Back To School: It’s 2011. And There Are Still 29 States Where Gay Teachers Can Be Fired

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At present, there are only 21 states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and even smaller number when it comes to gender identity. The rest are free to fire employees, particularly teachers at anytime — just for being gay.

There have been efforts, since around 1974, to establish a federal ban on LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, but bills have usually sputtered and died. What usually prevents these laws from passing, aside from blatant homophobia and heterosexism, is an even deeper fear of how this will impact public institutions — namely our schools and our kids. Keeping LGBTQ individuals out of the sight of children has become more or less a full-time ambition for government officials consumed with the idea of gay adults somehow “making” children gay.

I’m not certain who originated the idea that all LGBTQ people think about is getting at and “converting” kids, but the rumor has proved to be quite effective and enduring. Utilizing the safety of children to advocate anti-gay laws is a common tactic when leveraging heterosexist agendas. As a result, a resource that we so sorely need — good teachers — is being drained to the detriment of both queer instructors and children.

At the same time, this type discrimination conveys to queer children that once they grow up, they will be limited in how they can contribute to society. Queer children don’t necessarily need LGBTQ teachers to feel accepted in their communities (although it would help), but they do need to know that a queer instructor would be permitted.

This lack of protection for gay individuals discourages tolerance all the way around — with parents, teachers, administrators, and especially with children.