My name is Juan Juarez, and I am the principal at KIPP Austin College Prep. I want to share with you three short vignettes and a call to action as we launch into Pride Month!
i. I am a senior in high school. I see a student being bullied for being gay. The teacher states to the students that it is not okay. I want to say something as well. However, I stay quiet. I don’t feel comfortable speaking up. I am also not out to anyone. And while my teacher said it was not okay to bully others for being gay, that is the only time I have seen him say anything about the LGBTQIA+ community. Acceptance, no visibility.
ii. I am a first-year teacher. We are doing introductions about who we are. We are sitting in a room in a circle. I am excited to be there. Yet, I am contemplating what to share and what not to share. Everyone seems to be nice. People seem to know that I am gay. Yet, I don’t see anything that resembles that it would be okay for me to disclose my sexual orientation publicly to a group of new teammates. I start to listen to people introduce themselves. I am five people away. Should I tell them, or should I not tell them? Acceptance, again no visibility.
iii. I am now a leader. I am visiting a school. Students know their pronouns. I hear a teacher addressed with different pronouns. The school has a PD schedule and has LGBTQIA+ training in it. The principal has an LGBTQIA+ pride flag in their office. Students are making a PSA about how to react appropriately to students coming out. I feel safe. I feel seen. I know I can be who I am. This is visibility.
Visibility and Acceptance. Those are two different types of experience that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and community experience in our society. However, many times, I’ve seen visibility and acceptance be used synonymously. And the reality is that they are two very different types of experiences that someone a part of the LGBTQIA+ community will experience.
As we launch into Pride Month, my call to action is this: What are you doing to ensure that LGBTQIA+ teachers and students feel seen? What are you doing to make everyone feel that they can be their authentic selves? What are you doing to ensure that you are not complacent with just acceptance? Actions and words go a long way. ALL of our students and leaders in KTX deserve to not have to question themselves as to whether their identity is good enough. They should know the moment they walk into a school building, district office, or any place in our regions, that being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community is celebrated. I look forward to visiting even more places with our school as we ensure that we have amazing brave and belonging spaces for our LGBTQIA+ community.
If you are reading this and would like to be a part of the KIPP Texas Team and Family, check out our careers page to learn how you can become a Big KIPPster at KIPP Texas!