- October 8, 2013
Post sumbitted by Johanna Eager, Welcoming Schools' Deputy Director of Program Development and Strategic Partnerships
When I think about National Coming Out Day, like most people, I typically think about the LGBT community; however, this year, due to my experiences in schools working with Welcoming Schools, I am viewing it a little bit differently.
Welcoming Schools is a comprehensive LGBT and gender-inclusive approach to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools for all students and their families. As I’ve worked in schools offering tools and resources, I have come across a number of experiences with coming out that I didn’t quite expect.
I expected Welcoming Schools to, undoubtedly, create a much more safe space for LGBT teachers, students, and families to hopefully come out and to bring their full selves to the task of creating nurturing learning environments for all students. It’s true that it “takes a village,” and having each member of the village show up with their true, authentic self to contribute is important. Earlier in the year, I wrote about an experience I had with a new, gay teacher that was starting his first year of teaching in a school I had been working with for a couple of years. I had the amazing opportunity to bear witness to the teacher’s experience of joy in finding out that he could be out with colleagues, students, and families due, in large part, to the schools commitment to Welcoming Schools.
What I didn’t expect to find were the allies that benefitted from Welcoming Schools as it relates to their own coming out experiences. People that are not part of the LGBT community, but that have children or parents or siblings or best buddies in the LGBT community are often faced with their own coming out process with regard to sharing about the LGBT people in their lives. Straight or LGBT, everyone wants to know that they are in a safe space to be open to share about their life experiences.
This year at Welcoming Schools, we have a new professional development tool for teachers with our new film, What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying and Bystanders. During the filming, there was a moment when an elementary student shared with the rest of her class that her aunt is a lesbian and “that’s just how she is and she can’t change that.” In that moment, a child was able to feel safe enough to “come out” about her aunt and bring another aspect of herself to share with her classmates and teacher. Countless years of educational research shows that the more educators are able to create safe spaces for the lives of their students to be present and integrated into the classroom curriculum, the higher the rate of academic achievement that is attained.
This year, I celebrate everyone coming out on National Coming Out Day (NCOD). I celebrate the LGBT staff, students, and families in schools that can feel safe enough to come out of the closet and bring their authentic selves to schools for the sake of a safe, learning environment for all students to achieve. I celebrate all of the straight people that love LGBT people and that want the freedom of being out about the significance of the LGBT friends, children, family members and parents in their lives. The reality is that no one, should have to live a lie, and the more students, staff, and families that get to be out in our schools, the safer our schools become for all students with all of their differences.
Throughout the week, HRC is pleased to bring you a series of blog posts and videos from HRC friends, supporters and staff sharing their coming out stories and discussing the still profound impact of coming out. Stay tuned to the HRC blog for more. And be sure to cast your vote for your favorite NCOD T-shirt design by Ryan McGinness.