Physical Education/Visual and Performing Arts/Health Teacher
Ida B. Wells
Q: At school, what have you done to create a safer climate for LGBTQ youth and their families?
Ida B. Wells is a continuation school, so we have a diverse student body. We have a lot of gay and lesbian couples it seems that maybe people wouldn’t expect that. The girls have an easier time being out but for some boys it’s more challenging. It’s not the majority but they are very present in the population. Since we only have 250 students, I find they are more inclusive. It seems we don’t have much homophobia or discrimination.
Q: What is a fun activity you’ve done for LGBTQ youth?
We’ve had Captain Condom come in. We’ve had a lot of guest speakers too. Our population is based on people on who don’t fit in the box to begin with and it doesn’t have to do with sexuality. It’s an environment where we are open to what is not the norm.
Q: What were some challenges/barriers you encountered?
Our biggest challenge is to get students to stop using the word “gay” as something that’s not cool who make it a joke, “that’s so gay.” It’s happening less and less.
Q: What inspired you to create safer spaces for LGBTQ youth?
I was a dancer for 15 years. As part of the dance community, I rarely had a straight friend. I identify as heterosexual but everyone I knew at the time were all gay. All my closest friends, even my best friend was gay. When we would go out, it would be to a gay nightclub. I’m comfortable with that environment. I didn’t have to develop a comfort around it because it’s always been that way, it’s just the norm. My parents taught me never to discriminate against anyone. The challenge for me has been to identify as heterosexual in a gay environment, which is the exact opposite of the norm.
Q: What has been the school/community reaction for the work you’ve done?
Always receptive. Even the more macho kids I work with when I correct them are receptive. It might be because it is a continuation high school and these kids are a little different than regular high school kids. They are outside the box thinkers, like me. I believe that when you get teens away from their peers they can have a deep conversation about anything. They are receptive and malleable.