As many teachers deal with difficult issues that this year’s primary election has sprung on them, another major headline is seeping into our schools. How society responds will shape generations to come. LGBTQ rights are taking center stage since HB2 in North Carolina was passed. Artists like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Jimmy Buffet are making statements or canceling shows in response to this discriminatory law.
Our students are watching, looking at their role models to follow their lead on this issue. In school we teach students to except everybody, celebrate our differences and respect others choices. Do we mean it? Our students will know by how we lead in this important conversation. Being LGBTQ is not a choice! It is genetics. How are schools going to lead in making LGBTQ students feel comfortable and accepted?
This issue hits home for me. My uncle Stewart Hazelton was transgendered. I didn’t really know it when he was alive. Fifteen years ago he divorced his wife, grew his hair out and started going by the name Stacey. Since I lived 500 miles away it had little direct impact on me, until I visited him one Thanksgiving and we talked one night. I realized how lonely and confused he was with his life. I knew he was self medicating his depression with alcohol but not the full story. Then one night I received a phone call from my grandmother, my uncle passed away 10 years ago. I travel to his house to help during the time of mourning. Then I realized his struggle. He passed of a heart attack due to all the hormones his was taking for his transition. He just wanted to feel normal as a female.
I wish, Stacey had talked more about his struggle. A few years latter, as my wife watched the Karadashians, I noticed Bruce was going through the same changes Stewart did a few years before. Our society needs to create an environment of love, not hate. Educators need to make sure we make our classrooms excepting of ALL students. It is sad that so many wait years to show who they really are meant to be in life.
Right now the argument is making all feel safe in the bathrooms. I think the answer lies in our schools. Most of our elementary schools have individual bathrooms. Why can’t we have more? We already have family restrooms, why not just call them private restrooms. Fear is not the way to approach this issue. We should not be afraid of LGBTQ individuals, in fact they are the ones that are scared. They are not perverts as hate mongers want to portray them. All states need to create policies that model the same values we desire in our schools: ACCEPTANCE for ALL!