Community + Activism / Workplace

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“I purchased and read “This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids”. It is excellent, of course. But what I really need for my teachers’ book club is a book entitled “This Is a Book for Teachers of Gay Kids”. DO YOU HAVE A BOOK TO SUGGEST? I’ve contacted GLSEN with little success.”

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Kristin Says:

Anonymous! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING.

Last month we went up to a conference in Massachusetts where we spoke to 70 high school guidance counselors about how to be better prepared for their LGBTQ students. Each one of them was given a copy of This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids!

Even though the book is centered around the parent-child relationship, so so sooooooo much of what is in the book is relevant and helpful for friends, educators, co-workers, administrators, and employers of LGBTQ people! We cover so many questions that are relevant in homes as well as schools (from the more basic, ”Is it a choice?” and “Am I allowed to ask questions?” to the specific, “What do I do if they want to come out at school?” and “What is the difference between gender identity and sexuality?”), and the stories shared by young people help round out a better understanding of the complex experiences of LGBTQ humans!

My other immediate suggestion, since you already know about GLSEN, would be to reach out to the people at NYCoRE (New York Collective of Radical Educators). They have a smaller subset group called NYQueer, and they are very knowledgeable about how to help teachers “queer” their curriculums and be more inclusive in many, many ways. They have resources like reading materials for young kids, yearly planners with notes on historic days in LGBTQ history, and more. They rule, and I am certain they’d have some amazing books to recommend.

Also, remember this: reading about the lives and experiences of many queer and trans people, even though not specifically tied to educational practices, is very, very powerful. The biggest gap in teacher-student relationships as pertains to these issues is a lack of sensitivity, awareness, and understanding. If there is some flexibility in your book club, maybe you can pull a few articles on things like pronoun usage and the importance of gender neutral bathrooms, or watch videos together that cover things like bisexual awareness and the gender binary! Overall awareness will get your fellow teacher-friends in a place where they are being inclusive in their classrooms in extremely powerful ways.

Lastly! Dannielle and I have a goal this year of partnering with educators to help us create a teacher’s guide for This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, and to build out a teacher-specific section over on The Parents Project. If you have interest in helping us, let us know (email us at info (at) everyoneisgay (dot) com)!!

YAY FOR TEACHERS WHO ARE THE BEST ONES.
Beans, if you have more resources, reply with them!!!

xx

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"I am starting a new job that I’m really excited about! But I’m also terrified of beginning at a new place!!!!!! What do you guys do to calm your nerves? Hep meh!"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

If you watch COSMOS, you’ll realize that we are all pointless and no one will remember us and you’ll feel a lot better. OH, or you’ll have an existential crisis and stay home because nothing matters. GOOD LUCK.

Here is the real deal with me – I feel the exact same way. I spent so much time standing against walls reminding myself to breathe deeply. More recently I’ve started feeling a little more comfortable (still not totally there) and I’ve come up with lists of questions in my head to ask new people. The fact that I have this list is like mY SAVING GRACE. Find that for yourself, find the one thing you can hang onto in your brain that will help you feel some stability in this new and scary situation.

New jobs in general are terrifying. You feel like the new kid at school. No one knows you, they all have inside jokes already, everyone knows when and where to sit at lunch and IT’S SO DIFFICULT TO FEEL COMFORTABLE. BUUUUt the cool thing is, people are expecting you. People are stoked that you’re starting this job, they expect to meet someone new, they’re preparing small talk, AND ON TOP OF ALL OF THIS, they want to help you. People LOVE to help out the new kid, it makes them feel cool and smart. So ask for help, ask where the bathroom is, ask where everyone gets lunch, ask how long they’ve been working with your company, ask ask ask. People love to talk about things that they inherently know the answers to (i.e. we love to talk about OURSELVES).

You can totally do this, you’re gonna do great. They are already stoked to have you on board.

Kristin Says:

CONGRATS THIS IS SO EXCITING!

New jobs kind of make me feel like the first day of school — all of a sudden you get to sharpen your pencils and take out your new Trapper Keeper (IM OLD) and be like HELLO MY NAME IS KRISTIN AND TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF THE REST OF MY LIFE.

I am probably going to sharpen some pencils after answering you to see if I can at least get a contact high.

Annnnnyywaaayyyy. My approach is kind of similar, but also markedly different from Dannielle’s. Even though I can be a very talkative human in many situations, starting a new job or a new anything in a new place usually makes me get a little quiet… and I think that’s totally okay. My MO has been much more to say hello and be friendly, and then keep to myself and let the new friendships and relationships evolve over time.

Also by “keep to myself” I don’t mean stand in the corner and not look up. I just mean that if I go into the shared work kitchen and someone else is in there, I’d say ‘Good Morning!’ and then let them take the lead. If they say, ‘Good Morning, how are you today?’ then voila, you can reply with however you’re feeling… and be honest! ‘I’m good, a little nervous about all the new things, but super excited!’ If they just reply with ‘Good Morning,’ then I think it’s totally ok (and great) to get your coffee and return to your desk (or wherever you work, I DON’T KNOW YOU).

Remember that you are (most likely) going to be at this job for awhile. There’s no race to gather up all the work-friends and no race to let them know that you are f*cking awesome (which you are). You just be you – and if that means you’re a little quiet at first, that is NOT a turn-off.

Breathe, and be patient as things evolve. Don’t get discouraged if the first week passes and you still feel a little off-balance — it takes time to get in your groove in a new environment.

YOU TOTALLY GOT THIS.
<3

 

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Everyone Is Gay has started a new project to help parents who have LGBTQ kids: Check out The Parents Project!

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"I am gay and about to graduate. My teacher is gay and recently divorced. We spend a lot of time outside of school together and she regularly talks about visiting me in college and how she’s gonna miss me so much. I can’t tell what her feelings are, but I know I am in love with her. Should I just ignore my feelings and see if it goes away once I leave?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

Thanks for your question! This is such a tough subject, with many separate issues to consider.

First, I think it’s important to understand that teacher/student relationships are very tricky to navigate from both sides. An essential part of a teacher’s job is to build relationships with their students, to be a mentor and support them as best they can. But when that relationship crosses the line from professional mentoring into something more, things can get tricky. I think you are walking a very fine line here, one that has the potential to get both you and your teacher in trouble personally and professionally. Given the sentence about not knowing how your teacher feels, I’m going to assume nothing inappropriate has happened between you both yet. Do everything you can to keep that from happening. Careers and lives can be ruined by crossing that line from student/teacher to something more romantic.

Full disclosure, I had a teacher in high school who was caught allegedly texting inappropriate things and soliciting sex from one of my classmates. This has influenced my opinion on teacher/student relationships.

There are power dynamics in a teacher/student relationship that must be considered as well. A teacher is in a position of power and influence over impressionable children and teenagers, and as such, teachers must be cautious when developing close relationships with their students. In the “mainstream” society, the fear about LGBT teachers “influencing” children still exists, and I believe LGBT teachers (and all teachers for that matter) need to be cautious in their actions, if only to protect themselves from untrue accusations. I recognize this is probably an extreme point of view, however I think it’s the reality of the world we live in. Obviously students are bound to get crushes on young teachers, but I think teachers should discourage that from happening as much as possible. Especially as a lesbian, I am very aware of the boundaries I set up with my students because of a potential situation like this arising. While working with my students, I make sure that my interactions with them are always appropriate and professional.

In addition, there are many ways teachers can mentor and support their students, but it sounds as though your teacher has been relying on you for support after her divorce. Please understand that a teacher’s work should be to support their students, not to receive support from them. Your teacher needs to find a more appropriate means of support for herself, so she can support you while you prepare for your transition into college.

Since you’re off to college soon, start looking ahead at all the excitement and adventure waiting for you. Maybe your college has an LGBT group you can join. Maybe your future college roommate has a friend from her hometown who would be perfect for you. Maybe there will be a wonderful, gorgeous stranger in one of your exciting college courses, and your eyes will meet from across the classroom and… Anyway, my point is, there are so many possibilities out there. Don’t hold yourself back because of your teacher. Jump in feet first to the college life of 10 A.M. classes, afternoon naps, midnight cram sessions, and house parties! Do everything you can to enjoy this part of your life. You’re only young and in college once.

Hopefully once you immerse yourself in college life, your feelings for your teacher will subside. If you’re so inclined, you can keep in contact with your teacher while you are in college. As a young adult, it can be helpful to have a mentor to guide you through the tricky parts of being a young adult and entering the work world. (Networking! Am I right?) But please, keep it cordial but not intimate. As you venture out into the world, it’s important for you to be able to distinguish a professional relationship, like those with a mentor, teacher, boss, or coworker, from a platonic friendship. This relationship should stay strictly professional.

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Sara Kost is an out, queer Educator in Minneapolis, MN. Read more about her and her work on our Second Opinions page!

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"I just got a crazy promotion at work. I’m super excited about it, but now I have to wear FANCY clothes. Everyone I work with is amazing, but we have clients from all over and I’m worried because I’m a lesbian and I prefer mens fancy clothes, I’ll make them uncomfortable… help?"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

Here’s the thing.

If you got promoted and all of a sudden had to start wearing a taco costume, you’d feel uncomfortable and you wouldn’t be able to do your job JUSTICE. This is basically the same thing. You should wear what makes you feel comfortable.

THIS IS THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT LIFE. The way you dress / the way you feel in the clothes you wear is so important. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, if you feel confident and comfortable you will BE CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE and people will respond to that.

Clients from all over will be like “That CHEESESTICK was so in the game! WE’LL TAKE IT!” (that was me assuming your name is CheeseStick and assuming you sell vending machines). There is no way they’ll say “Wow, cheesestick was so cool and knew exactly what was up but OH MAN DID YOU SEE THAT BUTTON UP.” …. that doesn’t even make sense. OH AND PS: Everyone you work with is down?!?!?! Come on!!! You got promoted because YOU (and that includes the YOU that wears men’s fancy clothes) YOUUUUU are the best human for the job.

Feel good about the clothes you put on your body and you won’t even have to think about how great you are at your job, it’ll just flow naturally.

Kristin Says:

F*ck to the YES.

I love love love love love the point Dannielle made about the fact that YOUR ASS GOT PROMOTED BY BEING THE HUMAN YOU ALREADY ARE. *fist pump**headbang**sprinkler dance*

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You wear what you’ve always worn, which are the items that make you feel comfortable. If you put on clothing that makes you uncomfortable OR a taco suit, you are going to make everyone else uncomfortable as well bc you will not be able to be your badass self.

There’s a quote from olden times that I think will really resonate here:

“YOU DO YOU.”

I am so f*cking happy for you, and anyone out there who doesn’t buy your vending machines because of your button down can SUCK IT, because the rest of the world is going to hoist you up on their shoulders and be like THIS PERSON IS MY FAVORITE VENDING MACHINE SALESPERSON IN ALL THE LAND and your house will be covered in trophies and you’ll get a button down sponsorship from JCrew and the person who didn’t buy the vending machine will be super sad and apologize anyway.

This is awesome.
You are awesome.
Send us a picture of your first meeting as a promoted human so we can share with the universe.

PS: Have you guys heard of Kipper Clothiers? If you are in the market for fancypants/badass clothing, they make custom suits and are pretty awesome.

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“I’m a teacher and a closeted (at work only) queer. Do you have any ideas about what can I do to support my students on the rainbow spectrum without overstepping my bounds, outing myself, or just generally being creepy?”

- Question submitted by Anonymous and answered by Sara Kost as a part of Everyone Is Gay: Second Opinions

Sara Says:

This is a topic I struggled with while doing my undergrad, and I have only just begun to figure out how to navigate through it. I realized while in college that I couldn’t be the most authentic teacher I wanted to be without being out to my students. I’m so lucky now to be out at school and to work in a school district that is incredibly supportive of LGBT staff and students. More and more schools and school districts are becoming supportive, though in K-12 Education it is still hard to address LGBT topics.

First thing you should consider is how supportive your school environment is of LGBT students and staff. Does your school have an inclusive bullying policy in place? Is there a Gay-Straight Alliance? Are there other out LGBT staff? Is the rest of the staff generally supportive of LGBT people? There are ways you can be sneakily supportive of LGBT students, but it helps to have the administration and other staff behind you.

I recommend you start with simple things like making sure you are providing a safe, welcoming, and inclusive classroom environment for all students. That includes making sure you are intervening when students use homophobic words and phrases like “that’s so gay” or “no homo”, as well as any other offensive racist, sexist, classist, or ableist slurs.

Also, you could put a rainbow sticker on your door. You could put up supportive posters in your classroom. You could start an anti-bullying club. Depending on what subject you teach, you can incorporate LGBT people and themes into your lessons. You can be an example of what it means to be an ally to the LGBT community, even though you’re *whispers* actually queer. And then, once you’re comfortable being a more supportive teacher, you can assess whether or not you want to stay closeted at work.

As far as specifically supporting your LGBT students, I think it really depends on the age group you work with and what your students need from you. It’s important to remember that your work with your students is about them, not about you. Once they know you are supportive of LGBT people, they might feel more comfortable coming to you. Start small, and know that your students will begin to recognize that you are supportive of them. Kids pick up on stuff. They know the teachers they can turn to when they need help.

Lastly, continue to educate yourself on best practices of anti-oppressive education, social justice teaching, and multicultural curriculum. The more comfortable you are with the concepts of social justice and multicultural education within K-12 schooling, the better a teacher you’ll be for your students. Also, check out the book “One teacher in 10”. It’s a wonderful collection of essays from LGBT teachers. It might help you better navigate through this process.

Best of luck to you!

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