Updated: Oct 15, 2021
A couple of nights ago someone ripped down the pride flag I had waving from my front porch. I was able to get it back up, but it occurred to me that my advocacy efforts must go far beyond waving a flag or posting to social media. As an LGBTQ ally, visual symbols of my support should only be the beginning of my advocacy.
Our LGBTQ teachers need allies who are willing to be vocal at school, online and in our communities. Too many of them continue to live in fear. Too many feel unsafe, concerned that their sexual orientation or gender identity will jeopardize their careers or result in an untenable work environment.
Just over a year ago, The U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that employers could no longer fire anyone based upon sexual orientation or gender identity, but the fear of some sort of reprisal or punishment remains etched into the minds of too many of our fellow educators. That has to change. In order for this fear to be eradicated, all allies need to step forward.
Our LGBTQ students also need our support, and that is a moral imperative. LGBTQ youth have suicide rates 1.5-3 times higher than heterosexual youth. The SCEA and NEA are allies, and we are committed to standing by and supporting LGBTQ educators and students. Will you join us? If so, here are five ways you can help us create the inclusive environment our teachers and students deserve.
1. Examine yourself for biases you may still hold. Change starts from within. Take a close look at the political and religious leaders you support. Consider whether the organizations to which you are connected are allies.
2. Be a vocal advocate. Use your voice in person and online to ensure LGBTQ educators and students know you are a safe ally who will have their backs. Call out discriminatory policies and do not ignore anyone using homophobic or transphobic language.
3. Study GLSEN's Classroom Resources. This will help you develop a more inclusive curriculum and classroom environment. Seek feedback from LGBTQ educators.
4. Learn how to be an advocate for LGBTQ students. That responsibility should not fall on LGBTQ teachers alone. NEA offers six microcredentials focused on creating a safe and inclusive classroom environment for LGBTQ students.
5. NEA is also offering its members an opportunity to enroll in online blended learning LGBTQ courses to educate NEA members about a variety of LGBTQ+ topics and to inspire action. NEA LGBTQ Blended Learning courses will be facilitated by NEA-trained blended learning facilitators and provide a certificate for 15-hours of professional development upon completion.
Together we can build a world where no teacher or student has to live in fear. Together we can promote love and extinguish hate. Join the movement for the schools that South Carolina students deserve!