I often write about schools and education, but mostly from the perspective of parents or students. Debbie of A Day Is Short is a teacher, however, and wrote yesterday of her experience coming out to her third-grade class, in the context of her pregnancy and impending parenthood. It’s a raw, emotional post about the struggle of trying to be honest with her students while facing the fear of homophobia.
When the students make fun of Asian people, I always address it by letting them know that I am Chinese and that we never make fun of someone’s culture and the way people talk, dress, eat, etc. Once they hear that I am Asian, they always stop and apologize and it NEVER recurs. In general, my students respect me and do not want to make fun of me. When I make that personal connection, they understand.
But when the students have used the word “gay” to mean “stupid” or to make fun of someone for potentially being gay in reality, I stumble.
Many of us (including myself) have had moments like that, I think, where no matter how out we are in some areas of our lives, we don’t have the words for a particular circumstance—or we have legitimate reasons to stay closeted, like possible loss of a job. (Debbie didn’t write specifically about fear of job loss—but I see she lives in Florida, where there are no statewide employment nondiscrimination laws covering sexual orientation.)
Debbie’s partner Kari wrote a post about trying to become a parent that I chose for my Post of the Week back in April. I look forward to reading more from both of them about their parenting journey. If you’re an educator or have dealt with LGBT matters in schools before, I hope you’ll go leave Debbie a comment with some suggestions or words of support.