Tag Archive for LGBT

Niwot High’s ‘Diversity Day’ valuable experience

Niwot High Coat of Arms

After reading some comments and opinions from those who are disappointed in Niwot High School’s Diversity Day, I would like to applaud Niwot High School for it. The program schedule looked incredible – with discussions about living with cerebral palsy, the obesity epidemic, ageism, autism, and other discussions about religious, ethnic, cultural, and all kinds of other diversity. But two workshops of the forty-seven addressed sexual orientation and sexual identity, and those were the focus of the recent opinion letter under the headline “Niwot High Lost Trust With Diversity Day”. I would like to counter the disappointment expressed in that letter with my own gratitude.

Diversity Day programs in our schools are opportunities for students to learn about people who are not like the American majority. Our country is experienced very differently by religious, ethnic and racial minorities; by those who are economically disadvantaged or homeless; by those with physical or mental disabilities; and by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. It can only benefit students to hear those perspectives, which is exactly what Niwot High School offered with its Diversity Day.

In 2010 the anonymous Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) let us know how badly we are failing our LGBT students right here in the St. Vrain district. Nearly 10% of the 3,210 high school students surveyed identified as gay or lesbian in the survey. Of the students who identified as lesbian or gay, 35% had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 29% had planned it, and 20% had attempted suicide in the past year (compared to 11%, 9% and 4%, respectively, for their straight counterparts). The survey also indicated LGBT students didn’t know where to turn for help. Clearly, avoiding the issue and pretending these students don’t exist is not working. In a climate where LGBT students need to be silent about who they are in order to simply survive school, think how amazing it must have felt to be a closeted gay student hearing their experience discussed and validated at Niwot High School’s Diversity Day.

In the “Niwot High Lost Trust” opinion letter, the academic and instructional value of the event was called into question. I’ve been a high school teacher for fourteen years. Teachers can tell you that if a student feels excluded or unsafe they will have less buy-in to the whole school experience. Lack of buy-in impacts attendance, homework completion, participation in clubs and activities, and other markers which promote academic success. Students without buy-in will drop out of school in higher rates. They will join gangs, turn to drugs and alcohol, practice unsafe sex, contract HIV/AIDS, and to become pregnant. ALL of these things affect student achievement, school success and future success, so educating our students about how to be inclusive of everyone is truly at the heart of academic performance and success in school and in life.

Niwot High is taking brave steps in educating our students and preparing them for a world that includes all kinds of people – including LGBT people. I hope the example set by Niwot High School reaches far and wide.

Marriage Equality – a personal viewpoint

Ray John Rodriguez - Longmont, CO

Ray John Rodriguez - Longmont, CO

Open Letter to Governor Chris Christie and his Vote Against Marriage Equality:

Dear New Jersey Governor Chris Christie,

I am writing this open letter in the hopes that you or someone you know or someone who can vote in your state will read.

I remember watching you on Oprah’s Next Chapter where she shared dinner with you and your lovely wife and kids. What an engaging, thoughtful and charismatic man you proved to be to me. Today you vetoed the Marriage Equality bill that was passed by the New Jersey Legislature. I guess that’s politics for you.

As a young gay man from Longmont, Colorado, this issue is very important to me. I know that Marriage Equality is only one step in the right direction for full human equality, yet some may assume that Equality is a single issue. In fact they look down on it politically as such. When Marriage Equality affects every aspect of those who are in a loving family, explain to me how this is just one issue. Inheritance (yes if you die your life-long partner if not protected by marriage can be robbed of all that you earned together by distant relatives because the law doesn’t consider you anything more than a roommate), hospital visitation (imagine going to say goodbye and denied the last words together), employment (yes in America you can still be fired JUST for being gay), homelessness (if you are kicked out of your home by your parents because you are gay, 1 in 4 gay high school students face this reality). Explain to me how Equality is ONE issue.

While I respect people’s right to adhere to their private and personal religious values, there is a difference between that and having their religious values literally enforced on the rest of society by robbing rights of those who do not share their religion. In ten years when LGBT Equality is a reality, my husband and my children will look back at votes like yours the way people look at white supremists today. Definition of supremist: One who takes supreme authority for him/herself; one who believes in the supremacy of one race, sex, or social group.

Mr. Chris Christie, you believe only heterosexuals deserve Marriage. By definition that makes you a heterosexual supremist. It took one vote that affects the community in so many ways to paint you in such a dark light. In time, you might be deserving of another episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter. However right now, the way I feel for my gay brothers and sisters in New Jersey, you are but a footnote in Americas Timeline that needs to be elected out. I guess that’s politics for you. In the words of State Senator Pat Steadman, “…the kind that puts people in the back of the bus.”

Respectfully Yours,

Ray Rodriguez