Bending The Arc Pride Edition 2023
A Social Justice Newsletter for Educators
“No one should be moving through this world thinking that their lives are not political. Everything about your existence, everything about what you have and don’t have, is political. We’re all being impacted by these restrictive ideas about what it means to be a man or woman, or nonbinary, or everything and nothing all at once. And the sooner we can grasp that, the sooner we can come up with the solutions to make our families, our communities, and our societies better.” - Raquel Willis in conversations with Philip Picardi
Welcome to Pride 2023! June, the month we celebrate the achievements, contributions, everyday brilliance of LGBTQ+ folks around the world. It’s a time to highlight queer lives in their tremendous diversity while also actively showing support for and solidarity with all kinds of queer folks we know and don’t know. Recently, a tweet which I found out was first circulated a year ago by playwright, Claire Willett, reminded me of my role this year (and every year) of Pride as a cis, straight person: to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ lives are at risk and being made more difficult in almost every corner of the planet it seems. What can I/we do to reduce harm against queer people in our midst?
Raising Questions Alongside Flags
What is happening in your local legislature regarding LGBTQ+ rights? Whom can you ask to find out? Whose advocacy work might you amplify and actively support?
What sorts of policies and protections are in place in your institutions that ensure that folks who identify as LGBTQ+ can work, learn, grow in spaces free from discrimination?
What forms of community supports are available to the queer people around you, whether they are out or not? What can you do to signal that you support all queer-identifying folks and that you are open to learning when you mess up?
These are the questions we as educators, and more fundamentally as people who exist in society, need to ask ourselves. Not only during this particular month but year round. Make it a habit and keep going. Pride can serve as the extra push, but we need to develop our internal and external motors for deeper change. Trans lives matter. Queer lives matter. Always.
Of course, you can also do some reading and listening. Allow me to offer a few options:
“How should journalists cover Pride in states that have passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws?”
This article aimed at journalists who plan to cover pride events is actually an excellent source of information about the protest origins of Pride, the current coordinated attack on trans and queer rights happening in the US, and thoughtful suggestions on how to consider key perspectives in their reporting.
Linked in that article is a Vox explainer on the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislative measures currently sweeping majority Republican states in the US. It’s vitally important that we grasp how utterly dangerous several of these new laws are. Several seek to withhold necessary health care, prevent young trans people from participating in sports, and/or aim to criminalize parents of transgender children.
““A lot of the bills are aimed at creating not only fear in the community, but also making anti-trans sentiment part of the general conversation,” said Simon Willis, a co-president of PFLAG Houston, an organization that hosts support groups for LGBTQ+ communities.”
Fear will make people do all kinds of things. Consider how much of our roles as educators consists of reducing and mitigating fears: lowering barriers, building accessible on-ramps, fostering connection among learners. Given that, pushing back against campaigns designed to stoke fears in our neighborhoods, institutions and families is something I want to believe we are cut out to do. We don’t need to be heroic, but it helps to be well informed; to become familiar with the voices of those being targeted.
Consider this short article about a trans child in West Virginia whose sports participation is constantly on the cusp of being banned. The mother describes the reality of helping her child live their truth:
“… you cannot force being trans—or any gender identity or sexual orientation—on anyone, just as no one has forced me to be cisgender and straight. This is who I am, and being a girl is who Becky is.”
I want to suggest reading the wonderful writing of Robert Jones, Jr. whom I have recommended before. From his latest newsletter:
“Being alive at the intersection of Blackness and queerness is an unsolvable modern quandary as no society knows what to do with me; every society fears me, marks me as dangerous, interprets my very livingness as an existential threat, and, therefore, wants me to do two things: die and disappear. And they are willing to do things—insidious, unnatural things that they market to appear normal, virtuous even—to ensure it.”
He also linked to this short documentary from the PBS online series Prideland which looks at LGBTQ+ lives in the southern US states. Have a look at the whole series.
It’s also the case that expressly anti-LGBTQ+ laws in African nations have been making headlines. This article offers some insight into those developments. Resistance movements are of course challenging the law in the courts.
If you’re looking for inspiration as to what can be accomplished on the school level during Pride month, consider this impressive calendar of events and activities created by students and staff at the Berlin Brandenburg International School.
Additionally, from the same school, a petition to the International Baccalaureate Organization was launched in May calling for the IBO to actively support LGBTQ+ inclusion in curriculum, policy and organizational priorities. Signatures are still being collected.
Although it’s the end of the school year for many of us, there’s never a wrong time to think about how to improve our institutions’ embrace of equitable practices. To that end I propose investigating this sample of inclusive child protection language for school policies and procedures developed by international school consultants Dr. Emily Meadows and Alysa Perreras.
In providing context for the decision to produce this kind of document that is free and invitational, Dr. Meadows speaks specifically to the misconceptions that arise around actively addressing LGBTQ+ identity-based harm in school settings:
“a robust body of research has already demonstrated the significant increase in risk for suicidal ideation and attempts amongst LGBTQ+ youth compared with their cisgender, heterosexual peers.
This reality has led to the misconception that being LGBTQ+ is inherently riskier than being straight.
It’s a misconception because there is nothing at all risky about an LGBTQ+ identity unless the social context around us is stigmatizing, marginalizing, and discriminatory of LGBTQ+ people.” (emphasis mine)
Permit me to lean on this particular horn: It’s on us to create learning, work and play environments that are LGBTQ+ affirming. Let’s refuse to feed the flames of fear and confusion that continue to burn around us. There’s no excuse for us to hide in ignorance and shame. We are resource-rich (informationally speaking) and we can see fairly clearly what’s at stake; whose lives and futures are being called into question. Choose support. Choose engagement. Choose solidarity.
Wishing Happy Pride to all who celebrate!
Be well, friends,