Queer in the Classroom

1 Feb

I wanted to share a “Queer in the Classroom” story from a few weeks back that actually took place at my high school in Connecticut. I went back to see my old psychology teacher and was surprised when, halfway through our conversation, I noticed the words “hir” and “ze,” among others, written on the dry-erase board behind her.

When I asked her about it, she explained that, during a lecture about linguistic relativity, she had made a comment to the class about the highly gendered nature of English pronouns. One student, who identifies as transgendered, raised a hand and brought up the idea of gender-neutral pronouns. My former teacher then invited the student up to the board to explain what, exactly, gender-neutral pronouns are and list a few examples. And, she added as she recounted the incident to me, “It was really interesting.”

This story is pretty straightforward, but it made me optimistic. The more I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate the way my teacher had affirmed the student and turned the encounter into a learning opportunity. I don’t know what your high-school experience was like, but teaching moments like this are about as progressive as education gets in suburban Connecticut. (This may be the closest thing I’ve ever felt to Simsbury High School “school spirit!”)

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