GLSEN Hawaii: A new chapter for a new era

{disclaimer} i wrote this piece one evening because i needed to clarify the reasons as to why i wanted to be actively supportive of the creation of a local GLSEN chapter in hawaii.  over the past year, much attention has been focused on the plight of bullying, isolation, depression, hopelessness and fear that many LGBTQ youth experience as they traverse the trials and tribulations of schools at all levels. it is terrifying to me that our children, elementary through college-age, are being so negatively affected by their peers and school personnel that some of them consider ~ much less commit ~ suicide or self-harm. as a mother to a kindergartener who is from an LGBTQ family, i feel convicted to do whatever i can ~ to contribute in any way possible ~ to ensure that my child, and every other child, has a nurturing, positive, affirmative educational experience. as an educator, it is vitally important to me that the educational experience of all youth is positive and uplifting so that we don’t lose any of our children along the way and all of them have the opportunity to pursue their educational goals, professional dreams and personal aspirations.

Why Do I Care if GLSEN Exists?                                                         

Like many other elementary school students in Hawai’i Kaleo must wake up in the morning and get ready for school, he needs to participate and do well in class, finish his homework after school, do a few chores around the house, get ready for bed and feed his fish. Unlike the majority of the students at his school, Kaleo has two mamas at home who run the home and family; two mamas who make sure that the homework is done, reading is practiced, nutritious meals are served, bills are paid, little boys get to and from soccer practice, library books are returned. Kaleo has two mamas who provide a loving and strong family and a create a haven in our home.

Being the child of a LGBTQ-headed family, Kaleo is one of the many students that are at risk of encountering difficulty in school and in our community because his life – our family – looks a bit different from what some people consider “normal”. Kaleo is one of the thousands, possibly millions, of children who are part of households that are headed by LGBTQ parents. He is part of the community of children in our schools who come from “non-traditional” families; one of the many children who may encounter obstacles and phobias, discrimination, bullying or aggression because his loving and supportive family is headed by his two mamas instead of a mom and a dad.

My wife and I are acutely aware that Kaleo may encounter questions, teasing and hatred because of the make-up of our family. Sometimes I feel as if I am simply in a holding pattern, waiting for Kaleo to come home and tell us that another child in his class or at his school made fun of him or asked him questions that he didn’t know how to answer.

“Why do you have two moms?”

“What happened to your dad?”

“You’re weird!”

“Two girls can’t be married!”

We know that these questions and comments may very well infiltrate our son’s world. We know that there will be children and families that may be offended by or offensive to our family because we are a lesbian couple. We understand that when we attend Kaleo’s soccer games, school events, class performances, open houses and parent-teacher conferences, we are immediately identified as “different” because we are a couple comprised of two women who are raising a son. We also know that we can only do our best to ensure that our son knows he is loved and that he has every right to be proud of the family that he comes from.

It is hard to prepare and protect our child from the unknown and unexpected. It is hard for any of us to protect our children from what we can only imagine they will encounter in their schools. It is because of this concern and desire to ensure that our child – and yours – is not ostracized, teased, depressed or scared because they are or they feel different from everybody else that supporting GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) is vitally important to me.

GLSEN is not my priority because I am gay-partnered and married to a woman. It is not my priority because I believe in marriage equality. It is not my priority because of the stories that I have heard other LGBTQ people share about their experiences, the pain and difficulties that they encountered growing up and finding their way through the chaotic landscapes of school.

GLSEN is my priority because our child – every child – deserves to go to school in a place where he or she does not have to worry that how their family looks will determine how they will be treated by their peers in school. GLSEN is my priority because it is vitally important that every student in our schools needs to know that they will be protected, accepted and appreciated no matter who they are, who they are loved by, or who they want to love or be friends with. GLSEN is important because it is our responsibility as parents and community members to do whatever we can to create and nurture a space where learning, growing and discovering is a positive and exciting experience; to protect the childhoods and idealism of our children so that they may have the chance to grow up to become the most amazing and fulfilled individuals that they can be.

GLSEN is important because it is one of the many ways that we can care for our children. As a parent, for no other reason, GLSEN is one way for me to be the parent that I have promised our little boy that I will be; one who will unconditionally love, support and celebrate our child.

If you are interested in learning more about GLSEN and the local Hawaii chapter that is starting up, please message me with your contact information. Thank you, to all of you, who support, nurture, encourage and protect our children without regard to who or how they love.

Interested in learning more about GLSEN? Please visit their website or their Facebook page.

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