Thursday, June 10, 2010
We have a winner in the category "news story least likely to come from my hometown." Two gay students were elected prom king and queen - of my high school.
It's a school in a sleepy little town at the foot of a majestic mountain range (come to think of it, not unlike South Park). (In oh so many ways...)
Back then, it was not a very safe place for LGBT students. I even remember a sympathetic teacher who encouraged us to literally flee that place in order to save our lives. We LGBT students got as far away from there as possible, as quickly as possible. Some left the moment they could. Others left a little bit sooner than that, opting to accelerate their studies, or to drop out entirely. Some left seeking more supportive communities, others simply wanted to be left alone and live somewhere - anywhere - free from bullying.
As I read this unlikely news story further, I learned that school administrators support the students, and that the town will celebrate it's first ever LGBT Pride event later in the month. It seems it only took forty one years for Stonewall pride to make it to my hometown.
Since I left that town, I've stayed in touch with a few of my high school friends. We've shared laughs and jokes, mostly at the expense of that place. We've thanked our lucky stars, good timing, and guardian angels for delivering us safely to new communities that embrace and welcome us.
I've also met many current college students, who tell tales of having lived in similar small towns, and attended similar high schools. Some of these students are sad or angry about the experiences they had. Many vow never to return, despite other strong ties that might draw them back - family, friends, a favorite hangout or pizza place or beautiful park or landmark. To all of them, I now say things can change. Sometimes it takes a long time - for instance, forty one years. But one day you may wake up to learn your sleepy little town is having a Pride parade, or electing LGBT students reigning monarchs of the prom. Congratulations, Charlie and Timmy, enjoy your victory, your upcoming graduation, and your very first hometown Pride parade!
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I refer students to Career Services all the time - it's a great place to explore options, consider goals, and tap in to great resources. Students frequently come to chat with me about all sorts of career goals they have - teacher, police officer, social worker, researcher, legislator, artist, veterinarian, entrepreneur, foreign service officer, health care provider, lawyer, scientist, and every once in awhile LGBT-specific jobs, too.
Over the years I have heard just about all of them...except one. College president. I realized today that never has a student described their intended career track as toward the eventual goal of becoming president of an institution of higher education. Sure, students have mentioned college presidents, wondered about them, pondered their many roles and responsibilities, admired them, and sometimes criticized them, but not a single student I know has ever shared that they aspire to become one.
Maybe that will all change someday soon. There are out gay and lesbian college presidents. Not very many...but they do exist. Twenty one, to be exact. And in August they'll meet together for the first time to identify common issues, opportunities and challenges, and barriers that can make it difficult for LGBT people to ascend to that upper level of higher education.
The meeting will take place in Chicago - home to three current out gay college presidents. Thinking about the possibility of one day becoming the L, G, B, or T president of a college or university? You'll be in good company. Read a bit about some of the current ones:
- Raynard Kington, incoming president of Grinnell College
- Ralph Hexter, Hampshire College
- Charles Middleton, Roosevelt University
- Carolyn Biddy Martin, University of Wisconsin at Madison (and formerly our neighbor when she served as provost of Cornell University)
- and see Dr. Kington accepting his new post, and in the process introduce his partner and young children