Recently, I have been very curious and interested in a supermarket called Supermercado Montery close to where I work. Apparently, they have fantastically tasty and cheap homemade tortillas, freshly made churros (a deep fried sugary cinnamony pastry), awesome fajita meat for a fair price and other culinary delights that are absolutely unavailable in the supermarkets I frequently visit. Being a bit of a foodie, this place seems as if it would really strike my fancy. What’s holding me back from charging in there and dropping some dough to get some warm tortillas? Fear. Although I am very familiar with the Texas Hispanic cultural, I’m still scared to walk into this place alone because it would be incredibly obvious that I wasn’t one of them (and most likely the only one in there like this). What if they don’t speak English? What if I offend somebody? How will I get my beloved churros?? If I could just have a Hispanic guide to walk with me the first time it wouldn’t be so daunting thereafter.
These feelings of fear are not unlike those that exist for some Sexuality Educators teaching to cultures not of their own. What if you use unfamiliar terms? What if you accidentally offend somebody? How will you convey the importance of learning about sexuality related topics?? For me, having a cultural “guide” to help me test the waters would greatly increase my confidence and comfort level with the population. So far, this has come in the form of completing a needs assessment. Utilizing the Gateshead Needs Grid has been successful in helping me gather information and applicable knowledge about the potential population. However, being a culturally competent educator is not solely based on the amount of knowledge one has about various cultures. Perez and Luquis (2008) state that the Joint Committee on Health Education and Promotion defines cultural competence as “the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions” (p. 46).
We (meaning me) get so caught up in our fears of not having enough knowledge that we forget about what’s really important. As long as we keep an open mind, stay prepared, respect others, and remember to ask questions we will be just fine. It’s okay if we look stupid and mess up sometimes. More than likely it is going to happen anyways. Both education and experience are important when teaching sexuality, but for beginners like me the experience part can be a little intimidating, especially if you are in unfamiliar waters. It is important to test the waters, but sooner or later you’re going to have to cannonball in. Even though you may look a little silly it doesn’t take away from the awesomeness that is your cannonball! And, you won’t really know how cool it is until you try it.
Time for some churros!
Perez, M. A., & Luquis, R. R. (2008) Cultural competence in health education and health promotion.
Jossey-Bass, Inc. New York, NY