By Jacques Etienne
Carver STEAM Academy
At age 22, I was handed my birth certificate, social security card and passport and told I had 10 days to leave my home.
My nightmare was coming true. My Haitian parents had finally discovered my secret:
I am gay.
I was no longer welcome. I was being discarded. I tried to be perfect but “perfectionism” was not enough.
When the day came, my mom berated me as I made my exit. My dad had no words for me. My heart was broken. My legs buckled as I walked out of the threshold of my childhood home.
Who was I?
I came face to face with who I was during the next two years. I discovered that I am resilient.
My story is important because I represent so many of our LGBTQ students: discarded by loved ones, lacking security and scared of what the future holds.
LGBTQ students deserve to pursue education in an environment where they are loved, accepted and supported. They deserve the same access to opportunities as their peers.
Homophobia runs rampant in schools across America–including our schools. Not only from our students, but from some faculty and staff, as well. We must do better. We owe it to our LGBTQ students.
If it’s in the world then it is in our schools.
Every educator has a student like me in their classroom. They may seem shy or eccentric or eager to please, but that’s because they just want to know their life matters. They need you to help them know that.
Here are steps you can take to promote equity for LGBTQ students:
- Language matters. If you hear a student or colleague using inappropriate language that can harm the LGBTQ community, speak up and correct them.
- ALL Black lives matter. Even the LGBTQ ones. If you are marching for George Floyd, march also for the Black trans women who have been murdered. The LGBTQ community needs justice, too.
- Model being inclusive. It should be reflected in the information you present to your class – videos, books, etc.
We aren’t free until we are all free.
What are you doing to elevate the voices of LGBTQ students? Please join me in making our schools safer for all students and ensuring that we value the experiences of people in our buildings.