June 21, 2022

You Are Probably Reading & Sharing LGBT Authors In Education

By Bellwether

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June, as I’m sure you know, is Pride Month owing to the anniversary of Stonewall. What’s especially good this year is that for the first time in three years Pride is happening without a lot of Covid disruptions, or at different times of the year in various communities because of Covid case loads. I was in Burlington, Vermont, last fall for a hockey tournament with one of my kids and there were Pride events because of Covid issues in June. It was great, but seemed different when the leaves were starting to turn.

Recently someone remarked that they didn’t see a lot of the work of gay writers passed around in the education sector. The remark was in the vein of, ‘when is the last time someone shared a gay writer?’ And in tone and context it was meant to suggest a lack of inclusion. It struck me as off. And as I thought about it, in some ways what’s happening today shows the opposite.

Why? Because I think you actually do see gay writers cited – a lot. They are writers who are openly gay and are often writing about a range of issues. That’s a good thing. In our current moment, which is a mash up of toxic social media, identity fixation, and shallow discourse we tend to view things in various boxes. If a writer, who identifies as LGBT, is not queer forward in all their writing people often don’t even realize they’re a gay writer.

No one should be squelched or closeted and I obviously encourage people to read and consume widely. My point is merely that it may be that progress obscures progress in this case. 

In that spirit, for Pride, here is a completely subjective and highly non-exhaustive list of LGBT voices in and around the education sector. Is it a little redundant with writers sometimes cited here? Yes, that’s kind of the point.

Morgan Polikoff comes to mind immediately in our sector as an influential academic who writes on a range of issues. He doesn’t hide that he’s gay – he’s a fun follow on Twitter – but he doesn’t lead with that when, say, writing about academic standards or public opinion.

In the same vein, Stephen Sawchuk a longtime fixture at Ed Week is diligent and a go-to on policy issues. He recently became an editor there. He has a keen eye for where the ball is going and is willing to take on complicated issues.

Beth Hawkins is one of my favorite journalists. A wonderful writer on education and also more generally. She’s a lesbian woman and writes about LGBT issues but also a wide range of issues – and you should follow her great work in The 74. Stuff like this essential reading on what’s happening in Minneapolis after the media world moved on.

More generally, Bari Weiss is covering a lot of education content from her perch at Substack. Her wife Nellie Bowles, also late of The New York Times, writes a newsletter on Friday’s that’s often laugh out loud funny and has a keen eye for education absurdity.

You might also read Jonathan Rauch who is one stop shopping on your middle age malaise and the value of liberalism. Josh Barro writes on a lot of issues adjacent to education. And obviously Andrew Sullivan, an incisive analyst and social critic. Sullivan’s recent book of essays is a fantastic tour of his unique career and perspective.

Both Rauch and Sullivan were influential in the effort to legalize gay marriage, it should be noted.

Katie Herzog is both quite funny and cuts to the quick – and also points out the absurdity of much of what passes for discourse, including around education. She writes for a few outlets, has a podcast, and guests on others.

And, while you’re here, I’d recommend Jamie Kirchick’s new book Secret City. If you’re a certain age you will definitely know people who lived closeted and limited lives because of onerous laws and norms. Often these were people committed to serving their country in the service, the national security community, or in other ways that were fraught at the time. There are some education parallels.

This Kirchick interview with Nick Gillespie of Reason is a good conversation.

There are also plenty of historic writers whose work influences education – Baldwin quite a bit of late. I wrote earlier this year about Zora Neale Hurston, she’s hardly the only one.

My point, besides that these are great people to follow, is that if you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen tremendous strides on inclusion in this country for LGBT Americans. Today the debate is whether uniformed cops should be allowed to march in Pride, a pretty stark reversal of the politics from a historical standpoint. The formal changes, the Lawrence, Obergefell, and Bostock,  cases, for instance, are noteworthy but so are the informal changes. There was a podcast last year with Sullivan, Kirchick, and Herzog. That would not have been a mainstream thing that long ago.

I’m not saying there are still not challenges, hate, nor that these writers, and many others not mentioned here, haven’t faced discrimination or other BS. That’s their story to tell.

Rather, my point is that one of those informal ways is the number of amazing and gay writers now in plain sight so much as to be unremarkable or easily overlooked to both a casual observer or someone looking to make a particular point. In a broad way, that’s inclusion. 

Happy Pride.

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