It’s All Love: How LGBTQ Educators are Promoting Solidarity
A true story — Brooklyn, New York
“Don’t judge him, Mommy.”
With a high-poofy-puff for a crown, this less than 4 feet-tall queen had her mother at a loss for words.
“I’m not judging him, baby. I was just telling you, that’s a man… He was dressed like a woman.”
“I know but it’s okay. A man can dress like a woman and a woman can dress like a man.”
Her mom grabbed her hand and together, we all crossed the street. Knowing I was guilty of eavesdropping because of my conspicuous smile, she looked at me and said everything she was thinking, without even speaking one word.
“It’s their generation.” I said.
“What grade are you in, honey?” I touched her shoulder, feeling the innocence of her spirit and smoothness of her brown skin.
“Wow, and with all that wisdom! I am so impressed.” I looked to her mom, I could feel myself transitioning into full Ms. Clay mode.
“I’m an 8th grade teacher, I know I sound like it with my praise, right?”
“A teacher?! No! You look like a student!”
“No, Mommy. She looks like a teenager.”
“Thank you.” I was gleaming under the sun, in the graces of a wise one and her guiding elder. All I could do was smile. What used to annoy me most about myself had most recently become my favorite compliment.
“What do you teach? I love that! We need more Black teachers.”
The force between each label was so convicting. Her mom and I couldn’t dare stop her.
“Yasss honeyyyy!” Her mom and I were in the pulpit of this little one’s church.
“Mom,” I called her, still not knowing either one of their names. “You have a true revolutionary on your hands. I keep telling folks, our children are not the problem. They get it. It’s the old people who are keeping racism and discrimination alive. Oppression has no chance against children like her!”
“Exactly. This is why when she told me not to judge, I just shut up. It’s like she read my mind. She’s open-minded. She’s teaching me. What else can I say?”
Before I could commend this mother for being all the magic that she was, our little minister began her sermon again.
“We have a lot of teachers in our school who teach us that we can be different. But we don’t have a lot of Black teachers. So we do need more but that is not all we need. But we learn about gender and we learn about how to end hatred.”
Her mother looked to me and mouthed, “There’s a lot of openly gay teachers there.” I nodded and remembered my tenure as a teacher in Harlem, how almost everyone identified as a member of the LGBTQ community. How impactful that was on our student body. How safe our young people felt with figuring out their preferences and how they wanted to be identified. How much I learned about myself. How I began to transform my old ways of thinking about the gender binary, from working with them.
“And what do you know about ending hatred?” I asked her.
“We did this activity. It was really fun. We had to like, be someone else, not ourselves. And at the end we learned a big lesson: All we need is love.”