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social sciences

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Until recently, the dismissal or transfer of transgender teachers who transitioned was the rule rather than the exception, but that is no longer necessarily the case.

William McBeth's sex change operation in 2005 initially caused quite a stir in Eagleswood Township, New Jersey. Parents crowded into a school board meeting, both to support and denounce her hiring, but by the time McBeth obtained another job in a different district seven months later, the community had gotten used to her and to the idea of a transgender teacher in the classroom.

Sponsor Message.

David Nielson, a librarian at Southwest High School in Minneapolis, started living as a woman in 1998 and showed up at school one day as Debra Davis. She was sued by a co-worker who objected to Davis using the women's restroom, but the claim was eventually rejected by an appeals court.

Davis says the suddenness of her transformation startled many people into behaving badly, but she says the students were wonderful and supportive.

In some cases, restrictions are placed on individuals who transition. In Illinois, for example, Deanna Reed, a principal who transitioned from a man to a woman, kept her job, but the school board required her to devise a plan for informing all members of the school community.

The problems of transgender teachers stem from the fact that most school officials lack an adequate understanding of transgender issues.

But the employment issues actually are not difficult. As Jillian Todd Weiss, an assistant professor of law and society at Ramapo College in New Jersey, who transitioned in 1998, five years before she began teaching, says, "This is about how we treat people in the workplace in a civil society. It's not about acceptance although that would be nice. It's about law and policy, which states that it's illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of gender."


In the new century, glbtq teacher activism has increased. Teachers' unions and organizations such as GLSEN, as well as many individual educators, are working to improve the climate for glbtq teachers in the nation's classrooms.

However, many parents and boards of education still resist the hiring of openly gay and lesbian teachers and attempt to keep any mention of homosexuality out of the curriculum. Many school libraries fail to house resources that glbtq students need, and in many schools gender nonconformity is seen as deviant behavior.

In short, much remains to be done. Given the obstacles faced by glbtq teachers, their persistence in the profession bespeaks their dedication to improving the lives of their students through education and the joy they find in teaching.

Victoria Shannon

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anti-discrimination Statutes and Ordinances

Anti-discrimination statutes and ordinances have made a real difference in the lives of millions of glbtq individuals.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization in the United States dedicated to creating safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay Rights Movement, U. S.

The U.S. gay rights movement has made significant progress toward achieving equality for glbtq Americans, and in the process has become more inclusive and diverse, but much remains to be done.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay-Straight Alliances

Gay-straight alliances are youth-led, school- or community-based groups designed to assist glbtq students, children from glbtq families, and heterosexual students who want to be allies of their glbtq peers.

social sciences >> Overview:  McCarthyism

McCarthyism, which attempted in the late 1940s and early 1950s to expunge Communists and fellow travelers from American public life, made homosexuals the chief scapegoats of the Cold War.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Right

The New Right, which emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century, combines evangelical Christian morality with a political agenda in opposition to glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Organized Labor

Early in the gay rights movement activists challenged organized labor to broaden its struggle against discrimination to include sexual identity; consequently labor unions became some of the first mainstream organizations to call for equal rights.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sex Education

Sex education programs are vulnerable to the attempts of religious radicals to hijack the sex education movement as a means of disseminating their own repressive blend of intolerance and fear.

social sciences >> Overview:  Student Organizations

In a little more than thirty years, the number of glbtq student organizations has grown from a handful found at large universities to several thousand spread throughout the country to nearly all college campuses.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Issues in Education

Transgender people are becoming increasingly visible at secondary and post-secondary schools; if institutions are to be welcoming to people of all genders, issues of discrimination and equal access to facilities and health care need to be addressed.

social sciences >> Overview:  Workplace Discrimination

Although work remains to be done, the expansion of protection from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation stands as one of the significant accomplishments of the American lesbian and gay civil rights movement.

social sciences >> ACLU LGBT & AIDS Project

For more than four decades, the ACLU has been at the forefront of litigation and education designed to secure glbtq rights on a variety of fronts.

social sciences >> Bryant, Anita

Former beauty queen, popular singer, and orange juice pitchwoman, Anita Bryant became the poster-girl for homophobia in the late 1970s; her name continues to be a byword for bigotry.

social sciences >> Gay Activists Alliance

An important organization of the early post-Stonewall era, the Gay Activists Alliance, which flourished from 1969 to 1974, strove to give gay men and lesbians visibility in American politics.

social sciences >> Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)

New England's leading legal organization dedicated to equal justice for glbtq individuals and families, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) provides litigation, advocacy, and educational work in all areas of glbtq civil rights.

social sciences >> Jennings, Kevin

Kevin Jennings transformed his anger at bullying and gay bashing in schools into founding the first national organization to address the homophobia experienced by glbtq youth in schools.

social sciences >> Kinsey, Alfred C.

The most important sex researcher of the twentieth century, Alfred C. Kinsey contributed groundbreaking studies of male and female sexual behavior in America.

social sciences >> Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

The largest glbtq legal advocacy group in the United States, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund has been fighting for the civil rights of queer Americans and people with HIV/AIDS for over three decades.

social sciences >> Milk, Harvey

Harvey Milk, among the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the United States, was assassinated in San Francisco's City Hall, making him the American gay liberation movement's most visible martyr.

social sciences >> National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

The oldest continuously operating national glbtq interest group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has played a significant role in the development of the glbtq movement for equal rights.

social sciences >> Takano, Mark

In 2012, Mark Takano, a Japanese American from Riverside, California, became the first openly gay person of color to be elected to the United States House of Representatives.


Blount, Jackie M. Fit to Teach: Same-Sex Desire, Gender, and School Work inthe Twentieth Century. Albany, N. Y.: State University of New York Press, 2005.

Bonauto, Mary L. Overview of the Rights of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Teachers. New York: GLSEN, 1994.

Garber, Linda. Tilting the Tower: Lesbians Teaching Queer Subjects. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Harbeck, Karen M. Coming Out of the Classroom Closet: Gay and Lesbian Students, Teachers and Curricula. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1992.

_____. Gay and Lesbian Educators: Personal Freedoms, Public Constraints. Malden, Mass.: Amethyst Press, 1997.

Jackson, Janna M. Unmasking Identities: An Exploration of the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Teachers. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Jennings, Kevin, ed. One Teacher in 10: Gay and Lesbian Educators Tell Their Stories. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1994.

Khayatt, Madiha Did. Lesbian Teachers: An Invisible Presence. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Kissen, Rita M. The Last Closet: The Real Lives of Lesbian and Gay Teachers. Portsmouth, N. Y.: Heinemann, 1996.

Mintz, Beth, and Esther D. Rothblum. Lesbians in Academia: Degrees of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Sanlo, Ronni L. Unheard Voices: The Effects of Silence on Lesbian and Gay Educators. Westport, Conn.: Bergin & Garvey, 1999.

Strengthening the Learning Environment: A School Employee's Guide to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues. 2nd. ed. New York: National Education Association, 2006.

Woog, Dan. School's Out: The Impact of Gay and Lesbian Issues on America's Schools. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: Teachers  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated October 11, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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