My big gay soapbox part I

yay dykesI  have a good friend who likes me to update her on what the middle schoolers are wearing -mostly so she can update her closet with the latest choice items from Forever 21. But I do feel a certain general responsibility to update all of you who live in 24-7 adult world on the latest happenings in teen and pre-teen nation. Otherwise most of my friends get their ideas about young people from Mean Girls or Scared Straight.

Speaking of straight I was recently told by a student that our middle school was a pretty homophobic place. What I was most surprised by was my own reaction. Aren’t they all? Was what I thought to myself. After a certain amount of reflection I realized how sad it was that I would accept this as the status quo. Me. Liberal banner waver, daughter of guitar playing kumbaya singing parents, former Oberlin women’s rugby playing drag ball attendee. If I accept homophobia where I work than everyone will. I realized it’s not enough to be the teacher who barks at the kids when they say something is “so gay!”  I need to do something pro-active so that all my students have a safe, comfortable place to go to school.

Alas, I don’t think I can wave my rainbow wand and make my school the beacon of tolerance I would like it to be, but there are things I can do if I care to.  And I do care to.  Generally speaking  middle schools are more conservative places than high schools. I long for the day when talking openly about sexuality will be as accepted as discussing different religions. Until then I proceed cautiously.  When I mentioned my frustrations to another good friend she gave me the idea of putting a little sign up; a rainbow or pink triangle as a kind of a friendly flag to students. She said that, though she would not have been comfortable approaching a teacher to talk at that age, it would have been reassuring to know there was an ally nearby.

So my first step has been to place a few small signs around the room. I downloaded these safe space stickers here.  And I’m working with our school guidance counselor to create a Tolerance Team, kind of a middle school version of a GSA. We’ll see how that goes.

In the midst of all this I found myself up at our high school for an assembly.  I ran into a former student who gave her girlfriend a big ole smooch right there in the halls as I stood by talking to another teacher. I’ve never been more pleased to see someone break the high school rules on PDA. I was happy that she felt so happy to be openly and proudly herself. So happy that I ran out and took a picture of myself with the nearest poncho-wearing lesbian I could find. Not really -this is from Portland Pride a few years ago but I’ve always wanted an excuse to use it in a blog post. Dream realized.

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2 thoughts on “My big gay soapbox part I

  1. Love this post!! I used to teach both MS and HS, and you’re so right – MS is so much more conservative when it comes to this stuff. It’s wonderful that teachers like you are doing so much to make all kids feel respected.

  2. Thanks Michelle! Teachers have so much on their plate but it’s always good to remember the potential impact we can have in promoting tolerance and acceptance.

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