Can an educator show their Pride? Supporting LGBTQ+ families and professionals

One educator’s story with tips and resources for Pride month. By Linse Sullivan.

I am monitoring lunch time, opening fruit snacks and talking with students. A kindergartener comes up to me and asks, “are you a boy or a girl?”

While colleagues rush over with apologies and admonitions, I love that question. Kids are curious, and so am I – why do you wonder that? Is it because of my haircut, my clothes, my interactions? It’s the beginning of a rich conversation on gender roles and expectation, and all I did was show up to work.

Author Linse Sullivan teaching an early childhood music class.

LGBTQ+ issues in the United States

LGBTQ+ issues impact the 8-10% of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and more. In the United States, this percentage represents at least 20 million people. We also know:

My experience as a queer educator

As an elementary school music teacher, I have taught hundreds of students, received “highly effective” on my evaluations, and led many successful community events and concerts. Students and I learn and laugh together, and make life-changing music in the process.

However, as a trans and nonbinary queer* educator, I often feel like my job accomplishments are overshadowed by fear and ignorance.

Do families or community stakeholders see me as an asset, or as a danger?

Can I share my skills and experiences, or will I be asked to “stick to the facts?”

Will I be protected against attacks based on my identity, or will I be sacrificed to public opinion?

Limited workplace protections

In the United States, I am not yet fully protected against job discrimination because of my gender identity. Dress codes and “professional” behavior based on gender and racial stereotypes are linked to my job evaluation. Finally, recent anti-LGBTQ+ laws may seem shocking to some, but these are just the next attempt to codify the violence and dehumanization of people like me – and I feel my colleagues’ silence on the matter deeply.

For trans folks of color or people with other intersecting identities, these questions become more pressing, and the answers more disappointing.

Will I be protected against attacks, or will I be sacrificed to public opinion?

Ultimately, this journey has led to a reimagining of my teaching career. Now I live in a new state where I am closer to my family and employed by the comparatively LGBTQ+ friendly field of higher education.  Online, I see glimpses of the future: queer professionals sharing their successes and challenges, whether they are transitioning, teaching about LGBTQ+ history and culture, or just living their lives. These small moments of joy remind me that our stories are still progressing – that there is still hope.

Next steps for allies

By sharing my story and the following resources, I hope that caregivers and professionals find the courage to show up for their gender-expansive and queer family, children, friends, and coworkers.

I invite people to explore how race, language, health status, and other identities can create a unique experience for LGBTQ+ folks. For example, my life as a white trans person is very different from the potential experience of a trans woman of color.


There are many things parenting educators and other family support professionals can do to support LGBTQ+ community members, youth, family, and coworkers:

*I use the term queer to describe myself, understanding that not everyone prefers this term. I suggest asking people how they identify and following their lead. Watch “Tyler Ford Explains What Queer Means” (3:39) to learn more about the history and power around the word queer. 

Reposted from with author permission.

Learn more about the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and read our blog!

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