“What are you going to write about for tonight’s blog?”
I was standing in a friend’s kitchen earlier today munching on sweet potato fries hot out of the oven when she asked me this. And my honest answer was, I don’t know. Not because I couldn’t think of anything, but because, as I explained to her, the thing most alive for me right now, the thing I really want to write about and wish I could find anything to read about, feels like something I definitely. Cannot. Write about. On the internet.
“Why?” she asked. And when I explained, she agreed. “Write about that instead,” she encouraged, “write about the why.”
So I’m going to write about the why, which still feels pretty vulnerable. But I think it’s important.
I am, amongst other things, an educator. This continues to take many forms at different times- I’veworked as a kindergarten classroom teacher, a farm educator for young adults, a middle-school garden science teacher, a writing facilitator for adults, a permaculture educator for twenty-somethings, a spoken word teacher for high-schoolers, and a collaborator with elementary school kids who were weilding power tools and fantastic drawings of the wild structures we were about to build (e.g. the moon, an upside down house, the bay bridge- you know, stuff like that). And even though I’m not teaching in a public school setting right now, it’s something I’d like to do again, and soon.
That’s where things get tricky when writing about myself on the internet.
For starters, I did not grow up here in the Bay Area. My perceptions of what teachers can and can’t be out about / open about safely at the schools where they teach, either amongst the faculty or the students, are probably regionally skewed and also dated. I did not know a single queer adult until I was a teenager (or so I thought – it turns out I did, but I didn’t know that I did, because none of the queer teachers at my elementary school were out).
But context and specifics – not just region or type of school, but the specific school itself and its culture and community and pedagogy, not to mention the given day or constellation of people and how they’re feeling at any given moment – have so much impact on this issue, that I can’t possibly know anyway ahead of time what’s going to feel like a fit.
But I do know this: in my experience, and the experiences of other queer educators I’ve talked to, queerness is often automatically assumed by those around them (parents and faculty and administrators) to be a sexualized identity (whereas straightness is not- this is much wider phenomenon that goes way beyond the classroom). This can get internalized- I do it to myself sometimes by accident.
If I’m going to write publicly about my queerness (and that’s a BIG “if” – I’m still pretty newly out, the internet is not that friendly a place, and the whole thing feels vulnerable and shaky, like a newborn calf trying to stand for the first time and then immediately trying write a blog post with tender little hooves…you know, like calves do…don’t they?…#cowblogging)
Ahem. Where was I? IF I’m going to write publicly about my experiences with my queer and bisexual identity, it feels like I have to work extra hard to overcorrect, to de-sexualize what I’m writing about, in order to protect my future professional life and possibilities. This might not be true in every circumstance, but the fact that it COULD be, that I can’t be sure, and that I have to worry about and plan around it just in case in order to protect myself and my future- that’s a problem. It’s a problem I’ve never felt like I could articulate or claim, for fear of being told that I was “overreacting.” But it’s a problem nonetheless.
It’s a problem for a lot of reasons (which I can’t fully delve into on a 20-minute blog day although let’s be real I’m clearly way past the timer at this point), some of which have to do with wide and deep issues like respectability politics, sex-negativity, homophobia, double standards, and a myriad of other intersecting threads and threats. Many people are at much higher risk than I am- I am relatively protected by many privileges, including where I live right now. But there are two issues on my mind I want to briefly mention before I sign off, because they have specifically to do with being an educator, and wanting to honor and be responsible to both myself as a queer writer, and to queer youth.
The first is: young people of all sexual orientations, but especially LGBTQIA+ and questioning kids, need to hear adults, including queer adults, talking about sex and sexuality that INCLUDES LGBTQIA+ PERSPECTIVES. Having to be extra careful to “desexualize queerness” undermines queer educators’ ability to support LGBTQIA+ and questioning youth, and those youth are, statistically, in a lot of danger, most especially when they don’t have sources of information, representation, and support.
And the second is: I’m an educator, but I am also a writer, and a human in my own right, and there are things I need to write about, that feel important to me personally and in conversation with community, that I can’t write about under the “overcorrect and desexualize” rule.
I don’t have an answer. Just these queries (queeries!) and opening thoughts on what is a much bigger issue. I’m not certain what decisions I’ll make- I need to season and ruminate a bit more. Folks with internet presences- writers, educators, artists, people with more than one livelihood that might conflict in content presentation, others – what are your strategies and needs around this? Have you found things that work for you? Let’s talk!