Saturday, September 29, 2012

Back to School: Then & Now

This month the Queer Etsy Team is presenting our personal tales from school to offer hope for LGBT students returning to school with trepidation. May they learn from us that there is always someone out there who understands and supports them... Today's musings come to us from Maryjo Bramble of Steam Shady Art & Design.

1978 Gay Freedom Day

Photo by "Me in SanFran" on

I’m 50 years old. I came out my Junior year at an all girls Catholic high school in Baltimore City in 1978. That year I managed to keep things to a rather quiet roar. Only my closest friends knew and I fell in love for the first time as well as had my heart truly broken for the first time. All in all, I thought then that it was the most miserable year of my life.

I’m not sure how many of you were even born in the 70’s. It was very different then. Now we live in a time when everything is “right now.” Everything is very instant. We want it and we get it. I’m talking about a time when the answering machine had not even been invented yet. If someone called while you were out, you had no idea until you got home and they called you back.

That being said, my senior year was a disaster. I had been a popular kid my entire high school career. I was vice president of my class three years running. Everyone liked me. Then a tiny little rumor grew into a very giant scandal and suddenly I had no friends at all. Your senior year is supposed to be the the best one. If I fared well through my junior year, I figured I could do the same during the last one. But to no avail. Fortunately, my gym teacher was also gay (surprise, surprise). Now I’d also like to mention that back then you only had to be 18 years old to get into bars and I turned 18 on March 1st of 1980. That very day, my gym teacher called me to her office and introduced me to all the other gay kids in my class (thought I was the only one). They were all jocks, of course, and none had really been friends of mine as they had their own clique, but she said they were going downtown to THE lesbian bar and would I like to come. I said sure. Now there were actually TWO bars at that time. One was The Hippo (still there, mostly a men’s bar). The other was Mitchell’s (not there and that’s probably a good thing, albeit sad). We drove to a section of the city I didn’t know existed and was warned by my teacher to not to ever try to go there alone. We walked several blocks down a glass strewn sidewalk across the street from the very dark deserted old projects from where we kept hearing weird noises. Finally we got to an unmarked door and rang a bell. There was a one way mirror. We were inspected before we were allowed in. The place was about the size of our small house and packed. The first thing I noticed was there were no “youngsters” like me (except my school mates that didn’t really talk to me very much). And the place was filled with what was then referred to as Bull Dykes. Oh God I was so scared. I did not want to be like these women. My ex from the year before had been very femme and beautiful (obviously this was a long time before the invention of the Lipstick Lesbian). This world was the exact opposite. And they were on me like flies on shit. I thought the night would never be over.

The next time I went was about 10 years later. By then it had been remodeled to look more like a dance club and was pretty much deserted. In just 10 years, there were way more places for us to go besides Mitchell’s. Not long after that she closed her doors. I feel bad about that. She was a Baltimore institution that gave us a place in a city where we had no place. But progress is progress.

Since then I’ve lived in a ton of towns and cities, three states, and one country besides my own. Each year it’s gotten better. I decided after that horrible outted senior year in high school to just be out from then on. And I have been. Now, it’s 2012 and I’ve been married 3 years (two of them legally in Washington, DC) to a wonderful, beautiful woman you all know as Lauren Bramble. My life could not be better because of her. Back in that last horrible year of high school, the world looked SO BLEAK for us. I would have NEVER imagined that I’d be able to marry the WOMAN I loved. But here I am, living the dream.

So for those of you younger folks who feel like we need all of our rights NOW, let me assure you that they ARE coming. Nothing happens in this country overnight. NOTHING. It just seems that way when we have our smart phones in our hands. When Obama signed away DADT, he was sending a very clear message. I personally think that if (when!) he is reelected, he will have a surprise for us early on in that second term. I say this because it will give everyone who is against us 4 years to realize we aren’t a threat and tone down the haters before the next election. Now, this is my own personal feeling. Let me be clear, I am not “in” with anyone at the White House.

However, if Mittens wins, we are SCREWED for what could be a long time before we can get our footing again. So if you are not registered to vote DO THAT TODAY. No Excuses. And make damn sure you show up, no matter how inconvenient it is, on Election Day to vote for our man. Take a sick day or a vacation day or a personal day if you have to but GET TO THE POLLS.

And if any of you live in MD… don’t forget to vote yes on #6. If Gay Marriage passes on the ballot in MD, Lauren said she’ll marry me… again.

2011 Capital Pride Parade

Photo by "ep_jhu" on

Vote to make a difference! Register today!

To be eligible to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen. In most states, you must be 18 years old to vote, but some states do allow 17-year-olds to vote.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Back to School: School Daze

This month the Queer Etsy Team is presenting our personal tales from school to offer hope for LGBT students returning to school with trepidation. May they learn from us that there is always someone out there who understands and supports them... This morning we take a peek into the school days daze of Ana the Night Owl of the Tierra Dulce Shop.

Photo by massimo ankor

I was a chubby cheeked kid that was socially awkward growing up in the 80’s. I knew that I was not a typical kid because I would become a little too fascinated with a few of my female classmates. Mainly it was that they had pretty hair and smelled nice. But even before I started school, I knew I liked girls, I remember there was a time when my mom would come home with her girlfriends from a night out of dancing and I would find a woman in my bed with smeared makeup, smelling of smoke and sweat from dancing the night before, sleeping off her night of fun and adventure. Nothing horrible happened – they just decided to crawl into bed and sleep off the night. But you know strangely, I would lay there sun brightly shining in and early in the morning, I would look at the woman in my bed and think she is very pretty laying there much like a painting – then I would slide out from under her arm and head over to pour a bowl of cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons like it was nothing.

I never quite understood what I was going through in school, the secret crushes, since I was so shy and a late bloomer. I tried liking boys, but I was too much of a tomboy myself. I never pursued relationships like some of my friends, nor was I boy crazy like a lot of my friends. I was a girl who had more worldly pursuits I would say – more to life than this kind of thinking. But none the less, I still had my mad crushes, I remember in Junior High, I made my way into a little group of friends because I liked one of the girls – I just wanted to be friends and get close. Creepy right? No, it is typical for kids to do that stuff, so we became friends and then the following year she got a boyfriend who was a skater and had long hair and everyone thought he was so cool. I remember we were in the auditorium – we hung out there a lot because we all played music. And he came by to watch her play her instrument when our teacher called for a break – we went to sit in the audience chairs to and hang out – that skater boy had made his way over to our group and I just ignored him. But she was so into this stinky boy. Next to me was a French horn player and I had turn to him and asked if I could try out his instrument -- being a string player myself, I was curious how much sound I could get out of it. And so as my friend and her boyfriend were talking, I took the instrument and gave a super loud blast to both of them! I know that was mean, but I was crushed! I know she gave me the look – I said sorry, I had no idea it would be so loud. And from that moment on that crush stopped. And soon afterward, we parted ways as friends.

Then life goes on, in high school I went to a performing arts magnate school on the west side of Los Angeles, total culture shock since I mainly grew up on the Northeast of Los Angeles. Much more open to a lot of things over at that school. I had met quite a few gay friends. But I had not yet made my way out. It was that time during my life that I accepted myself, I knew whom I was fully, I knew that I could not change myself and I had to let it be – but I still had my teenage angst in full force. I eventually came out to some friends and in my mid-twenties fully came out because my first girlfriend ever decided to break it off because I was not out yet to my family. Those were very hard times and also very liberating times too. By then my mom had passed away from a fight to cancer and I had been living in Palm Springs to help out the family and eventually I was kicked out of my home for being queer by someone who had been a parent and in my life for over 20 years. I have forgiven, but I will never forget.

Fast forward to today, now I teach for a living, so I’m in a classroom and different schools every day. I meet so many students all the time. I went to a school in Huntington Park – I was teaching biology for a month, I had this one student who loved make-up, dress up and everything fashion. He was beautiful, I mean simply beautiful. (All my students are beautiful. Even the diamonds in the rough and I get a lot of those.) But for some reason, maybe it is my personality or how approachable I am. He came to me during a lunch break with his little group of girlfriends and hung out in my room. Then he said, “Ms. B. I want to be a girl. How can I do that?” He asked so many questions, like if it will hurt and about places to go, being a transgender. In my work, I am always very professional, very mindful of all the things I say to my students and I listened to him very carefully. But how could I answer that question? I bought myself some time and started like this. I said to him, “Well I think you should finish school and go to college first…but I think you know what you want your life to be, and you should give yourself time and grow and be secure with your body and mind. Take a look at the world around you, build a strong foundations now with your family and if you want friends. And when you are fully ready you will pursue your happiness, you will know when that time will be.” I think about that ever so often, did I say and do the right thing? I feel I did. But as many teenage kids are and with a glazed look over his face, he kind of understood where I was going with this. He then turned to his friends and said, “Ok girls let’s go.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

September Challenge: Back to School

♫ ♪ It's time to go back, back, back to school again!
It's bye, bye fun; get your homework done!
You better be in by ten!
Cuz it's time to go back, back, back to school again!
Whoa, whoa, you gotta go, back to school again... ♪ ♫

And so ends my song & dance routine... I am sure you all remember that song from Grease 2, right?  Michelle Pfeiffer plays a bad girl Pink Lady falling in love with the mysterious motorcycle rider who turned out to be smartie-pants new boy in school, played by Michael Carrington... No?  I'm the only one who memorized the songs?  Fine...  Moving on... XD

As you may have guessed, our theme this month has been Back to School, and it was apparently a tough one!  So please give a round of applause for those who rose to the challenge and gave us these awesome pieces...

Here's the perfect back to school hat for guys OR girls!

Man guy cable hat beanie - rust orange pumpkin

from laprincessa

And here is reading material definitely useful for any English Lit class...

Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature, Addresses, and Lectures

from DragonfishAntiquity

Here is a bracelet set that would be cool for going back to school-- for her and her, or him and him, or her and him....

Back to School Leather Bracelet Set with silver moon charm and blue carved stone knot

from Livingatnight

Everybody needs a little Judith Butler when getting back to classes.

Judith Butler, from the series The Life and Times of Butch Dykes

from BandDPress

And it wouldn't be back to school without an apple for the teacher - and a bookmark for the student!

A is for Apple Bunny Rabbit Bookmark

from FaerieGardenFancies

And please don't forget that we're sharing out own School Stories every Saturday this month, and throughout October, National LGBTQ History Month, to help give some hope to Queer youth struggling to make it through another year...  You can find those stories under the tag "back to school".  Please feel free to share the link far & wide so that our message can reach those who most need to hear it...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back to School: Outcast Among Outcasts

This month the Queer Etsy Team is presenting our personal tales from school to offer hope for LGBT students returning to school with trepidation. May they learn from us that there is always someone out there who understands and supports them... Today's story is from Julia Cellini of the Fairytale Store; you can read more from Julia at The Magic Mirror Blog.

photo from Ed Darrell

Last year I graduated from a rural charter school in Hawaii. Population 300, K-12. The year before that, some very brave students and our English teacher started a GSA (gay straight alliance) group. Having this group on campus and getting the chance to be a part of it was a wonderful thing for those who was beginning to discover themselves or who thought they were alone. GSA club was great at first, but non-supportive behavior can appear in even the most unexpected places.

Everyone was back to school and GSA was starting up again for it's second year. We spent our first few meetings making colorful, inspiring posters to hang up around campus. When we had finally finished and hung our prideful posters up, we felt as if we were making a change in the world in our own small way, together as a closely knit group. For some of us, the feeling of safety that this brought was exactly what we needed. Which is why it was so devastating to us when we got to school the next day, and saw all of our posters gone, or shoved into trash cans.

Everyone was hurt and confused. We expected that this disrespectful deed was done by some ignorant student, but we were soon to find out that it was our own principal who did it! He had not contacted anyone in the group before he took our posters down and threw them away. Neither the group leader, nor the teacher in charge knew why. So after discussing it with the group, I took a notebook and pen, and the remaining posters that we managed to recover from the rubbish bins, to the principles office. I politely asked why our posters were taken down, and he said it was because they were offensive. So I handed him the posters and asked him to point out to me exactly what was inappropriate about each one, and I wrote down every word he said and had him sign my notes afterward. This is what he said:

  • The phrase "Make a Change" is offensive because "change" is a negative word that implies that a change is needed.
  • The phrase "Come to GSA" is offensive because it implies that coming to the meetings is mandatory.
  • Lastly, the words "Make a difference" is offensive because it implies that attending our meetings will turn straight people gay.

If I could do anything differently, I would have taken the matter to an adult outside of the school immediately, but I did not know who to go to. Instead, I asked him for a detailed rubric of things we can and can not write, so that we could make new posters that wouldn't be taken down. Now the school has a poster policy guideline, and students can make new posters that are guaranteed to not be taken away without notification. Which is great, but the damage had already been done.

We never made another poster. We had put so much of ourselves and our time into our art, and most of it was never found. Everyone was discouraged, and worse. Ever since that incident, the GSA meetings changed. Our members felt worthless, and their actions had begun to reflect that. Harassment was occurring inside our group. What was once a close relationship between a few people who wanted to make a difference, had become a hateful place. They began to play videos that said cruel, inappropriate things about other groups of people, for example certain religious groups. One of these videos made my closest friend, who used to be a supporter, leave the club and now she'll never attend another GSA meeting again. Not even now that we're in college. Eventually I had to leave GSA as well because of the harassment. From our own members, I was told things like "Lesbians have it better than gay men and therefore shouldn't gain the same rights." Or "Gay women are stupid and mean because they're never satisfied with their partners."

Our GSA members who used to strive for positive change, had lost sight of what we originally came together for, a gay, straight alliance. Those of us who pulled through realized that it gets better after high school! We remember how it used to be, and still continue to strive for that elsewhere. Now I realize that there are many different GSA groups around, and you can choose which ones to be a part of. Over the past year I reached out to other sources besides the high school's corrupted GSA group. By doing so, I've met many wonderful LGBTQ people right in the community, the university, and online. Even if you find yourself an outcast among outcasts, know that there are others like you. Friends can be found in unexpected places.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you'd like to start a Gay-Straight Alliance club in your school, please check out the GSAnetwork's article, 10 Steps for Starting a GSA or GLSEN's (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) articles, How to Start a GLSEN Chapter or The GLSEN Jump-Start Guide for Gay-Straight Alliances.

If you're dealing with hostility or opposition of any kind, this article has great advice on what to do: Dealing with Hostility & Opposition.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Spotlight on Ana the Night Owl

Welcome to another Queer Etsy Street Team interview! This time we're talking to Ana the Night Owl who runs Tierra Dulce Shop with her older sister Martha.

What sorts of things do you offer in your shop? Currently we have things that we find and like – I end up digging out treasures packed away in my garage, things I find when I go treasure hunting, and things that we make from scratch. It is very much an outlet that suddenly became an obsessive project.

How did you first start selling on Etsy? How long have you been selling? Do you sell anywhere else? I had set the Etsy up for my sister to have an outlet for all her creativity. She turned out to be the more ‘I just wanna make crafty stuff’ than the seller type. And so that is how I took over the account I had set up and soon grew to be Tierra Dulce Shop. Officially we began selling in 2011 and we are still going. I think we have had success when a brick and mortar shop in Portland started carrying our Tierra Dulce Shop Mexican edible sugar skulls, (which we now make as vegan candy) – CandyBabel and we found each on Etsy of all places! So I feel very proud that even though our small little shop is still trying to catch its stride, that our creations have touched others outside of Etsy. I want to find others willing to work with us and carry our labor of love. Hello out there!

The Original Mexican Day of the Dead Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skulls Mini Candy Handcrafted (6 Count)

What are your favorite materials to work with? We have such an eclectic array in our shop that sugar would be some of our favorite materials to work with by far. We do have beautiful soy soaps that are amazing, since we don’t test on animals (other than me) and they are made with such care – and very scientific. My sister is very scientific – she keeps notebooks with her formulas and processes on all her projects. Not to make her sound like a nutty person, but her passion is working with plants as biology major. Also my friends swear by them; I had a friend come out of surgery and her skin was held together with some sticky hospital type tape which had to be taken off and the wounds cleaned and then put a new bandage right back on – but the problem there was that the bandages left hard glue on the skin – she said she tried every product she could find to get rid of it, but everything she tried she became allergic to it. So I sent her a few bars of soaps to try out. I mean after all that, it could not hurt to try an alternative and sure enough it worked!

We also work the yarn and the charms. Going back to working on my stained glass – I have finally set up a workable space in the garage to be able to do that – so looking forward to build projects again.

What got you interested in your craft? At first, we started this a creative collaboration to help my sister in the Northwest. But since we are both a bit artistic we decided to get creative and share this project. We are trying to build something beyond Tierra Dulce Shop. For a living I teach at schools and every time I visit a new school – I hear the same story over and over again. Every school is facing some sort of budget cut or loss of very needed programs like arts and music. Because of this our adventure with Tierra Dulce Shop, we decided to use this outlet to build and to help schools fundraise for the arts. Whenever we make a sale we set aside the funds so we can start a non-profit aimed at helping schools. I know it sounds like a lofty goal – but this is the base, the start – and what way to build a passion – than starting with a passion. So to answer your questions – meeting people got me interested in my craft.

Are there other creative projects you are involved in outside of your work in your Etsy shop? Besides art/crafty stuff, what else do you like doing in your free time? I am very busy working most of the time – but when I do get time off I play music. I’ve been playing music since 7th grade and to tell you the truth it was my saving grace as a kid.

Most of the time, I’m thinking of new things to make and promote. At one time I was vowing never to join Facebook – I did not care about it – but when I took over the shop I really had to adapt and see how the heck I was going to make this happen. So I joined Facebook, and in joining that social site, I had a wall of people who had been searching for me on that thing. I had tendencies to fall off the face of the earth. I really enjoy it in some strange way now. Which reminds me, we also have a Tierra Dulce Shop fan page on Facebook ‘Like Us’ – Let’s be friends!

Also, Feng Shui, ancient old traditions fascinate me – so I went to the library (one of my favorite places in the world) and self-taught myself the ways of the Feng Shui. And here is a tip for you, if you want opportunity to come knocking on your door, place a wind chime outside your from door. When I did it, not only was the sound soothing, new and more happy things began coming my way. Sound silly, but an ancient way of thinking can’t be too wrong

Oh, I forgot the blog I have that is mainly about stained glass and chocolate – Yes, two of my favorite things. You can find that at

Does your queer identity come into play in your work? You know, my queer identity has been with me since birth – I remember being a kid and knowing that I liked that little girl with the kinky hair a bit too much. And when she found a little boy friend to play with instead of me, I became jealous! So I was aware of my queer identity for a long time but had no idea it would change my life. In my work it comes to play to a certain extent – I like to think that it is me and not my queerness that people like. My work on Etsy has not really said I’m queer, but it does not mean I’m not proud of the fact that I am a Lesbo.

Is there any advice you have for our readers? I think the readers are here for a reason – a reason that I had been trying to find a long time in my life. And that is solidarity and unity. I know they are here because they support the fact that we are great business people and love our crafts and want to buy them and support The Queer Street Team shops. But to also support LGBTQ people and end this crisis in our country and stand up for our rights (in the great Bob Marley’s words.) In California, we have had so many battles in government offices, in the street and in families to get equality – and soon enough we will get there. And even being on this web-blog is spreading the word that we are beautiful, smart and successful contributors to society. LOVE US READERS!

~ Ana Bernal aka Ana the Night Owl – Tierra Dulce Shop @ Etsy

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to School: You Don't Have to Take It

This month the Queer Etsy Team is presenting our personal tales from school to offer hope for LGBT students returning to school with trepidation. May they learn from us that there is always someone out there who understands and supports them... Today's post comes to us from John Tozzi of Galleria di Giani.

photo by Dan Bass

You Don’t Have To Take It

This year, many of you will be starting high school or college. For those starting high school, the decision on whether to be out or not is never an easy one. Some of you might have seen the struggles a character like Kurt faced on Glee. Although a fictional character, his experiences are quite real for a number of us. For some of us, it was even worse.

For those starting college, while you might feel comfortable being out since you are away from home, incidents like the Tyler Clementi story might give you pause.

For both groups, those starting high school, and those starting college, you have one advantage that I never had.

You don’t have to take it.

I was in junior high and high school in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Back then, “bullying” wasn’t really a term that was used widely, if at all. Parents and teachers gave it all kinds of names trying to excuse it, ignore it, spruce it up and make it presentable. It was referred to as things like “rough-housing” or “horsing around”, and excused in the worse possible way. Those of you who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s will recognize these words:

“Boys will be boys.”

It’s amazing how many things could so easily be swept under the rug with those four little words. And, to add insult to injury, if you complained, then you were a baby or a tattletale. These were somehow worse things to be than a bully. Can you imagine?

And, if those four words weren’t bad enough, if you dared complain, you only set yourself up for the other cringe-inducing platitude:

“It will make a man out of you.”

Oh yes, that’s what we were told.

Somehow, getting hit, getting knocked down, getting pushed around, having our personal effects taken and tossed about in a game of Keep Away, being insulted, being called names, being teased, getting knocked into lockers, having stuff thrown at us, all these things and more (of which I endured them all, and then some) were somehow supposed to prepare us for adulthood.

I’m not exactly sure why this was thought to prepare us for adulthood. After all, adults aren’t supposed to act this way. At your job, are people allowed to push you against the wall, throw things at you, take your stuff and play Keep Away, or any of the other actions described above? Of course not. If they acted that way, they’d be thought of as children.

So, if children do it, it makes a man out of you. If a man does it, though, he’s acting like a child?


As a kid, you can’t explain the logic in that. Parents will just look at you like you have three heads and are speaking Martian.

Thankfully, we are now living in different times.

Bullying finally has a real name. It is not looked upon favorably any longer. There are no more excuses of “boys will be boys”. It’s now looked upon as a good thing to report it. There are even anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying laws in some cities and states.

If you are a victim, you don’t have to suffer in silence any longer. You can report it. If your teacher won’t take you seriously, try the principal. If they won’t take you seriously, try your parents. Keep reporting it until someone hears you, and something is done. If someone is doing it to you, chances are they are also doing it to other people, or will, if they are not stopped.

Your high school and college experiences don’t have to be about suffering. They should be the time when you grow and learn about the person you are, and start to settle into the person you are becoming….comfortably, proudly, and bully-free.

You don’t have to take it.

If you are being bullied and in need of help, there are many groups available to choose from:
  • First, if you are in crisis or considering suicide, please call the
    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    or the Trevor Project at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).
  • You can find more detailed steps on finding help at
  • You can find a list of helpful resources at (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) .
  • To find a local source of help, the Safe Schools Coalition has a list of Community Based GLBTQ Youth Support Groups and Safe Schools Coalitions.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back to School: Stories of Hope for LGBT Students

This month the Queer Etsy Team will be presenting our personal tales from school to offer hope for LGBT students returning to school with trepidation. May they learn from us that there is always someone out there who understands and supports them... Our first story comes from Jacqueline Parks of Copper Clad Treasures; you can read more of Jacqueline's musing on Not Your Typical Weight Loss Blog.

photo by Jon Gilbert Leavitt

Back to School from the Queer Team! Stories of how we all overcame something! When I first saw the posts about this challenge, it sort of fell flat with me. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly looking forward to reading everyone else’s stories, but I really thought that *I* didn’t have one.

I wasn’t even gay in high school. Well not really. Not that I knew. Not that anyone knew to my knowledge. Then today, I got the request for stories again, and once again, I thought about writing. I love writing! Still I didn’t have a story, at least that is what I kept telling myself. Then it hit me, yeah, I have stories. They may not on the surface seem personal, but they are applicable and raw, and I am willing to share.

I went to a rural high school, around 500 kids grouped together in one building in grades 6 - 12. The whole time I was in school, I never once really thought about gay people. That might seem odd, but really it was a non-issue to me. I was of a philosophical bent, and I was really big on androgyny. This was the early ‘80’s, and pop stars like Boy George and Annie Lennox were my idols. I felt that there was no innate difference between boys and girls other than biology, and on some deep esoteric plane that everyone was bisexual, molded into heterosexuality by sociological imperatives. I was thought deeply about these things, but still, I wasn’t exactly thinking about homosexuality.

I was being influenced though. Our school was definitely not a friendly place for homosexuals when I was a student there. Boys who seemed less than the masculine ideal were teased for being gay. The funny thing is that I never thought they were gay. I mean gay-ness was just not real to me! Teachers, yes teachers, would use homo as an insult. I remember one teacher in particular who did this regularly. This particular teacher also gave us a long lecture on our first day of class about how suck was a way worse swear word that the f word, and anyone he ever heard saying it would get immediate detention. Hmmm...looking back I see a definite pattern.

I may have been philosophical and clueless, but there is no doubt in my mind that there were gay students in our school who were feeling bad about this environment. I am blessed with knowing at least virtually many of the people who I attended high school with, and as would be statistically likely, there are a significant number who are gay. I feel bad that they had to experience these events, and I feel bad that I did also. I am not really sure what was going on with my sexuality in high school, but I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been a little bit easier if I did not have that type of negativity dealt to me on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, things are still pretty bad in rural schools. My partner Diana did half of her student teaching in a local rural school, and there was a male teacher calling a student “homo.” This is nearly 30 years later in supposedly more supportive times. I am proud that some teachers are working to make a difference, supporting all students, but unfortunately, I think that in rural schools especially it is difficult to effect change. I don’t have a solution, but I do know that individuals can make a difference. One thing we did was a presentation to prospective teachers on heterosexism. Other ways to effect change include simply being visible. Familiarity breeds acceptance.

I don’t really have an ending. I hope that other stories are more poignant, emotional, helpful, but this is my story, and maybe it will help someone, someone like me perhaps or a teacher who is afraid to stand up for a student or a principal who doesn’t want to cause trouble by cracking down on teachers who bully. We must be brave enough to take care of each other if we want to increase the safety of the school environment for everyone.