Ottoson Celebrates Intersectionality During No Name Calling Week with Mr. Navajo Film


No Name Calling Week flyer advertises daily activities students can partake in to support those in the LGBTQ community and stand against bullying

Samantha R.

January 19-22 is No Name Calling Week (NNCW) at the Ottoson and in many other places throughout the country. NNCW is a week meant to affirm and celebrate the varying racial, cultural, sexual, and gender identities of students. Through fun dress-up days and reflection, students learn about what we can do to help marginalized people feel supported in our community and throughout the world. 

Although the national No Name Calling Week campaign is sponsored by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the effort at the Ottoson is being spearheaded by our very own Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) Club.

“Students [taking the lead] is really important,” says guidance counselor Mrs. Siegel, one of the club’s advisors. “The QSA members got to think about what people want to take away from [NNCW].” The other club advisor, math support teacher Ms. Mitchell, agrees with Mrs. Siegel’s statement, but adds, We can’t do it just ourselves; you know; our club. We really need the support of all the faculty…, the administration who met with us before to find out what we had in mind and to figure out how we could make this [event] impact students in a positive way.”

 The QSA members decided that students would watch the short film Mr. Navajo in their ASPIRE classes this week and write/draw a reflection on the video or a message of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. The film follows a gay Native American man named Zachariah George, and along with being a celebration of intersectional identities, it also teaches students a lot about the experiences of Indigenous people. Many students were in particular surprised by the fact that many Native American communities do not have access to commodities such as electricity and running water.

I learned that on [N]ative [A]merican reservations they don’t have running water or electricity like most people in the U.S.,” one student wrote on one of the reflection Padlets. Other students observed the way that the Navajo perceive gay people. “I learned that some [N]avajo people [accept] [Zachariah] for who he is and that being gay is a special gift. But there are other [N]avajo people that think being gay is against their culture,” a student wrote. “I think it is very great that the Navajo accept LGBTQ+ people instead of shunning them, as a lot of society does. They think of them as a blessing, not a curse. I admire this because it shows that they are welcoming, warm people,” said another. 

Reading the responses on the Padlets, Ms. Mitchell and Mrs. Siegel were reflecting on how we perceive Indigenous people, as a society. “A lot of students were really struck by the Indigenous culture, and they learned a little bit about the culture [that] they didn’t know [about] before,” said Ms. Mitchell. Mrs. Siegel pointed out how we often do not think of Indigenous people in a current context. “[We] think of Indigenous people as people in the past,” she mused, detailing how Native Americans are often contextualized in their relationship with the Pilgrims in the 1600s, or at the first Thanksgiving. When we do not consider Indigenous people as part of our modern society today, we fail to recognize that they are an important part of now more widely-accepted groups such as the LGBTQ+ community.

Additionally, Ms. Mitchell wishes to emphasize that name-calling is often quite nuanced.  “I always specifically point out when I’m talking about NNCW to my individual classes, when you use the word ‘gay’ to mean something bad,” she says. “If you’re not calling somebody a name, when you use words like that in a derogatory way, it is kind of calling those people bad names. I hope people will just be aware of some name calling habits that they might have that they don’t really think about.” While Ms. Mitchell points out that anti-LGBTQ+ slurs are unfortunately common among middle schoolers, Mrs. Siegel, who has been moderating student posts on a reflection Padlet, says that the responses have been incredibly positive. “None of the posts [so far have] contained slurs or profanity,” she says. “It’s been such a joy to approve peoples’ responses because people have been so reflective.” One student’s solidarity message sums up the goal of No Name Calling Week and similar events strikingly well: “I hope everyone in the LGBTQ+ community gets the love that they deserve.”