My position was eliminated two weeks ago. I knew it was going to be. I have a good support system. The wife and I will be okay.
My school district serves about 7,000 students and has about 500 employees, but I was the only gender non-conforming person who worked for the district. The high school I was based at has 2,800 students and 100 employees, but I was the only out queer working there.
I wasn’t eliminated for being queer. But when there’s only one, losing that one leaves a gaping hole. There should be more faces like mine. When you cannot see representations of yourself in the world, it is difficult to believe you belong.
Every year, students imprinted on me like baby birds. Everywhere I went on campus, it seemed a line of queer ducklings would follow. This is not because I am special (I mean, I am. Ask my mommy). It is because I was the only one. Many of these kids have been out since elementary or middle school. Many haven’t. I’ve had students who were everything on the LGBTQQIA2sOP spectrum. I’ve had students who weren’t even included in the acronym. I’ve had Muslim and Christian and Jewish students. I had a student who went viral for coming out as gay to delighted parents, who was then kicked out for being trans. Every year or so, I even got a himbo (straight cis boy bimbo). And for 99.99% of the students, I was the first queer gender non-conforming adult they knew in real life. I worked a regular job at their regular school. I was living, breathing proof that they could grow up and be something other than Instagram famous or closeted. I was also the first adult who heard them say “I’m panromantic demi-sexual” and didn’t blink or ask questions or laugh. In fact, I rarely responded at all. These children—regardless of sexuality or gender or lack thereof—simply want a space where they feel seen and the binding element is familiarity with queerness.
They knew when they saw my face that they had come home.
Queer diaspora kills in its invisibility. The entire world is a place where heterosexual children may be unapologetically heterosexual. Media and advertising are directed at heterosexuals. Classes use heterosexual examples as the default. The majority of adults provide examples of heterosexuality. Even students of color who experience the dissonance of attending a largely white school are able to go home and be surrounded by familiar and familial faces. Muslim and Jewish students who experience the dissonance of attending a largely Christian school are able to go to mosque or temple and have their identities affirmed. Queer students are not afforded these luxuries. Society is certainly shifting to make space for queers, but that shift is nowhere near complete. Most queer children have never been in a room where they were not the minority. Some parents cultivate a friend group to make sure their children (queer or otherwise) have that view of adulthood. Most don’t.
It isn’t just my obvious queerness the kids are drawn to. It’s knowing they can make a Steven Universe reference or talk about Kehlani and they won’t have to explain it. It’s knowing on a deep, visceral level why police officers are scary. It’s knowing why adults who support Blue Lives Matter cannot be trusted. It’s knowing that clothing is a symbol. It’s knowing that language is malleable. It’s culture.
Non-queer people can study us, but they will never have our lived experience. Changing the world to make room for queers will take time. Until then, create the illusion for queer children that they are not uncommon. One day they will grow up and make it reality.