Intersections: A Strong Wish I Make Every Night

February 20, 2017 by Bill Ivey
My kids are incredible. Just putting it out there (with all respect for the thousands and thousands of teachers who could and do say the same about their own kids, and with all respect for those kids as well). The kid who came waltzing into my office and almost sang, “Bill, I figured out something about myself. I’m pansexual!” The kid who said, “Whether you’re talking about romantic or sexual relationships, and whoever you’re into, I just don’t see how it’s anyone’s business but your own.” The kid who said, “Well, I’m really genderfluid, but it’s easier not to change my pronouns every day so I just use “‘they/them/their.’” The kids who went  “Awwwwww…” and “Finally!” when the best friend of the trans girl in George said, “And you know what? If you think you’re a girl… then I think you’re a girl too!” (Gino) They’re growing up with spectrums of sexuality and gender, embracing them as simply a part of their everyday reality. And I want them to feel that level of comfort, with themselves and with each other.

So, however telegraphed it may have been, the news hit me like a punch in the stomach. In an article in the Washington Blade, Mara Keisling of the National Transgender Center for Equality confirmed that “reliable sources” informed her “the Trump administration is set Tuesday" [Feb. 21, 2017; tomorrow as I write this] "to rescind Obama-era guidance to schools barring discrimination against transgender students.” (Johnson)

Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU, reminded us, “If #trans student guidance is rescinded, law STILL protects trans students. Source of protection is Title IX itself.” And that is true and somewhat comforting - presuming of course that Title IX remains the law of the land. But the ACLU can only intervene once a law is broken. It is our job to prevent that happening in the first place.

One simple concrete action we can all take is to add a brick to the GLSEN Wall of Kindness as part of their #100DaysOfKindness campaign. As always, GLSEN’s Research and Resources pages are also thorough, helpful, and useful. And ongoing political pressure can never hurt.

But really, in the end, the most important work happens in our daily interactions with LGBTQ+ kids - and with all our kids. If you work daily to understand and support the full breadth and depth of your students’ identities, if you work daily to help them understand and support each other, you’ll be creating the kind of genuine safe spaces all kids need and deserve. The stickers help, of course, and other largely symbolic gestures. I treasure the moment when one of our gender non-conforming kids suddenly noticed I was wearing a skirt one day, and lifted her head to give me a beautiful smile of sheer delight. But in the end, building the daily reality matters most.

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I was talking about this with my friend, author Gae Polisner, on Twitter, and she wrote, “:( (It's going to backfire. We're going to come around. We are better than this.) <3” to which I responded, “We certainly can be. If we do this right, we might even emerge stronger.” She ended with, “a strong wish I make every night.”

There's no reason that wish can not come true. But no guarantee either. In the end, it's up to us.

Written by Bill Ivey

A dedicated member of the faculty, Bill Ivey is the Middle School Dean at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. He teaches Humanities 7 and the Middle and Upper School Rock Bands. Bill is the advisor for MOCA, the middle school student government, and he coordinates and participates in the middle school service program. Among his many hats, Bill also coordinates social media for Stoneleigh-Burnham School.

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Filed Under: Intersections, LGBT Support, LGBT, Title IX, transgender