Monday, October 18, 2010

The Other Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Most of you probably have heard of the military Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that was recently struck down by a federal court, well there is another “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, an unofficial policy.

I found this opinion piece from an Oregon newspaper the Register – Guard...
GUEST VIEWPOINT: Teachers face a ‘don’t tell’ rule in class

By Jerry Rosiek
Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010

National news media outlets have been covering what appears to be an epidemic of harassment of and suicides by lesbian, gay or transgender youth. Although I do not believe this pattern is new, the phenomenon is real and the attention it is receiving constitutes a call to action to educators everywhere.
Recently, as if to underscore this point, a student-teacher working in a Portland-area elementary school was asked by one of his students whether he’d get married someday. He responded that he couldn’t, because he would marry another man and same-sex marriage is illegal in the state of Oregon. A parent complained, and the school immediately removed the student-teacher from the school. His conversation, according to district officials, was “inappropriate.”

The way this story played out is all too familiar. We lament the effects of homophobic assault, isolation and despair on children when we hear about harassment and suicides. However, in most schools, we force LGBTQ teachers into silence about themselves and their families, implicitly endorsing the harassment and isolation. It is time for this to stop. It is cowardly, morally inexcusable and just plain dumb.

Why does the practice continue? Because administrators feel pressure from parents ensconced in homophobic attitudes. These parents feel entitled to purge schools of any acknowledgement of a reality we all recognize — that lesbian, gay and transgender people are a part of our communities.
By silencing teachers it hurts the students on many levels. First, for children who are LGBT it teaches them that they have to hide which creates low self-esteem and leads to suicidal tendencies. Second, it creates an atmosphere where bullying and harassment is tolerated which, once again, creates low self-esteem and leads to suicidal tendencies. Lastly, it teaches the children that bigotry and discrimination is permissible.

When we go to testify before the Judicial Committee each year to try to pass a gender inclusive anti-discrimination bill, one of the questions that usually is asked is “What will the children think if their teacher is transgender?” We cannot get transgender teachers to answers that questions because their school system tolerates their teaching as long as they don’t make waves. If they did testify, they would probably be out of a job the next day.

What we need is a culture change and the only way to do it is though all of us working together. We need our allies to speak up; the LGBT community cannot do it by ourselves. We need parents, teachers, students, public officials all to demand a change.


  1. I teach in a university. The problems I've had came, not from the students, but from administrators and a few faculty members. It seems that trans people are OK as long as we remain abstract subjects of study (i.e., as long as we make it possible for others to get grants and tenure) and don't appear to them in flesh and blood, much less speak in our own voices.

    I also found that the ones who encouraged me to identify myself and talk about my experience were the first ones to use it against me.

    So, for all the talk about gays in academia, on the whole, it's really not that much more tolerant, much less accepting, than the culture generally.

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  3. Justine. I think you should expand further upon this theme, that gay acceptance in academia is a mythe.

    I have always found that academics, gay or otherwise, are extremely elitist, arrogant, condescending, and in fact down right MEAN, when they deal with or address those that do not agree with their version of "progessive" or "liberal".

    So please, continue to speak out. I would welcome your opinion on my blog at...