This weeks LGBT Question from a Friend comes from a recent conversation my wife was having with a co-worker. In my circle of friends and colleagues I am the go-to person to ask any LGBT related questions and my web appears to be expanding into my wife’s education world as well. We started talking about a conversation she was having with a co-worker of hers last night and I thought this would be a great topic for my blog.
So my wife is a special education teacher for a public school system. Just recently while on her lunch break she was sharing our wedding photo album with a co-worker/friend of hers. A student came in with a question for her and as the student walked over, she closed the wedding album and addressed the students request. Another teacher within range said “What’s the big deal if they catch a glimpse of it? And why don’t you have a picture of your wife on your desk? You have one of the kids…”
Her response to said co-worker was “We aren’t there yet.” I am in 100% agreement with her on this one. She is completely out at work and does not hide it among her fellow teachers, administrators, etc. However, she feels there is a time and a place for everything and exposing her personal life to her students is not something she chooses to do. Sure, there are plenty of teachers who have pictures of their opposite sex husbands, wives, partners, on their desk. But that doesn’t mean she should do that as well. I think the important piece here is that she is out with her colleagues and can do so because she is in an open and accepting environment. There are many LGBT people that do not have that privilege in their work places.
In my shared opinion with my wife, her personal life should be of no business to the students she teaches. Being an LGBT educator in many areas of this country can still be risky. She teaches at an elementary school level so inviting criticism or issues from parents who don’t want their children learning about LGBT people is not on her agenda. Sure, being out and proud is something we all must do in some form or another to keep the movement moving, but using children as a way to get that message out shouldn’t be a part of it.
I’m going to make a confession here. I have a love for Lifetime Movies. In all of their sappy, overly dramatic, poorly acted out glory! I mention this because in 2000 there was a Lifetime movie called The Truth About Jane. (If for no other reason, please comment and let me know if you’ve seen it!) It’s a totally dramatic teenage coming out story. I bring this up because I remember vividly in the movie one of the teachers running into many problems. The student confided in this teacher and the student’s mother was unaccepting of her daughter coming out and presumed the teacher was ‘pushing her lifestyle’ upon her. While this is not a direct comparison to my wife in an elementary school setting these are things that teachers must consider.
In early 2012, the state of Tennessee’s House Education subcommittee approved the “Don’t say gay” bill which aimed to stop the discussion of ‘homosexuality‘ in elementary and middle schools. Here is a quote from an article in USA Today. “Opponents say it will not curb talk about homosexuality among grade school kids but will send the signal that it should be stigmatized. But several lawmakers argued that it would protect parents’ right to educate their children about their beliefs on their own terms.” As a parent myself I see the value of being able to educate my children on my terms. However, I think having a bill around this is totally over the top and unnecessary.
This happened in recent years and demonstrates how far we have to go for LGBT people to be accepted everywhere and for true LGBT equality. I think my wife is making the best decision for her which is not to discuss her personal life with her students.