I am a lesbian.
There. I said it.
It’s not that people don’t know; it’s that I rarely say those words out loud. And I never said it out loud when I was teaching.
Why is that?
The truth is that saying it out loud is scary, and during my teaching years could have gotten me fired. And, given current circumstances, there are many places where saying those words out loud could put my safety at risk.
One need look no further than the Pulse nightclub shooting, the introduction of so-called “bathroom” bills, the Nashville Statement, or the president’s recent ban on transgendered people in the military to know that my community is seen as “less than” and is definitely not safe in many situations.
So I have spent 40 years in “don’t ask, don’t tell” mode, despite total acceptance from my friends, family, workplace, and faith community.
Why is this important?
As an adult, I have had many years to learn how to cope in a world of bias and discrimination. But for our LGBTQ youth, these real world conditions can have devastating effects. It is well known that LGBTQ youth are at greater risk for depression, self medication, and suicide attempts. When a “bathroom” bill was recently introduced and the president declared a transgender ban for the military, the number of youth reaching out to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, doubled. As this study concludes: Living in states with discriminatory policies may have pernicious consequences for the mental health of LGB populations. These findings lend scientific support to recent efforts to overturn these policies.
I can’t help but wonder how being more visible during my teaching years might have impacted the thousands of students with whom I worked. What did I teach them about standing their truth (or not)? Did I inadvertently convey that they should hide who they really are? I know I can’t go back and do it differently. Reflecting on it now, I wish I could.
My community is only one group that is feeling increasingly unsafe during these challenging times. There are many communities that feel as though they are under attack, and there is lots of evidence to support these claims: the rollback of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the constant conversation about “the wall”, Charlottesville, the Muslim ban, and the seemingly acceptable murder of unarmed black men and boys, just to name a few.
As uncomfortable as it may make us all feel, it is time to acknowledge that what is going on now is a reflection of our collective consciousness.
As uncomfortable as it may make us all feel, it is time to acknowledge that what is going on now is a reflection of our collective consciousness. Ernest Holmes said, “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he [or she] thinks into it.” What we see happening in our collective mirror is a reflection of what the collective is thinking into it. The sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we can move through what is and towards healing and solutions.
The real questions for all of us are: What are we going to do about what we see? What am I going to do about what I see when I look into the same mirror? Tracy Brown, in this TED Talk, invites us to consider What’s Mine to Do.
This is not about blame or shame. Those will never get us to a new, more equitable or socially just place. It is, however, a call to wake up to the truth about where we have been, where we are, and what it is going to take to move forward as individuals and as a nation.
Over the next two months, the Center for Teaching Quality, in partnership with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, will be hosting a blogging roundtable discussion that focuses on issues of equity and social justice. During that time we will hear from educators and students from diverse backgrounds about their experiences and what it will take to create an equitable school system for all students. Some bloggers will reflect on the past, many will comment on the present, and all will offer ideas and suggestions for how we might co-create an equitable and socially just future.
If we can put our “ears on our hearts,” we may hear whispers of what is ours to do.
Brene Brown, in a recent FB live event, said that we are not capable of taking off our own filters so we should believe people when they tell us about their experiences. During this roundtable and beyond, I invite us all to listen to—and believe—the stories of educators and students. And if we can put our “ears on our hearts,” we may hear whispers of what is ours to do.
We can get through this together. We must!
Lori is a staff member at Center for Teaching Quality working on School Redesign, a National Board Certified Teacher, and has 25 years of teaching experience. Lori’s post is part of CTQ’s blogging roundtable on equity and social justice in education. Join the discussion by commenting on this blog and checking out the other blogs in this series. Follow CTQ on Facebook and Twitter to see when each new blog is posted and use #CTQCollab to chime in on social media.