June is Gay Pride Month but for some LGBT public school teachers, it’s all-year-round in their classrooms, according to Mic, which featured several teachers making sure young kids are introduced to varying sexualities under state-sponsored supervision.
Ana Patejdl, who is gay, teaches in the New York City public schools and was encouraged by her principal to come out to her students and “revive the Gay-Straight Alliance,” according to the report. She did so three years ago and launched the Rainbow Alliance. Patejdl said her student’s “reactions were overwhelmingly positive … or they didn’t really care!” From that moment on, she added, it "helped us have real conversations around LGBTQ topics and issues.”
"Whenever we're reading non-fiction or working on informational writing or argument skills, which is usually tied to social issues, I try to give kids choice around the topics they pursue and LGBTQ issues are usually among the ones they're interested in," said Patejdl.
Nathan Cooke teaches 9th grade in California and though he says “There aren't specific lessons that center on LGBTQ history,” he “allow[s] breathing room for natural tangents to arise." Cooke is engaged to a man he brings to school functions and identifies as bisexual.
Queer teacher Celeste Tannenbaum teaches public kindergarten in Chicago. Here’s what the five-year-olds in her class are exposed to:
"I mostly really hate Pride and the Pride Parade, and all the white-male-cis-capitalist-booze-filled celebrations that this month involves," Tannenbaum said. "Maybe next year I'll try to use it as an opportunity to read a few extra books with queer characters or mention queer identities briefly."
Tannenbaum identifies as queer, but, she said, she is not "truly out" to her students. When she started teaching at her current school, another queer teacher warned her that many of her students' families "were very religious and had very conservative views about queer people."
Still, Tannenbaum said, she tries to bring "queerness" into her classroom throughout the year by challenging gender norms, reading books with queer characters like "And Tango Makes Three" and "My Princess Boy" or, she said, "just by having my super hairy legs out at school whenever possible."
One special education coordinator in the New York City public schools thinks stretching gay pride throughout the entire year is “culturally responsive teaching.” She doesn’t “force” her sexual identity on students, but they still figure it out:
"Usually it just comes up … students will ask me if i’m married and I’ll say 'Yes.' If they say anything else, about, 'What does he do, what’s his name,' I’ll say, 'Oh, I’m married to a woman. I have a wife, not a husband.'"
National organizations are lobbying for this type of education for public schoolchildren. Rebecca Mui, who manages the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, says bringing these issues into the classroom can’t just fall on the shoulders of LGBT teachers.
"It shouldn’t just be LGBTQ teachers advocating for and creating visibility for LGBTQ students in schools … It really should be something that all educators feel is part of their job and their responsibility in their classrooms,” she said.