Posted by: Catherine Lugg | July 24, 2012

To every white queer of privilege who clings to his or her closet.*


  1. I’m usually pretty sympathetic to such folks, including Sally Ride (I figure she could have kept it from us so as not to tarnish her legacy even after her death), but you make some really excellent points here that even this old softie can appreciate.

  2. Catherine – I’m curious whether this would be your advice to public school teachers. I’m doing some research for my region (NW Ohio) that shows very few districts have END policies for GLBT teachers, and my interviews with school board members and superintendents found clear discomfort with “out” teachers. NJ has state-level protections for sexual orientation and gender identity; Ohio has none. Do you think it’s “safe” for public school teachers, particularly outside of the coastal areas where there are few to no legal protections?

    • Christopher–You pose a really good question. I think white queer public school teachers and administrators are in exquisitely vulnerable positions (and queer educators of color even more so). Also, they aren’t exactly leading “privileged” lives, since they’re the current political punching bag for all that is wrong in the US. That said, where one has the legal and collective bargaining protections (see PA–the legal protections are in the union contract), yes, be out. The kids need you, both the queer and non-queer kids.

      I also want to turn things around with your question: In some public school districts, to this day, the board is loathe to hire and retain Jewish, Catholic, atheist, and Muslim educators (*cough, South Carolina, cough*). So, do we recommend that these colleagues hide their religious orientations? They have constitutional protections, and yet….they do experience levels of bias and discrimination.

      We need to be careful about encouraging people to “hide” to get and/or keep their jobs. If we would never make that recommendation to a colleague who belongs to a religious minority (“Just take off your skull cap”–yuck!), we need to do the same for our queer colleagues. Instead, we might recommend that our queer colleagues seek employment elsewhere. It’s NOT easy, it’s NEVER easy, but if districts and states are going to be hateful, they need to pay a price via the talent pool.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Thanks Catherine. I understand your comment about public school teachers not being “privileged”, but the case could be made that in many places – particularly rural environments, that teachers are generally respected because they have decent, stable jobs, and are among the more educated people in the community, but these same teachers are more likely to lack legal protections and face a hostile community should they transgress their gender norms.

        I completely, completely agree that kids need GLBT teachers – particularly students who are LGBTQ. If we make an argument that students need a variety of teachers – and teachers who look/are like them – then LGBT teachers are a part of that equation – particularly for LGBTQ kids who have few other adults who are supportive, caring and KNOWLEDGEABLE about being LGBT.

        What I’ve found so far is that few teachers, teacher candidates, or administrators are aware of the weird legal terrain when there aren’t statewide protections- they mostly assume that there’s a federal law protecting them, or, on the other side, that the can’t whisper a word about their orientation(s) for fear of “political backlash” – likely from a local church or ten. Those churches remain quite powerful in this part of the country! Thanks again –

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