Intersections: For Love, Respect, and Dignity

October 10, 2019 by Bill Ivey

Tomorrow, as two middle schoolers announced in a housemeeting presentation on Tuesday, is National Coming Out Day. You knew they were thinking intersectionally right from their title slide as they chose the eight-stripe version of the rainbow flag, introduced in 2017 by the Philadelphia More Color More Pride campaign in order to be explicitly inclusive of Black people and other people of colour.

PhiladelphiaPride

They were invited to write for the school blog for National Coming Out Day, and their piece when completed will join “What’s in your heart” and other reflections from past years. Coming out, as the students noted, is not right for everyone or even necessarily a realistic option. But even if one is not an out member of the LGBTQ+ community, one can still be supportive in a number of ways. As the students suggested, one can be there for a friend, learn something about the community, and be kind and respectful.

Of course, teachers also play a critical role and, for me, that begins in the classroom. My Humanities 7 students look openly and respectfully at gender and sexuality as spectrums as they explore the world around them, their own identities, and what place they are taking in that world. It continues out into the corridor, where my gender expression runs the gamut from shirt and tie to skirt and top. This year, I realized that putting on a skirt the day before National Coming Out Day and role modeling that willingness to be my authentic self might be helpful for students who are weighing what they might wear on the Day itself. I’ll save my “More Love Less Hate” shirt for tomorrow.

Last Saturday, I wore that shirt to the “This Is Us” event in Greenfield, held in support of a drag performer whose portraits had been vandalized. As I wrote on an anonymous post-it note quoted in The Greenfield Recorder, "I wanted to be among those making themselves visible for love, respect and dignity."

One could say it took courage to agree to have a photo of me in a skirt projected onto the façade of a building in the center of town, repeatedly, over two full hours. But the flip side of that is maintaining a commitment to be my authentic self, something which the Class of 2019 respected in me even as they thanked me for supporting them in making that same commitment to themselves. The psychic risk involved in not participating became far, far more important than any potential risk in participating.

Imperfect, uncertain, perhaps even frightened at times. And also, self-aware, self-reflective, and willing to take the risk of being true to ourselves as long as we keep respect and dignity for all in mind as the end goals.

This is 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: LGBT, student voice, LGBT Support, student-centered learning, National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ Support