I am an out lesbian who owns a progressive preschool and a college student has lodged a bias complaint against me for failing to include LGBTQ families in my lectures.
I am an LGBTQ family.
My University sent me resources on “Family Equality: Advancing Equality for LGBTQ Families.” I don’t need suggestions on ‘advancing equality.’ It’s been a personal and professional fight for me for over 20 years. We need resources on how allies can help us advance equality. We need to help students advocate for themselves by talking openly with members of the community they claim to be fighting for.
My daily practices involve gender-neutral language. I change children’s books to make the protagonist female. We talk about ‘snow-people’ instead of ‘snow-men.’ I give teddy bears two moms. When children make comments like, “We have 3 girls at this table,” I follow-up with them about they ‘know’ there are 3 girls at the table. We don’t know someone feels like a girl in their hearts and in their minds unless we ask them. I don’t even refer to the children as “boys and girls.”
What is most upsetting (okay, a hell of a lot of this is upsetting), is that the student chose not to talk to me. The student did not choose to leave feedback in their midpoint check-in. The student did not include it in their course evaluation. They submitted a formal bias complaint with the University that is now a part of my record. In the record of someone who teaches workshops like:
- Exploring Anti-bias Curriculum
- Constructive & Critical Conversations about Diversity & Culture in ECE
- Talking with Young Children about Marriage Equality
- Embracing Gender Diversity in Early Childhood
- Let’s Talk About Gender
This is in the record of an educator who supported two preschool children and their families through a social transition of their children’s gender. This is in the record of a person who readily let a preschool family leave her program without notice because they didn’t want their child to know gender is a social construct.
Do you know what happens to college instructors who are members of minoritized groups who actively and regularly highlight that in-group membership? We get accused of having an ‘agenda’ and trying to indoctrinate students. An agenda for being myself.
My college students are repeatedly exposed to my ire about ‘gender reveal parties,’ as they do not tell us anything about the gender of a child. We don’t know a person’s gender unless they tell us, something a fetus can hardly do. They are truly “sex parties,” something that always gets a chuckle from students, but something they remember and makes an impact on their understanding of the differences between sex and gender.
Half of my students are using a 2016 edition of the text, and the others are using a 2021 version of the text. The 2016 edition does not address children who are born intersex and the 2021 version has three sentences dedicated to it. In the time of pandemic teaching, I did not address this. There are many things in the textbook that we do not cover in lecture, but can be read about in the text: the development of shyness and sociability, PKU, Chronic Villus Sampling, and so on. Is the absence of information bias? What is the metric for representation?
In Human Sexuality (another class I teach), we go into great detail exploring the lives of those born intersex, the history of mistreatment folks have endured, and the various outcomes for those born intersex. We watch videos, write reflections, and discuss. In a class covering prenatal development through middle childhood in ten weeks in a pandemic, we do not address everything. This class is not Human Sexuality, but my feminist lens permeates all of the classes I teach. Gender is interwoven into the fabric of classes like Families in Poverty, Family Violence & Neglect, human development courses, and preschool practicums.
So, I ask, what is the answer? Rainbow PowerPoint slides? Every slide includes same-sex parents? My slides ALREADY have same-sex parents, coupled hetero parents, single parents, parenting grandparents, and so on. In the slides with adults in them, the majority are Black, Asian, or Latina, with the exception of the old, White male theorists that lay the foundation of Human Development theory. We can’t assume gender in the pictures because we do not know the people in them. I guess the photos of “two men and a baby” weren’t clear enough? “HELLO! THESE ARE TWO MEN PLAYING WITH A BABY! I THINK THE MEN ARE IN LOVE AND HAVE SEX TOGETHER!”
If the student had waited, she would see we do discuss gender fluidity in young children, LGBTQ parenting, how to talk with young children about gender diversity, and a sharing of my favorite books for young children on LGTBTQ families.
I am an educator who uses phrases like “developmental differences.” An educator who corrects students when they label development as ‘normal’ or use phrases like “sexual preference.” I am an educator who uses person-first language. I am not biased against the group I am in. Other people express bias toward my group.
Imagine sending a faculty member in a wheelchair information on using less ablest language or offering feedback to a Black professor on how to be less racist in the classroom. You can’t imagine it because it is so blatantly ridiculous.
This is NOT ally-ship. This feels like gaslighting. I’ve gone through all of my lectures, second guessing myself. What did I do? What did I say? Everything is recorded now. This student has filed a complaint against an established expert in the field, who is also a member of minoritized group for whom she claims to be advocating. This is not education. This is not growth. She has filed a bias report against one of the most progressive instructors at the University. How is this even helpful? How does this make me feel safe?