Back to School: The Difference to a Daughter
September 22, 2010
This is the third post in our Welcoming Schools “Back to School” blog series. Welcoming Schools, a project of the HRC Foundation, offers administrators, educators and parents/guardians the tools they need to ensure their elementary schools welcome all students and families. With LGBT-inclusive resources on embracing family diversity, avoiding gender stereotyping and ending bullying and name-calling, Welcoming Schools is a first-of-its-kind approach to these topics for K-5 learning environments. This post comes from Sara Romanello, a recent graduate of HRC U, HRC’s internship program. Sara is currently studying with the School of International Training (S.I.T.) completing a program titled “International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender” for which she is focusing on Queer and Feminist Theory:
When I was in the second grade, my classmate Brian told me my parents were lesbians. I knew that couldn't be true-- he said the word with such negativity, with such distaste: lesbian. I told him that my moms were not lesbians! I wasn't quite sure what a lesbian was, but I knew that my caring parents could not be anything that a classmate made sound so ugly. For some reason the accusation stuck with me. When I got home from school I sneaked a dictionary into the bathroom with me and sat down to do some research. L, L-E, and there it was-- lesbian: one who has romantic and/or sexual and erotic feelings towards another woman; see ''gay''. It turned out- Brian was right. When I asked my moms, years later, why I hadn't known then that they were lesbians, they shrugged, "We always used the word 'gay' to describe ourselves, maybe you'd just never heard us use the word 'lesbian' specifically," my Mother told me.
In truth, I think my parents, the first gay couple that either of them knew to have children, didn't know how to prepare me for Brian's words-- for my first encounter with homophobia. This experience foreshadowed many others, ranging from outrageous discriminatory comments to uncomfortable questions like, ''What's your father like?'' For me, school was a place that I loved, but also a place where I was constantly concerned about the possibility of these uncomfortable and hurtful situations. Learning about Welcoming Schools during my time at HRC made me think more about my experience as the child of gay parents than I ever had before. I realize now what a significant difference the support and understanding of teachers and staff would have made for me when I was growing up. I hope more communities begin to take advantage of Welcoming Schools resources - Both those for parents and those for educators, like the “Connecting with Colleagues” section that helps school staff learn how to discuss issues of family diversity and practice the skills necessary to welcome all families and students. Now that I'm in college I proudly tell everyone I meet that my parents are gay (or lesbian), before the Brians of the world have a chance to make it something unpleasant. But it has taken me a long time to get here. I'm glad to know that Welcoming Schools is giving children the chance they need to feel comfortable and confident in school, during the time when they are too young, impressionable and vulnerable to have developed that confidence and comfort on their own.
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