I finally finished my piece of the adolescent development project. Yay. After all is said and done, I'm more pleased than displeased with my work, but that could just be a loss of perspective. One unexpected outcome of this project is that it is forcing our central office to at least consider sexual minority students. As I compiled my research on identity formation, it was my job to look at the impact that ethnicity, race and gender had on identity, but sexuality was an issue as well.
I sensed a little surprise and a little pushback when I got the first feedback on the draft of my powerpoint. In the last three years, our school system has committed to "courageous conversations" about "cultural competency," primarily in order to address the achievement gap. Sexual minorty is usually a neglected component of these conversations.
I teach in a middle school, and many people feel that kids who are only 11-14 years old are too young to be concerned about, much less engaged in any conversations about, sexuality. But the truth is, at that age, most kids who are gay, know it, and refusing to talk about it only reinforces their feeling of isolation. Unlike other minorities, gay kids don't usually come from gay families, and often they are afraid that not only will their families not understand and/or support them, but may even reject them because they're gay. Their peers use "gay" as a derogatory term, and in a time when fitting in is vital, their feelings about being gay are nothing they want to share with their friends. In many cases, gay middle school kids have no support at all during this crucial developmental period.
I think our school system should acknowledge that and do something about it.