Community + Activism / School

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"I’m in high school and one of my teachers is prone to making rather queerphobic / heteronormative jokes and comments. As a queer person myself do you think I should call her out on it or just stick it out?"

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

Sara Says:

First, I just want to say that no student should have a teacher who makes comments like those. And I hope that you have other teachers who are respectful, positive role models for you and your peers.

As I see it, you have a few different options, depending on your specific circumstances. It’s going to be easier for you to address these issues if you are supported by other students, your family, other teachers, school administration, and your community. If there is a GSA at your school or an out, queer teacher, you could go to them first and ask for advice or help dealing with the teacher making comments.

If you feel comfortable, absolutely bring it up with the teacher. Any good teacher should be open to hearing from students if the student approaches them in a calm and constructive way. Perhaps your teacher doesn’t even realize she is saying something offensive. Perhaps your teacher didn’t realize her comments were affecting students. You could say something in class right when she makes a joke or comment, or wait until after class to say something. If it helps, you could ask a friend to speak up with you. Power in numbers!

Another option, if you don’t want to directly confront your teacher, or if your teacher blew you off after you confronted her, would be to bring the matter up with your school administration. Document the comments that your teacher makes, and try to enlist some friends or other students in other classes to document them as well. Note the date, time, and quote what was said for a few weeks. Once you and other students get enough evidence, go to the school administration and demand they do something about that teacher.

You deserve to feel safe and supported at school. I hope your teacher will learn from her mistakes and realize that queer people exist in your school and in the world.


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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 Schmidt-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!


Click through to read more about Sara and our other Second Opinions panelists!


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"The girl I’m dating wants to spend all our time together. But I’m really serious about school, and I need alone time to focus on school work. I told her this, but she still acts bummed when I don’t see her. How do I deal with this??"

- Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

The key here is to be honest about your feels and let her know that you miss her.

I totally need alone time, but it’s hard to tell someone that bc I don’t want to hurt their feels and I also assume they’ll think my wanting to be alone directly translates to my not wanting to be around them… WHICH IS NOT THE CASE AT ALL. I just am NOT VERY GOOD AT COMMUNICATING.

I think you need to be totally honest about your necessary alone time and when you are taking that alone time, take a few minutes out of that time to text your boo and tell her how much you miss her. Send her flowers one day. Break one of your alone time days to watch 13 Going on 30. Send your boo a selfie or two. You can easily compromise on this, she gives you your space and you give her a little love in return.

Keep it FRESH (sorry about that word you guys). Like any other part of dating, no one wants to feel like it’s just a routine and it’s sad and it’s boring and it’s stupid. YA KNOW?

Kristin Says:

Honestly? You remain firm in the fact that it is important to both you and your relationship for you to have time apart.

As a person who has had experiences from the other side of this divide (where I’ve felt sad when my boo was all ‘sawry not tonight’), I can tell you that I also understood the need for us to do our separate things. In those moments where I was feeling uncertain, all I needed were these three things:

1) Sensitivity. It is completely okay for you to empathize with your boo’s feelings, yet still remain strong in getting what you need. Like Dannielle said, tell her you’ll miss her too… but that missing her is a crucial part of keeping your relationship healthy. Let her know you feel how she feels, and together you should do what’s best for you (individually and together).

2) Schedule. Whether this means setting particular days that you know you will have as your solo time (ie: every Monday and Thursday), or sticking to a certain number of days that change depending on your plans (ie: 4 days on / 3 days off), having a schedule to look to can often help you both feel stronger in these decisions. It will create more of a routine for her (so that it won’t feel unexpected, etc), and it will give you a structure to help with schoolwork.

3) Stick to it. I am going to disagree with Dannielle here: I do not think you should bend on your days off. At least not in the beginning. If you bend and go over to watch a movie after you said you needed alone time, that gives her more reason to wonder why you aren’t doing the same thing on other nights. When things level off and you are both feeling better about alone time in general, then you might be able to bend on your needs a bit… but for now stick to the routine.

You can be kind, loving, and empathetic while also being strong in what you need for yourself. Lean on the fact that you aren’t just helping you—by helping yourself you are also helping a relationship that you value.


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"I’m a teacher on tumblr and have students on tumblr. I found a student’s tumblr and discovered ze prefers gender-neutral pronouns. The school is very accepting and all zir’s teachers would be willing to educate themselves about it. However, I don’t want to out the student (without permission, in general, etc.), especially since I haven’t been told directly (nor asked to inform others!). What do you think is the best course of action?"

-Question submitted by Anonymous

Dannielle Says:

OKAY LISTEN. I don’t know what the actual right thing to do is, but I’m going to tell you what I would do and like, you don’t have to listen to me if you don’t wanna.

So, if I were in your position I would talk to WATERBOTTLE (student name) after class. I would literally say, “Listen WATERBOTTLE, I accidentally came across your tumblr and noticed you prefer gender-neutral pronouns, is that something you’d prefer in school, too, or do you keep school/after school separate on purpose?”

Chances are ze will be ELATED that you (1) care enough to ask AND (2) are super into the idea of being respectful and considerate of their wants/needs.

HOWEVER, I would absolutely not approach other teachers before you’ve had this conversation. You just never know. There was a long period of time where I was totally out to my friends and family, but I didn’t feel like having that conversation at work. It’s just a different environment and I wasn’t completely comfortable just yet. This could totally be the case with WATERBOTTLE, so check in before you spread the word.


Kristin Says:

I agree. Talk to the student one on one and let them know you are cool with whatever they’d like, take it from there, and – obviously – don’t out the student to others.

Or you could simply start referring them as WATERBOTTLE and see if they are an Everyone Is Gay fan, and then you won’t even need to have the conversation because they’ve already read this and so they know you know and you now know they know you know they know.

You know?

Also, no big deal, but we checked in with our friend Zak over atThe Art of Transliness to see what he’d do in this situation, and turns out his advice was spot on with Dannielle’s! Here is what Zak advised:

Do your students know you follow them on Tumblr? If so, this particular student might have partially been putting that information out there in hopes that you’d see it. If it wouldn’t be too awkward, perhaps you could take zir aside and let zie know that you found zir blog and/or saw that zie preferred gender neutral pronouns and just ask if zie would like you to start using those pronouns or talk to other people about it for zir. Just letting the student know that you are supportive and that you want to help would be nice. 

Zak is pretty amazing, and if you don’t already – you should check out The Art of Transliness!