (as Caucasian, heterosexual, cisgender, and other identified "majority" group members) benefiting from a racist and heterosexist system of oppression, or that (as member of groups other than Caucasian, heterosexual, cisgender, etc.) have internalized the destructive racist, heterosexist, and/or oppressive messages we have been forced to consume throughout our lives that have made us wrongly believe the lie that we are in some way inferior.
|Posted on December 5, 2019 at 2:40 PM||comments (0)|
The Zealot/Defensive Stage of the Majority Identity Development Model is what I choose to focus on during this activity. Here's how the activity progresses. First, I let students know that we're about to talk about racial preferences in dating. I then ask them to not "out" themselves in any way during the activity and instead to speak ab out people they know who engage in any of the behaviors, give any of the justifications, or think any of the thoughts that they will discuss within their small groups. Once students have been assigned to small discussion groups (three to five students each), the Power Point presentation begins by having the students discuss in their groups the following questions: Do you know anyone who either only dates members of a specific "race" other than their own and/or will not date members of their own race? After they talk among themselves for three to five minutes, the next slide states, "Often people who only date members of a 'race' not their own tend to 'prefer' one 'race' in particular," and follows up with "What are some of the reasons they typically mention?" Once again after three to five minutes of discussion I move onto the next slide.
It's important to mention that I do not call on students or have the small discussion groups share what they've been talking about to the entire class until the very end of the activity. The next slide asks the groups to think about the following: "If their reasons included a rationale of 'preferences' connected to the race they will only date, what were they?" They are then instructed to generate lists of those stated "preferences." Finally, I have the groups of students look over those "preferences" lists and circle any items that are not connected to RACIAL STEREOTYPES.
|Posted on December 1, 2019 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
At the university where I work, I am the lead instructor for a course titled "Race Relations." I've been teaching the course for over 7 years, and it's one of the most impactful classes I teach (both personally and for many of my students). One of the lesson plans I created on was an introspective activity titled "Racial Preferences in Dating?" With trial-and-error experiences, this activity, using a PowerPoint presentation as a guide and small discussion groups to process, was found best to be introduced beyond the half-way point in any semester. Not only does the later-in-the-semester timing of this activity ensure that the students have had ample time to get to know one another better, it also gives adequate class time to develop a safe learning environment, and to teach students about the various racial identity development models and theories that may help to explain the phenomenon being examined by the activity.
At the time that I introduce my students to this activity, they've already learned about the biological/genetic (un)reality of race, intersectionality, cultural competency versus cultural humility, the multiple dimensions of privilege, critical race theory, Helm's White Racial Identity Model, Chestang's Character Development, Poston's Biracial Identity Development Model, Root's Multiracial/Ethnic Identity Model, and much more. The "Racial Preferences" activity I introduce focuses on one stage of what's been titled the "Majority Identity Development Model." I love to use this model because it's applicable everywhere in the world where there exists any form of ethnic "majority" and "minority" identification status among its people. There are four stages in this model: (1) pre-exposure stage - where little thought has been given to multicultural issues or to one's own role as a majority group member in a racist and oppressive society; (2) exposure stage - where the individual is confronted with the realities of racism and prejudice and is forced to examine their own role as a majority group member; (3) zealot/defensive stage - where people dealing with the cognitive dissonance of the exposure stage tend to initially retreat to one of two extreme reactions: become defensive or become a zealot; and (4) integration stage - where the overly reactive feelings of the zealot/defensive stage subside, making room for a more balanced view to take its place.
|Posted on February 6, 2016 at 12:44 PM||comments (0)|
As an educator, I'm always looking for new ways to engage and inform my students. When I came across the Flipboard, an on-line platform where people can create and customize their own e-magazines, I immediately recognized its potential as a teaching aid. No matter what topic you teach, you can create a Flipboard magazine full of information connected to the material you cover in class.
I have spent more than a year populating my e-magazines on Flipboard with a wide variety of relevant news articles, research reports, and opinion pieces. Here are three that I created for the Social Work and Sexuality courses I teach:
Sexuality and Social Work
Sexuality Concepts for Social Workers is the textbook I co-authored (available at Cognella.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com). Our textbook is full of QR codes that take you to similar articles as the one's you'll find in this Flipboard e-magazine. I teach Sexuality and Social Work courses at West Chester University and Widener University. The articles in this e-magazine are meant to aid in classroom instruction and discussion.
Race, Ethnicity and Culture
I teach a Race Relations class at West Chester University. The articles I collect for this magazine are chosen in order to help students learn more about issues of diversity, and to aid in class instruction and discussion.
Policy, Poverty & Social Work
This is a collection of media resources focusing on policies and issues related to poverty and social inequalities.
|Posted on July 22, 2015 at 9:38 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on December 1, 2014 at 11:59 AM||comments (0)|
Q: I just learned a little about Native American two-spirited people. Is being transgender and being a two-spirit the same thing?
|Posted on February 24, 2013 at 8:32 PM||comments (1)|
A: What we know about trans-related (i.e., transgender, transsexual, intersex) topics has grown significantly over recent years. However, individuals who identify as being neither “male” nor “female” or of being something entirely different, a third gender if you will, is a human reality depicted in our earliest writings and artworks. Before getting to the answer, I feel it’s necessary to provide a brief historical background of indigenous American Two-Spirit people.
Throughout North and South America, many of the native population’s creation myths
appear to have led to the establishment of egalitarian gender roles within their societies.
Where western ideologies, based primarily on Christianity, emphasized a singular male
god, most indigenous North and South American cultures emphasized the importance of both male and female deities. Under the moral authority of western religion, women were considered inferior, whereas with most Native American cultures women were viewed as equals to men (Bonvillain, 1989; Picchi, 2003; Tannahil, 1982).
In Eskimo culture the most powerful deity was called Sedna. She was responsible for
ensuring the survival of the Eskimo people through the yearly creation of the sea-life on which they depended. Navajo people stressed the importance of women’s fertility, and of the spiritual bond between mother and child. Many Navajo mythical stories involve
mother figures, such as the “Changing Woman,” who came when early humans lost their
ability to reproduce. She mated with the Sun, producing twins, who eventually gave birth
to all Navajo clans. Among the Iroquois, symbolism of female fertility and power was
also expressed through their creation myths. According to Iroquois legend the female
figure, “Aataensic,” was responsible for creating all life and is honored for being the
caretaker of human souls (Bonvillain, 1989).
Although some Native American religions talk of great female deities responsible for
giving and sustaining life, many stress that the great spiritual beings were neither male
nor female, but a combination of both (Powers, 2000; Williams, 1983). This way of thinking about gender has been documented in over 155 American Indian tribes that revered the Two-Spirits. Within the two-spirited person, the creators are said to have instilled the spirit of both man and woman, creating a third gender, who act as intermediaries between the polarities of male and female. The Two-Spirits were said to have been created for the purpose of improving society through their creative ingenuity, their spiritual power, and their ability to act as go-betweens for addressing relationship issues between men and women (Williams, 1983).
There were many tales of women engaged in tribal warfare and who married other women, as there were men who married other men. Such individuals were often viewed as a third and fourth gender, and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered. Two-spirit people were often the healers, the visionaries, the medicine people, the care-givers and the nannies of orphans. They were respected as fundamental components of their cultures and societies (Roscoe, 1988).
Around the 16th century, the egalitarianism of most Native American peoples would
come under attack with the arrival of foreigners upon their shores. The European
emphasis on Christianity and male dominance would permanently alter the lives of most
indigenous Americans. When the Spanish explorers arrived in South America they
quickly began to push their agenda of male supremacy and sexual oppression, which had
a disastrous effect on the status of South American women (Picchi, 2003; Powers, 2000;
Under the Spanish colonial regime, women would become stripped of their autonomy,
and the gender-parallelism that governed the Inca society would be left in ruins. The
Spanish, being a patriarchal war-like society, was built upon a foundation of Christian
evangelicalism. The Spanish soldiers and missionaries would not tolerate women
holding power economically, politically and/or religiously. As a result, women began to
lose their status on all levels. Their matrilineal access to resources was obliterated, being
replaced by male-centered organizations. Although women did put up resistance, and
used whatever means were at their disposal, over time the Inca men would come to internalize the male-centered ideologies of their conquerors, which led to a pervasive
atmosphere of male-superiority (Powers, 2000).
On the continents of North and South America, the constant stream of incoming colonizers would also significantly alter the gender roles of the indigenous populations. Christian missionaries, like those in South America, preached of strict gender roles and the
subjugation of women. Within this atmosphere of sexual suppression there was no place
for the Two-Spirits, who through western eyes were nothing more than sinful sodomites
(Williams, 1986). Two-spirited people were viewed as an abomination, which was just the kind of justification the colonizers used when ordering the torture and killing of two-spirited people. In fact, all expressions of gender variance were oppressively
Just as with the invasion of South America, the patriarchal ideologies of North
American colonizers persistently eroded the status of Native American women. Male
dominance was preached and even forced upon the indigenous peoples through
government-funded re-education programs. This pressured assimilation eventually
resulted in Native American rejection of cross-gender roles (i.e. a third gender/two-spirited), and the adoption of the male-centered ideologies of the colonists. Over time, as western colonization spread, the traditional gender-allocated system of reciprocal labor would be replaced by a market in which the demand for male-labor dominated. So not only was the spiritual role of women depreciated through the emphasis of a supreme male God, but women’s means of contributing equally to their people’s livelihood was also stripped away (Bonvillain, 1989; Williams, 1986).
Now that you know a little about the history of Native American two-spirited people, let’s examine the definition of transgender. The word “transgender” means different things depending on whom you ask. At its most basic level, “transgender” is a word that applies to anyone who doesn’t fit within society’s standards of how a man or a woman is expected to look or act. The term “transgender” may be used to describe an individual assigned the sex of female at birth, but later in life realizes that label doesn’t exactly reflect who they feel they are inside. Such an individual may now live their life as a man, or they may feel that their gender identity cannot be accurately summed up by either of the two strictly defined gender options available (male or female). They may feel like they’re in between those two options (both male and female), or that they’re outside of the dichotomous two-gender system. In other words, they may neither feel male nor female, but something completely different.
So, back to the question. Is being transgender and being two-spirited the same thing? I’d have to say yes, being two-spirited is one form of being transgender. Transgender people have been with us from the beginning, and will be until the end, regardless of the mechanisms of social oppression aimed at enforcing the dichotomized, heterosexist, homophobic and sexist gender ideologies pushed upon us through educational, political, and religious institutions. Now you know:)
Bonvillain, N. (1989). Gender relations in native North America. American Indian
Culture and Research Journal, 13:2, 1-28.
Picchi, D. (2003). Unlikely Amazons: Brazilian indigenous gender constructs in a
modern context. History and Anthropology, 14:1, 23-39.
Powers, K. V. (2000). Andeans and Spaniards in the contact zone. American Indian
Quarterly, 24, 511-536.
Roscoe, W. [Editor] (1988). Living the spirit: A gay American Indian anthology. St.
Martin: St. Martin’s Press.
Tannahill, R. (1982) Sex in history. Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day
Williams, W. (1986). The spirit and the flesh: Sexual diversity in American Indian
culture. Boston: Beacon Press.
|Posted on August 10, 2011 at 10:39 AM||comments (0)|
Q: What do you think about premarital sex between teenagers?
A: This is common question I get from my Chinese college students. What I think about premarital sex, in other words, whether or not I agree or disagree with it is irrelevant. Teenagers in China, and all over the world, are going to engage in premarital sex regardless of what anyone thinks or feels. In fact, China has witnessed a steady growth in teens engaging in premarital sex since the Open Door and Reform Era policies began in 1976. This increasing trend of Chinese teenagers engaging in premarital sex has been coupled with decreasing access to accurate sexual health education resources. The result is an alarming increase in unwanted pregnancies, abortions conducted in secrecy, and the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.
As previously stated, my personal opinion about premarital teen sex is not important. What is vitally important is the recognition that Chinese teens, as well as teens all over the world, are actively seeking out and engaging in sexual activity. With that fact in mind, I feel it is imperative that all teens have easy access to accurate and reliable sexual health education and contraceptive technologies, especially condoms. Teens need to be aware of the possible negative consequences of premarital sex (i.e., pregnancy and STIs), know about the available contraceptive methods (i.e., condoms, birth control pills, etc.), how to effectively use them, and where to safely obtain them. I also feel that it is important that all teens learn how to communicate about sex with each other. Teens need to know how to talk about their sexual preferences, feel comfortable saying “no” to sexual activity, and practice how to demand safer sex practices from their partner(s).
Ma, Q., Ono-Kihara, M., Cong, L., Xu, G., Pan, X., Zamani, S., Ravari, S. M., Zhang, D.,
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sexually transmitted diseases, HIV infection, and unwanted pregnancy among
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Tang, C. S. (2008). The influence of gender-related factors on HIV prevention among
Chinese women with disrupted marital relationship. Sex Roles, 59, 119-126.
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study of women’s sexual debut and risky sexual behavior. Journal of Sex Research,
Watts, J. (2004). China sex education lags behind sexual activity. Lancet, 363(9416),
Wong, C., & Tang, C. S. (2001). Understanding heterosexual Chinese college students’
intention to adopt safer sex behaviors. The Journal of Sex Research, 38(2), 118-126.
Yan, Y. (2003). Private Life Under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a
Chinese Village 1949-1999, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.