I don’t see myself as much a mentor as an advocate. People ask me what a middle-aged straight lady is doing working on behalf of LGBTQ youth. As a child of Holocaust survivors, I was brought up to believe and I strongly believe that everybody not only deserves but is entitled to equal rights. It all comes back to my belief that everyone’s entitled to an equally safe, equally loving, equally equal environment.
Q: In your role as a school nurse what have you done to create a safer climate?
My office is known as a confidential space. I advertise that safety through the visual impact of the posters and signs I have on the entry way and walls of my office. My students also know that I will advocate with them and for them. I think that’s a very important part to play in their lives.
Q: What’s an activity you’ve done for LGBTQ?
There have been so many activities over the years! At the high school level is we bring the New Conservatory Theater every year to perform “The Other Side of the Closet.” Students then have an opportunity to hold a discussion afterward with the director and actors to further illustrate how to challenge myths and stereotypes and create safer schools. I have organized a “Rainbow Café” during the month of April where each day guest speakers come during lunch to address a different topic. For example, Monday might be gays in the military, Tuesday might be gay parents, the next day might be gays and religion, and then it might be legislating civil rights for gays.
We participate in the Day of Silence every year and this year we also did “Pink Tsunami” where the winner of the “pinkest homeroom” contest received a special luncheon.
Q: What are some challenges or barriers you’ve encountered?
I think any time you talk about sexuality and sexual behavior to youth or as it relates to youth, there are barriers to overcome. Those may be personal barriers or family barriers or environmental (school, community, culture) barriers. I don’t think they’re insurmountable – I have always managed to jump the hurdles and, I hope, teach my students something about overcoming challenges and resiliency in the face of adversity to boot!