Do you know author Ashley Bartlett? She’s irreverent, clever, and too cool to show you that she cares. But she does and can no longer deny it after writing this blog. She’d rather have you think that she’s a punk kid rather than a responsible, respectful adult who somehow managed to stumble into the position of shaping young minds.
If you get a chance, introduce yourself to her. I can’t guarantee that you’ll want to adopt her as a surrogate daughter (as I and many other members of the lesbian fiction community have done), but I can promise a thoughtful conversation with an intelligent, insightful person.
Before running off to meet her, you should read her guest blog. And maybe check out her books.
The Wheel is Come Full Circle; I am Here
by Ashley Bartlett
I was born in 1986, the year the Supreme Court opted to uphold the legality of sodomy laws with Bowers v. Hardwick. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year in high school that those laws were struck down in Lawrence v. Texas. This is the point where I apologize to my students for the lecture. You see, over a decade later, I am employed by my former high school.
This is the same school where I was nearly barred from my winter semi-formal for wearing a suit and tie. The same school where a well-intentioned administrative assistant told me that “the way to really shock people is to wear a dress” (She was right. It did shock them. It also taught me that I really hated hearing how pretty I could be. Have you seen my cheekbones?). For years, I complained about how oppressive that school’s environment was.
Now, that school is my employer; but, guys, the difference of a decade. Maybe I’m just getting old. Maybe the edges of my youth have blunted enough to see intentions where before I only saw attacks. I was an angry kid (shocking, right?). Don’t get me wrong. I remember the good times too. The teachers who didn’t hate me on principle. The way my brother was ready to throw down with anyone who called me a dyke. The young, clearly insane, teacher who hosted our first Gay-Straight Alliance my senior year.
That same teacher approached me when I first started working at the school. Begged me to come to the GSA. I refused, of course. I knew there were plenty of queer kids on campus. I could tell when they came to my office to check out their English books. They were the kids who visibly started shaking, couldn’t make eye contact with me, but smiled profusely at the floor. But I’ll be honest. I didn’t go to my first GSA meeting for those kids. They were children. Loud, sweet, annoying children. I had no responsibility for them. I went because my former government teacher, who had made senior year slightly less horrible, asked me to.
I don’t think I’ll ever forgive her.
Because now, 18 months later, I’ve attended more GSA meetings than I can count, I host monthly GSA officer meetings (okay, those were my idea when I became the advisor), I’ve appeared in two school PSA videos, and explained the difference between transgender and genderqueer to a shocking number of faculty members (they asked. I work at a school where faculty members ask that question!). The issue isn’t just that I’m way more involved with this school than I ever imagined. The issue is that I’m suddenly responsible for the health and happiness of twenty something baby queers (guys, remember how I’m bad at responsibility?).
They’re needy as hell. Every day it’s like, Ashley, how do you tie a bowtie? Ash, what if I cut off all my hair? Ohmigod, Ashley, I tried on high heels for the first time doyouwannasee pictures? Hey, Ashley, how do I explain bisexuality to my sister?
It turns out that it takes two lesbians, three Youtube videos, and fifteen minutes to tie a bowtie. There’s a joke in there somewhere.
And it’s hard to explain to baby dykes that when they cut off all their hair, they don’t need to get my haircut.
Also, teenage boys have a lot of trouble finding size eleven heels. Unless their mothers take them shopping (oh, my God, can all gay boys have that mother?!).
Okay, warm fuzzy time. I adore those little punks. When they write me notes and ask for help on their homework and fill my office with noise and questions and love, it gives me reason to get up in the morning.
But, like, don’t tell anyone, ‘kay?