Letter: The role of educators on gender identity
June is a special time for us teachers as we celebrate the end of our journey with students. It should also be a time for reflection as we consider Pride Month and the role we have to play in all of our students' lives.
Recently, national discourse around education has been focused on what kids shouldn't talk about: gender identity, race, or some aspects of history. But there has been little consideration for how to support our LGBTQ students. According to the CDC, LGBQ+ teens are twice as likely as their peers to express feelings of hopelessness and three times as likely to have suicidal ideations. They also self-report to feeling disconnected at school. It's no wonder why.
Recent legislation like the "Don't Say Gay" bill will continue to alienate a group of students that we need to call in, not push out. By refusing to acknowledge the existence of the LGBTQ community, we are sending a message to students that there is something wrong with them. The truth, however, is that there's something wrong with politicians who will scapegoat gay and trans kids for their own benefit.
Our call as educators is to teach and nurture all students. By politicizing sexual and gender identity, we've made it harder to support a group of students who often feel marginalized. We need to do better. Politicians can start by investing more resources in mental health for our youth instead of demonizing them.
As teachers, we can start by talking about and affirming our LGBTQ students in Pride Month and every other month. Our kids are crying out for help. It's time we listen.