S11 E17 Jeannie Gainsburg Discusses LGBTQ+ Inclusion and Allyship in Education
8:41PM Jan 25, 2024
Hi friends, it's Tim Villegas from the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education and you've hit play on thinking cluesive. Our podcast that brings you conversations about inclusive education and what inclusion looks like in the real world. What do you think it means to be an ally? I know that sometimes, I have not been the best ally to disability communities, and LGBTQIA plus communities, there is still so much for me to learn, which is why the conversation with our guests this week, I think will be very helpful to us. Jeanne Gainsbourg is an advocate, author, educational trainer, and consultant in the field of LGBTQ plus inclusion and effective allyship. She is the founder of savvy ally action, a small business that offers fun, accessible and encouraging workshops, and videos on how to be an ally to the LGBTQ plus communities. Before forming the company. She spent 15 years working for the out Alliance, the LGBTQ plus Center in Rochester, New York. Jeanne and I discuss our personal journeys to becoming allies, and the importance of disability and LGBTQ plus inclusion. Jeanne shares her experiences and insights on how to be an effective ally, including tips for respectful conversations and using gender neutral language. We also discussed the evolving nature of LGBTQ plus initialisms and the significance of pronouns and creating inclusive spaces. Before we get to our interview today, I wanted to connect the dots between disability and LGBTQ plus communities. For some of you, it totally will be obvious but for others, you may be wondering, why are we covering the topic of LGBTQ plus inclusion at all? So I want to share something with you from the Human Rights Campaign. LGBTQ plus people are more likely to be disabled than non LGBTQ plus people. The duality of their identities as LGBTQ plus and disabled increases the amount of discrimination and bias they face in their daily lives, at school, at the doctor's, or at work. The barriers disabled LGBTQ plus people face start early in life. Disabled, LGBTQ plus youth are bullied in school at elevated rates, which can lead to adverse outcomes such as dropping out of school, and in healthcare settings disabled LGBTQ plus people face higher risk of discrimination than both their cisgender and heterosexual peers with disabilities and their LGBTQ plus peers without disabilities, which can cause them to avoid care and lead to unmet health needs and greater health risks. Disabled LGBTQ plus people are also more likely to face adverse economic outcomes such as poverty, due to earning less for equal work, facing higher unemployment or lacking access to inclusive workplace benefits. Taking together these troubling trends that serve as a call to action for educators, service providers, health care professionals and employers to create more inclusive environments for disabled, LGBTQ plus people throughout life in all spaces of daily living. After the break my interview with Jeanne Gainsbourg and for free time this week, I have a bonus conversation with Taslan Magnussen from Penn America, who chats with me about the troubling trend of book banning in the United States were overwhelmingly the book bans target books on race, or racism, or featuring characters of color as well as books with LGBTQ plus characters.
Jeanne Gainsbourg Welcome to the thinking cluesive podcast.
Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
A lot of people asked me, Tim, why is disability and inclusion advocacy important to you? And what I say is I don't feel like I have a very good answer for you because I went to private school. I wasn't exposed to anything like special education or even the concept of inclusive education until college until I started training as a teacher. And my parents aren't educators. I have a cousin with a developmental disability does civility and inclusion. And also, as we're going to talk about LGBTQIA, inclusion, it's just something that was maybe present but wasn't emphasized. And the biggest reason why I do this work and why I'm so glad to talk with people like you is that once I got into schools, and I realized, wow, there there are people right now, because they are different from the mainstream and quote unquote, normal. They're being discriminated against. They're being separated, they're being treated differently, and not in a good way. And that just seems so like an injustice. Right? And so when I read the preface of your book, almost like, wow, Gina, you didn't have a connection to this community, it was the same sort of thing. You came to it a different way. So help us understand that
there are so many similarities in our stories. You're correct about that, Tim? So let me just start by saying, Hi, everyone. My name is Jeannie, my pronouns are she her and hers. My story is very similar to yours in that I grew up in a pretty straight cisgender world. I mean, of course, I didn't, but I mean, as far as people being out, you know, like I graduated from high school in 1981. And there wasn't a single out LGBTQ plus person graduating alongside of me now later in life, I found out that I had tons of friends who were part of the communities but just didn't know it. In college was the first time that I met out folks who were part of the communities. And despite that, I always just felt like LGBTQ plus inclusion was a no brainer. I grew up in a very liberal household in New Jersey, where the word gay wasn't considered a naughty word. For example, like my parents would just talk about gay as as they would any other word. So there was no shame or secrecy around it. And I just never could really understand why people got their panties in such a bunch over people being LGBTQ plus, I didn't do anything about that, however, and part of that was what you're talking about Tim's I didn't have any connection into the community. There was no one in my family who identified as part of the LGBTQ plus communities, I had no close friends, and I wasn't even sure I'd be welcome in the movement. As an ally. I didn't even know the word ally, to be honest, back then, when I was younger, not in that context, in the social justice context, that that may seem strange for people now, because it's so such a common word. And we all understand what it means. But at the time, there really wasn't a that word was I wasn't aware of that word. I wasn't sure there'd be a role for me to play. So it took me a long time to become actively involved as an LGBTQ plus ally.
But you said that you didn't have a connection. So what was the thing that that really propelled you into this work?
So a couple things came together around the year 2003, which was the year that I looked up the word gay in the phone book and picked up the phone and called our local LGBTQ plus Center here in Rochester, New York and asked if I could volunteer, some of those things were, I had two young children that had started school and my older one is a boy. And he was in I think, maybe like first or second grade at that point. And I was really disappointed with what I was hearing him coming home and sharing with me about like, what the kids were teasing each other about, along the lines of like the boys being gay because they chose to wear a pink shirt, or they liked playing on the swings. Instead of playing soccer. I was like, I appalled, like, really, like we are still here. I was shocked. Because of course, that was the climate when I went to school, you know, decades ago. So that was the first thing that really made me feel like I maybe need to get involved here. The second thing was that marriage equality was in the news. And in my ignorance, I really didn't know what there was for me to do, as an ally, like nothing ever stood out to me is like, Oh, I couldn't get involved in this, I had no idea. And again, it was ignorance on my part, not knowing what role I could play or not even seeing the prejudice and the discrimination and the lack of even legal rights for LGBTQ plus folks. But in marriage equality was the first thing that I caught hold of and was like, oh, here is actually an issue that I can get involved in. So that was also happening around that time. And then finally, I was reading this book that my husband had bought me for my 40th birthday, on the women who have fought, who fought in the past for my right to vote as a woman. And I was doing this thing that I tend to do when I read history, which is putting myself back in that time period and thinking like how would I have behaved if I had lived back then I don't know if you do this, but I tend to be like what I have known right from wrong if I had grown up in this way. And I had of course convinced myself that I would be marching right alongside all those amazing women and it suddenly hit me that I was being so hypocritical because I'm like here I felt strongly about LGBTQ plus inclusion my whole life, I haven't done a thing about it. And this is happening in my lifetime. So that really was the catalyst for calling the what at the time was called the Gay Alliance, which was our local LGBTQ plus center, not a super inclusive name. We ended up changing it later. But I called and asked if I could volunteer 2003. I volunteered there for two years. And after that, they hired me on a staff I ended up staying with that agency for 15 years and just like learned so much and met the most amazing people really launched me into what has now become a career as an ally to the LGBTQ plus communities, you
mentioned that you weren't sure that the community was going to accept you. So how do you feel now? Or how did you know that you were accepted?
I went to the very first thing I went to was a speaker's bureau training, they were revamping their speaker's bureau. And when I called to ask if I could volunteer, they said, please come to this weekend long training on how to be a speaker. I was a terrible public speaker at the time very nervous speaker and I wasn't even sure they were going to allow me at this thing. Really, I was like, once they find out, I'm not part of the communities, are they going to ask me to go home, I was so scared. And one of the very first activities we had to do was pull something out of the hat, it was a scenario and talk about it in front of the group. This was our like our opening exercise. And the scenario that I pulled was coming out out in the workplace. And I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I'm right there, assuming everybody in the room is part of the community. I'm so busted. And so I just sat there like sweating, and like, you know, nervous and it was might when was my turn to walk up there. I got up there. And I said, I, this is what I'm being asked to talk about. I can't talk about this, because I'm not part of the LGBTQ plus communities. So what I'm going to talk about is what it was like, like getting ready to come to this meeting, not knowing anyone and how scared I was. And I just like, well, I just made myself vulnerable and told them all who I was and said, It's okay, if you want me to leave, but I think I have something to offer. And I hope you let me stay. And it was just this, you know, just this dump of like, stream of consciousness worries and, and when I was done, I was heading back to my chair, and a woman reached out and grabbed my hand and held on to it and looked me in the eye and said, You truly belong here, I'm getting choked up just thinking about it. And that was it. I was like I belong there. Like it was so clear. And everyone was so welcoming. And so kind held my hand when I needed it, thank me for being there. I mean, I got so much hand holding from the LGBTQ plus communities. And honestly, the work that I do now. And the book that I wrote, which I know we're gonna be talking about is almost, it almost feels like a gift that I can give back to this community of people that was so incredibly welcoming to me,
I certainly don't have a story. That's so vivid. But especially when I started the podcast back in 2012, and started writing, I learned early on that hearing from disabled people directly as writing blog posts, or interviewing people and hearing their stories. Those are the true experts in disability. When I started teaching as a special education teacher. Anything that I learned about disability was in books. And it wasn't until I started actually interacting with the disabled community that I was like, oh, they'd have a different perspective about certain things. The other connection I wanted to make is that I did not think about LGBTQ plus inclusion until I started interacting with the disabled community because there is so much intersectionality. And so for me as a person who grew up very religious, and had to really reframe and rethink some of the things that I was taught, I had to be like, if I am in this community, I really have to figure out what that means for me. And so very much glad to be on the other side of that. But I guess my point is that I didn't know that I was accepted until disabled people started to say, thank you for featuring our stories. Thank you for making sure that you are not speaking for us and that you don't feature yourself as a disability expert. So I think that for me, it's it's always been about trying to get people that don't have my perspective, to share that with other people on to really build bridges between what can be very siloed communities. Absolutely.
I feel that and that balance is tricky. I think that as we I elevate the LGBTQ plus voices. And the way that I do that is in my book, I just share tons of stories of people from the community sharing their stories. But that balance is important because I also think that allied allied conversations are so critical. So, you know, white folks should be talking with other white folks about racial justice, right straight says people should be talking with other straight sis people about, you know, ways that we can be allies to the community, and non disabled folks should be educating non disabled folks. And there's a there's a great reason. I mean, there's reasons for that, obviously. But I think we do we create those, those bridges between the communities. I also think that people are really fearful of talking with someone from a marginalized community, especially when they're first starting as an ally, they're so scared that they're going to say something, mess up, use a wrong term, use an outdated word. And I think there's real parallels there with the disabled communities and the LGBTQ plus communities around people just being silenced by their fear of, you know, saying or doing something accidentally offensive. And I think that's a great role for allies, I think it's almost a better role for allies to step in and create these spaces where people can ask their questions without feeling like they're going to be judged, you know, or, or ask questions without worrying that someone in the room is going to be offended. Because you're someone like them, and you probably started where they started. So I agree, I think that's a, it's a tough balance that we need to always be aware of, I'm trying to always be aware of that. When people ask me to do certain workshops, I'm like, that's really not my role. Like, you need to go to the trans communities and find, you know what I mean, like, but then there are other places where I'm like, Yes, that's my role you're looking at how to be I'll share some tips on how to be an ally. So I think both of those things are really important. And finding that balance is just going to be probably an ongoing, lifelong journey for both of us.
Absolutely, absolutely. Well, let's get into some of the content in the book. So the book is called the CIT, the savvy ally. And why don't we why don't we just talk about acronyms first, because as as you can see, they're not always the easiest, and they don't roll off the tongue. Maybe people are listening and, you know, they really are starting at, you know, zero. What do all the acronyms mean? And, you know, what about other acronyms like ay ay and all that other stuff.
Yeah, so let me start by sharing a little a little savvy ally tip. You are not alone and thinking that LGBTQ plus is an acronym. It's actually an initialism. Because an acronym is has to be when the initial spell out a word like Mothers Against Drunk Driving MADD, so but you're not alone. Like I think I see it written as an acronym more than I see it written as an initialism. But, you know, just a little for those of you who are like word nerds that would be
no, no, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. And now I'm never going to No, never get it. Forget that. But okay, so that is a that's a new, that's a new vocab word for me. Yeah.
So the LGBTQ plus initialism let me start by saying that at least here in upstate New York, the last time I saw the whole thing written out it was LGBTQ Q Ay ay ay to SPP, and growing. So it's really, really long. In some ways, it's problematic because you, you just can't rattle that off your tongue. Like when I run workshops, I can't say that every time I'm talking about the communities. So most people have tried to reduce that in a way that's a little bit more user friendly, and shorter, and is also still respectful. So that gets to the next point, which is that there's no right answer here as far as like which of the many initialisms should someone use? I know that in the US, one of the most popular ones at this point is LGBTQ plus, which is what I ended up using in my book and in my workshops, and that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, the Q can stand for queer or questioning, sometimes you'll see two Q's. The plus to me is really what makes this so respectful because the plus is there not to diminish any of the letters or identities that didn't get included. It's there to bring attention to the fact that there are so many other folks who fall under the LGBTQ plus umbrella. Now, you mentioned the IMBA, which we are also starting to see I know in Canada, they've included the eye the A and the two s for Two Spirit. The eyes stands for intersex. The A interestingly, back in 2003, when I first started the A actually stood for ally, which is weird if you think about it, because by definition, an ally is not part of the community. Right? We're part of the movement so very bizarre, but over the last two decades, it has shifted And you can be sure it when you see the A today it stands for a sexual agender that asexual communities. So you'll you're just seeing, you know, people will include what they think is important, you'll see different versions of this, there's no right answer as to which one you should use my best recommendation for you, especially if you're in a school district, which I know a lot of folks that are listening in or are part of school districts or educators, I would recommend that you go to your experts, your your experts have in the in the area, which tends to be our GSAs. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term GSA, it used to stand for gay straight alliance, and more often, it now stands for gender and sexuality Alliance, but it's basically that student club that is there to support LGBTQ plus students and allies. And those folks are probably your experts. So go there and find out what initialism they're using, and then try and have some consistency within your school district. But another tip, and again, this is just I think there's so many parallels with the with the community of disabled folks, is to mirror the terms that you're hearing. So, you know, I know that in disability communities, there's a lot of conversation around do we use person first language or not? Right. And of course, mirroring terms is ideal, like listen to how people are referring to themselves, and mirror those terms, such a respectful way to be. So the same is true with the initialism. Like, if you're having a conversation with someone in the community, and you hear them using, you know, a certain term or a certain initialism, probably the best way to go is to mirror that during that conversation with them.
That's a That's a great tip. Yeah. And I think that there really are so many parallels. It's the reason why I typically prefer to use disabled, you know, referencing people as disabled, because the people that I've spoken with in the in our community, prefer that language or to use autistic instead of with autism. But certainly, when I speak with a person who prefers using the term with autism, that is how I will refer to them. Yeah, because that is how they would prefer to be referred to so. So many parallels.
Yeah. And you find that like, the word queer, for example, is a great example of a word that some people absolutely love. It's, it's their word. That's their word of empowerment. And there's other people who hate that word and would be incredibly offended if you use that word to refer to them or their community. So I always say like, I use the word queer with caution. I never, I never use it unless I hear someone referring to themselves or their loved ones using queer and then I absolutely will use it because that's their word. So similar to what you're saying.
Anything else we need to know about initialisms?
They're constantly growing, so don't get too comfortable. I always say like, for now, because like, who knows what that's gonna look like in 10 years. The only thing I want to put out there into the world is that I, I always giggle when people say like, why are there so many terms like enough already, I'm like, we need so many more terms, to be honest, like, so. One of the terms that we need is a word like queer, that doesn't offend anyone. So one word that means the entire LGBTQ plus communities. But that's not offensive. So it's one of the things I love about queer is that it gets away from that huge initialism it's very concise. But again, there's people who don't like that word. So I wouldn't use that. But I feel like we need a term for the entire communities, rather than this ongoing growing, ever changing initialism, which includes some folks and not others. And so yeah, there's a right yeah. We also need a gender neutral word for sir. And there's all sorts of new words we need, folks. Yeah, I
do want to I do want to get into that. Well, why don't we go there first, because you brought it up about, like gender neutral language. I mean, just this just happened a few months ago, we were out with some relatives at dinner. And they certainly aren't against the LGB t Q. Plus community, but the question of using the pronoun they was like, Well, why, you know, like, what's the deal with they like, like, that's just sounds weird. And so I just remember saying, well, it really, it really doesn't, you just have to use it. You know, and you use them all the time. You just don't think about it. Unless unless you do. And then it sounds weird. So how do we? How should we think about, especially in schools, as educators are, you know, talking to students talking to families? Should like just gender neutral language be the norm? Should we just normalize that as opposed to, you know, boys and girls, sirs, and Madams, ladies and gentleman, stuff like that?
So yes, and no, I think when it comes to avoiding words like boys and girls, absolutely, because we've got a great word students, students doesn't offend anybody, right? Parents and guardians, instead of mother and father, these are really inclusive ways that you can make sure that you're referring to all families and all kids, right. So if you've got a non binary parent, or a non binary student, or two moms as parents, you're, you know, not being inclusive by saying Mother and Father bring this home to your mom and dad. And again, students is more inclusive than then boy and girl. But when it comes to pronouns, that gets a little tricky, because those are personalized to us. They're more like titles, if you think about titles, you know, Mr. Ms. Mrs. There is a gender neutral title mix, but we all have our personal thing. It's as personal as a name. So I'm just going to, like put a caveat out here. This is my personal opinion. I know there are some people who think that across the board, we should refer to everyone using the pronoun they, unless we absolutely know their pronoun. I don't think so I'd like let me just say, I think, I hope that someday we'll live in a world where we can do that, like, that would be the goal for me and I, but I don't think we're there yet. I think we live in such a binary world that we will offend so many people, by referring to them using the pronoun, they mean, a lot of them are gonna be like, What are you taught? You know, a lot of people aren't even familiar with that. So when it comes in a context, like a situation where you know absolutely nothing about someone, I would say, yes, use that. In fact, it's now considered grammatically correct. It's, it's in many dictionaries as a singular pronoun. So for example, if you're writing the sentence and an email, you know, if a student is late to school, they must bring in a note from their parent or guardian, that's a great way to use singular they, because you don't know anything about that student, you're talking about it. That generic student, right. But when you're talking about actual people, I think using the for everyone is we're not ready for that option yet. So that puts us in a really awkward position, which is where we're at right now, which is we have to sort of fumble through the world, either asking people or finding out ways to allow people giving people the opportunity to share their pronouns if they want to, and occasionally making educated guesses. And I don't know how much detail you want me to go into here? I have a whole chapter in my book on how to share gather, respectfully used pronouns and mess them up?
Well, I think so. I think as it relates to the school context, because the, you know, another kind of personal story, when I used to work in the school district, and then there was a family who had a child and their, their pronouns, were they, and they weren't they just a year ago, the, the, like, how, how do we prepare schools and educators and and create inclusive spaces where that is okay. To be risk. I mean, it seems so silly, but we need to be respectful of the learners that are in our schools, even if, you know, we think it's even if we don't agree, even if we don't think it's silly, or if a colleague thinks a certain way, and I mean, my, my hope is that if people listen to this conversation, that they think differently about, you know, how to create inclusive spaces, so that if a learner does use a pronoun like they that you know, it, it will be okay. Like the world's not going to end. Yes.
So, what state are you in? Did I hear Georgia? Am I right with that?
I'm in Georgia, our organization is in Maryland, and we certainly have listeners all around the country.
Okay, so I'm coming to you from New York State and get answer your question. I think the best way to handle this is if your education state education department will put out some guidelines which is What happened in New York state. So we have guidelines in place specifically around this topic, creating inclusive schools for transgender students. And it is a requirement for New York State educators and school professionals to use the pronoun and name that a student is asking you to use. So that that's the expectation in New York. Now, does that happen across the board? Of course not. But that, that that is there. And so the state has teachers backs, and they also can help educate others that this is the expectation, regardless of your personal opinion about, for example, the pronoun they. But I also want to address how you were saying that, you know, people think it's so hard, they can't do it. One of the things that I like to give an example of using singer they, a lot of times, we don't even realize we're using singer they I've been using in my whole life, I had no idea. So for example, if I give a workshop and everybody clears out, and there's a phone left on one of the tables, I'm unlikely to say, Oh, someone left his or her phone, I hope he or she gets it back. I'm going to say someone left their phone, I hope they get it back. I know, it's one person who left that phone, I just use singular de because I didn't know the gender of the person. As I mentioned, it's now considered grammatically correct because it's in several dictionary, specifically as a singular pronoun. So this is it's not, I'm not gonna say it's easy. But yes, folks, we can do it, it's just a matter of paying a little bit more attention. Practicing. Some tips that I have for getting singular they right are too, you know, if you've got one student, for example, who uses singular they, anyone who knows anything about retention, and like tricks for retaining information is that you sort of need that backup early on. So when you first learn a student's new pronoun, put it someplace where you're going to see it over and over throughout the day. So you've got that reminder, because we lose things really quickly, when we don't have that repeated. Note, whatever that is, you know, printed in your calendar or whatever, wherever you're going to look. So there are some really simple things that we can do to use singular day and get good at it. Someone a friend of mine who uses singular, they recommended that I practice on my pet, which I thought was hilarious, but worked so well. I have a cat named Carlos. And I think he uses he him pronouns, who actually knows. But for a while, I was referring to Carlos using the day and I got I got so good at it. I was all day long. It was Carlos, where are they? I just fed them, aren't they hungry. And Carlos did not seem to mind as long as I remember to feed him on time. So that's a great tip right there. Because if you don't have someone in your life, who use a singular day, you don't get a chance to practice it. And then it is really hard. So
that's a great idea. If you have someone in your life that used particularly, you know, gendered pronouns, he him, she her, and then now uses us the singular pronoun they, it can be very difficult to remember. And it's not because you're trying to be disrespectful. Right? Right. Absolutely. So those are some really great tips, I think, thanks. What about, like, at the beginning of our conversation, you used your pronouns. And so I genuinely, I typically don't you know, if I'm giving an interview, or if I'm introducing myself to anyone, I typically don't know if the expectation is there. Like if I'm speaking in a conference, or if I know I'm in a particular space or community that that's the expectation to to say your pronouns, then I will, and I have no problem with that. But should we just be getting used to using them all the time? Or is that a case by case basis? What do you think? I
think there are some really great ways to gather and share pronouns. We don't give a lot of tools information on this, which is why I wrote that whole chapter on pronouns. Yeah, so someone like myself, if you're, if you're not getting a visual of me during this podcast interview, I'm someone who moves to the world and people just automatically assume my pronouns are she and her like, I don't think I've ever once in my life, had someone use the wrong pronoun for me. So some people might think that's reason enough, not for me to share for me not to share my pronouns, like it's their obvious why should I share them? Every time I share my pronouns, what I'm doing is I'm normalizing the behavior for people who have to share their pronouns in order for people to get them right like folks whose pronouns aren't necessarily obvious. And so I'm, I'm helping to create a culture where this becomes the norm. And to answer your question, there are times when I do it that are really really simple. We can all do and I think are great ally actions. So when we're on, for example, a Zoom meeting, you know, just add your pronouns to your to your name, which is very easily done. And I can't tell you how wonderful it is when I'm doing a zoom book talk, for example, and I just see the sea of faces with names. And pronouns, I'm like, every single person here is telling me how I can respectfully refer to them. It's incredible. There's no awkward ask because people are just putting it right out there, it's an easy way to do it. In fact, if you make it part of your name originally, it'll just pop up in every Zoom meeting, you don't have to plug it in every time. Adding to your email, contacts, love it, again, really helpful when you're having communication with someone over email, and you have no idea how to refer to them respectfully, these are just some simple things that we can do that avoid that awkward ask. But I think there are what I call big system opportunities to allow people to share their pronouns if they want to. And so please hear my language here. I'm not saying we're going to set up situations where everybody has to share their pronouns. I think people have good reasons why they might not want to share their pronouns, they should always be optional. But what we're doing is we're setting up opportunities for anyone who wants to share. And that's to me the ideal way because it avoids having to single someone out who like you're not quite sure, right? So if we, if we create systems where, let's say you're, we're looking or talking a lot about school districts, let's say on your application form for a new student to join your school, you've got you know, name for the parents and guardians, hopefully not mother and dad, hopefully, we've moved on to move past that. Parents and guardians, hey, let's even add like, you know, maybe three, I'd love to hear I am doing my education. But you know, realizing that not everyone is coupled, not all families are only two. But you know, you've got your sections there for people to write in their names, also have an optional section for pronouns, and the same for the student. And we're asking everyone, right, we're not singling anybody out. So that would be a great way to gather pronouns respectfully from everyone who wants to share, I know a lot of teachers at the beginning of a semester will hand out a getting to know you form. Another ideal place to have an optional section for pronouns, it's, it's not something you're asking the students publicly so you're not putting anyone on the spot, but you're giving everyone the opportunity who wants to share. So these are, these are ways that help avoid having to ask now to get at those situations where we might have to ask when we're one on one, like we are here today. Now I happen to know your emails, your pronouns, because I believe you put it in your email i right away, grab that I was like, okay, he hands so I know how to refer to you if I'm talking about you. But when we're having an interview like this one on one, there's no need to use pronouns. I don't even I will never use a pronoun, because we use the gender neutral pronoun, you and we, right, so it's only when I'm talking about, you're referring to you that I need to use the pronoun so when we're one on one, we don't even really need to know someone's pronoun. So there's actually we're, it's, so we're what we're starting to do is pick away at those times when we actually have to make that awkward ask. But whenever we share our pronouns, or like, if you can, if you can picture for example, like a work event, where every single person is walking around with their soda or their wine in their hand and talking and they all have a name tag, and they've all had their pro added their pronouns. We're gonna nail it every time. Like, so simple. Yeah. So that's a little bit about, you know,
yeah, yeah. So we have, we have like a farmers market in our town. And sometimes there's art vendors and stuff like that. And I've seen where there's pins, you know, people have created like, really artful and wonderful and beautiful pins. That with pronouns, yeah. And also with identities. So, you know, LGBTQ plus identities. And it's like, so cool, because, again, you know, if you want to put it out there, you can if you don't, you don't.
So I guess to get to your question, I don't always start with my pronouns. It's not always necessary. But if it's in a situation where I'm going to be in maybe a small meeting with people and I don't know their pronouns, it's just a great way to gather pronouns with ask out asking anyone directly. If I start by sharing my pronouns, most people who then go around the room will share their pronouns as well and then I'll have information on how to be respectful to them.
You know, speaking of being respectful, sometimes in schools and other places, as an ally, we hear outdated and derogatory terms. Do you have any tips for you know how to have respectful conversations with people who maybe think differently about, you know, LGBTQ plus inclusion?
I do I have a whole chapter called Good talk the art of having effective conversations, which is about this. And just so you know who we're talking about in this, we're not talking about the person whose ears are completely closed, who does not want to learn who's screaming in your face, like there's there's nothing to be done there. We're talking about people who maybe have a little Wallop, don't maybe think the same as you but or maybe willing to listen, if you approach it in a respectful way, or people who just didn't get the memo, like you said, like they used an outdated term, and they just have no idea which is often the case. Then some of my I have got 10 tips, which I will not share here, because that could be an entire interview in itself, I will share some of my favorite tips. And y'all can read the rest if you're interested. So some of my favorite tips, let's do the situation where someone's used an outdated word like in a in a meeting, maybe. So some of the things that I would bring to this conversation are these first of all the assumption of goodwill. So what I mean by that is assume that this person didn't mean to be hurtful, didn't use that term intentionally to be hurtful, they probably just didn't get the memo. And I think that's a great way to start the conversation, which is most often true, like most of the people I talked to, just like they're, they're horrified that they used a word that, you know, was outdated, they had no idea. So bring that assumption of goodwill, put yourself in the hot seat is another great thing to do. Like if you think about how you would want someone to approach you if you had been in network meeting and you said, use a derogatory term accidentally, like what how would you want that person to approach you would they would you want them to, like call you out aggressively in public, or label you as you know, transphobic or homophobic, or sexist or whatever, whatever your faux Pa was, right? Like, these are things that are going to put huge walls up right and close people's ears make them really defensive. Probably what we would appreciate, especially if it was a first offense, right, the first time someone's heard this is to pull you aside in private. And, and start with a connecting statement. That's another great tip. So anytime you're doing sort of an intervention where like, I am the educator, and you're the learner, you've got a power differential there, there's, there's a power dynamic going on. Yeah, and anything that you can do to get rid of that power dynamic, and create a situation where it feels more like you're just two people having a conversation and problem solving together. Those, those are great ways to reduce that defensiveness. And so connecting statements are beautiful for that, if you've ever made the same mistake, so let's say you used to use the word that this person used in the past, you know, but you learned now, but it's a derogatory word, start with that, like, that's a great way to get rid of that power differential, because you can just say something like, I used to use that word too, all the time. Here's something I learned. And here's why I don't use it anymore. So I've been using this word, but now you're on their level, because you're admitting that you used to do the same thing. If you've never made the same mistake, you can still start with a connecting statement by saying something like, I know language is constantly changing, it's so hard to keep up like these are just really, really nice ways to start that will connect you to the person and again, get rid of that. I'm up here as the educator and you're down here as the learner. So those are just a few of my many tips when it comes to like how to make an intervention. Those
are great strategies. I think that those work really well too. With, you know, ableist language if you hear something very similar. I'm remembering ay ay situation where a colleague use the R word. You know, and again, not. I don't think that they were trying to be derogatory, but it blew, it blew my mind that they were still using that word. But you know, but I think in the moment, it's just so hard to be like, Oh, my gosh, should I say something? How hard should I how hard should I be? You know, and it's surprising and so sometimes you get angry, right? So it's, it's hard to not say something out of anger to so I don't know if you have any tips for that. Like if you if you start to get emotional, like in a negative way against the other person, you
know, so like, if your own hot hot buttons are triggered. Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Yes. And one of my tips is like Be aware of your hot buttons. Yeah, we're not robots, folks. Like we're humans. We're going to have human reactions and some things are going to I think set off you know, the the smoke pouring from our ears and nose More than others. And so the first step is to be aware of those things. If you can, like, if you're just think about, you may have experienced this in the past, like, I know when this issue comes up, I'm bad at this angry people make terrible educators. So what I recommend is that you buy yourself some time. So if you're ever in a situation where you've heard something, and you're like, just angry, if you can buy yourself some time, you can help reduce that anger. Even if it's days later, like it may just be you're at a party and you're like, oh, pizza, Hang on, I'll be right back. Like, you just need to sort of gather your thoughts. But I've actually come back to Conversations days later, if it's someone you know, and you have a relationship with or you work with, come back two days later, when you're calm and when you've practiced in your bathroom mirror, what how to lick respond, what didn't What do I want to say when I'm not angry, right? Come back to this later and say, hey, you know, I heard you say something the other day, it's been on my mind, you're going to be a much better educator than if you try and handle it when, when you're angry. And then just, of course, let's be kind to ourselves and realize that we are human. So so try not to beat yourself up. If you have a reaction, you have a reaction because you care. That's a good thing. But again, being aware of I'm not going to be the best educator right now, is there an opportunity to step back and and practice what I want to say and come back at another time with this educational opportunity?
So what about if we are the ones the allies are the ones that mess up? You know, that say the outdated term or? Or maybe, you know, we're just not thinking about certain things in the right way? Or you know, like, like, what's our next step?
Yes, thank you. So thank you for that. Because being an ally is an ongoing journey of messing up folks, I was kidding when I said that never happened happens to all of us all the time. So we need to get really comfortable with the fact that we are going to mess up and, and figure out how to mess up properly, which is what I talked about in my book messing up properly. So a few things to keep in mind, as a start, if someone is taking the time to educate you on maybe a word that you use that was ouchie or outdated, treat it as a compliment. Because it probably is like the person who's reaching out to you probably is reaching out to you because they are invested in their relationship with you, they probably believe that you are a person who would like to know this and has an interest in in doing better, right, these are all good things. People tend to not spend a lot of time and energy on folks that they think have no interest in, in doing better. So it is truly a compliment. I always start with a thank you even even if I start getting defensive, which I think we all tend to do. You know, like, Oh my God, I didn't mean it that way. You know, just start with a thank you if you possibly can get that out. thank the person for taking the time for letting you know it's no one likes that job of doing that education. So, but a few things to keep in mind when we make an apology are it really depends on what the mess up is. So I'll talk about we were talking about pronouns, that's a really common mess up is that you use the wrong pronoun for someone. So I'm going to I'll talk about that situation, when you mess up someone's pronoun, and someone lets you know that you use the wrong pronoun. A very quick, thank you, is really the best way to go. I like the thank you better than the I'm so sorry. Because the I'm so sorry, puts them in a in a position where they kind of feel like they have to say it's okay. Maybe they're not feeling like it's so just a really brief thank you is great, we tend to, I have found that people with big hearts tend to over apologize because they feel so badly when they mess up someone's pronoun. And the problem with that is it draws a lot of attention to your mess up and to the person that you messed up with. And a lot of times they don't want all that attention on that. So just a really, really simple, you know, thank you for letting me know. The next thing we do is want to forgive ourselves, folks, because we're all going to mess up it's it happens. And again, if we're thinking about a situation with a pronoun, until we live in a world where everyone's walking around with a pronoun on their shirt, like we are bound to mess up because we're often in situations where we're we're making our best, most respectful, educated guess, and sometimes it's wrong. And then finally, what we want to do is work towards getting it right the next time and that can look like a lot of things. Like I said that repetition is so good. I'll give you an example as we're, you know, bringing this again to the folks with disabilities and correct language there. So I recently learned to use the word I'm not going to use it here because it's derogatory, but I recently used learn to use the word disabled, so disabled parking, for example, as opposed to an older term that I was using. And so one of the ways that I had I've been training myself to use this new word, and it's hard to change language you've used your whole life. So you know this, we need these tricks. But every time I see that parking symbol, I say there's the parking for disabled folks, like in my head, I will say that every time because every time I see that that's a way to reinforce the correct language. So find little tricks like that, that, again, you can see them every day to help reinforce this language. I do that with pronouns all the time, we talked a little bit about getting pronouns right and tips for that. But another one I didn't mention, which is a great one is to add pronouns to your phone contacts. So whenever that person calls you, or text you, you're getting that instant reminder, you're seeing their name and their pronoun, as well. So that's a great just constant reminder will work so well with like a student, but with a co worker, or a friend or family member, that's a great tip for that.
Oh, good tips, good tips. All right. Let's wrap up with some strategies for self care. Because seeing an ally it's hard, right? It is. It can be anyways it and so I think that I think you've talked a lot about this, you know, with the strategies for how, you know, forgiving ourselves when we mess up and, you know, just having the knowing that your heart is in the right place. But, you know, what are some strategies for allies, just to be able to sustain this work?
I think we should approach ally ship like a good diet. And what I mean by that is, anyone who's done any dieting knows that, you know, those lose weight, lose 10 pounds in two weeks diets, like they're not sustainable, they don't work, right. We need to have small healthy lifestyle changes. That's what's going to help us if we're interested in losing weight. So the same is true with Ally ship, I think sometimes we have this, you know, frenzied burst of ally actions, and then it's followed by, you know, exhaustion, or disillusionment or whatever. Sustainability is really important. When it comes to ally ship, we need to find ways to add ally ship to our our lives in ways that fit our schedule, in ways that are, you know, working with our superpowers. I mean, I'm a fan of trying everything to start. But eventually, you're going to realize there are some things that you love to do and some things that you hate to do. And I think it's okay to drop a few things off your ally plate, if it's just something that doesn't fit with your your love and your interest and your skill set. So I don't know if folks have seen these. I don't know if this is true within the disability communities. But within the LGBTQ plus communities, I'm often seeing these enormous lists of like checklist, you need to check off all these things, in order to be considered an ally, you know, every single thing you have to do, and I, I am appalled by these, I think they're I think they're unrealistic. I think they deter people from being an ally, because people are like, I'm never going to be ally enough, I can't do all these things. I do this work full time, I can't check all those boxes. So if you ever see those enormous lists of like what you have to do to be an ally. Or if you ever, you know, hear the comment like ally it's a 24/7 job allies don't get to take breaks, these types of things, I think are not conducive to good ally ship. Think of those checklists as as opportunities, things that you might be able to help out with not something that you have to check every single box. allies do get to take breaks, folks, I mean, you know, being LGBTQ plus is not a choice. But being an ally is people don't have to do anything this right. These are people with big hearts who are trying to do the right thing and fit it into their very busy lives with you know, jobs and taking care of kids and whatever else. It just seems unfair to me like that you don't get to take a break. What if all of a sudden you your parent falls ill and you have to, you know, help care for a parent, you just don't have the time that you had before. So just be aware of the fact that we do want to think about ally ship as something that we want to make a part of our life long term. And these little tips I think can help us be sustainable. So I just like to say like, don't let the fact that you're not ever going to be a perfect ally prevent you from being a good one. I think that sort of the takeaway here is that no one's perfect and no one's going to be able to step in 100% on the time of the time with every ask and every event. Find ways that are sustainable for you. And again, bring your bring your superpower and the time that you have and thank you for it
after a quick break. The Mystery question
here we go. It is what? What's the main thing on your bucket list? What's the main thing on my bucket list? Gosh, is it is it bad that I don't like have one?
My friend and I were just talking about this recently and she said, I hate the idea of a bucket list. She's creating a great things I've done list, like almost like a gratitude. Yeah, bucket list, rather than like all these things I want to do before I die. Just like think of all the amazing things I've done. And I'm like, I love that so much better. So maybe we should talk about some of the things amazing things we've done that we're very proud of instead of what's on our okay.
Oh, I like that question better. All right, good. Okay, so yeah, so what's so what's a great thing what's what's on your great things list or
something that was on my bucket list that I got to check out actually was on my bucket list. When I was in my 20s. It was to jump out of an airplane to go skydiving and then it came off my bucket list as I went into like my 40s. And I'm like, I don't really need to do that. And then my daughter at age 18 decided that's what she wanted for her 18th birthday was to go skydiving. So no, we did a college tour in Colorado and I signed us both up to do skydiving in Moab like over like arches and like most beautiful place in the world, probably the skydive and the entire time. We're there. I'm like, am I going to do it? Or am I not going to do it and like, and it went right down to the wire, like I had to sign the stack of papers. And I was so nervous. And I just couldn't decide whether to do it or not. And then I decided I had to I had to use the restroom because I didn't want to have an accident while I was jumping out of a plane because you know, you're strapped on just somebody. So I'm gonna go on the restroom. And when I come out, I'm gonna have my I'm gonna have decided and that's it no more. Like, I'm going where I'm not going to decide. And so I went into the restroom, and I was like, Are you gonna like, sit in the lounge and drink coffee while your daughter jumps out of an aeroplane? Or are you going to freakin make memories, like, go to this. And so by the time they came out of the restroom, I'm like doing it. And somehow that just once I decided I was like doing it. So yeah, I jumped out of an airplane in Moab, Utah, and it was unbelievable. And you know, it carries over into my life now because whenever I have moments where I'm like really scared about something, I'm like, Genie, you jumped out of a frickin airplane. Like it actually helps me like realize like, yeah, I can do this.
That is fantastic. All right. Well, Tim, well, certainly, I am terrified of jumping out of airplanes. So. So, but your story actually helps. So if that ever comes, if I ever come across an opportunity, then then maybe I'll think of that. But something that I'm really excited about that is going to that we're going to be crossing off our list as a family is we're going on a road trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Vancouver and back. And we've done two trips, we've done California and back, Maine and back, and then we're going to do Vancouver. So I have three kids, a 1613, and a 10 year old. And so my wife and I, we pile into our pilot, and off we go. And it's it's been the most wonderful experiences to do these road trips. And I'm just so excited. So we have when we first started, I don't know if you've ever seen the maps that are on RV. Sometimes there's these big maps in this. There's like stickers for the states. And so the idea is as you drive through the state, you put the sticker on the map. Yeah. So we are going to be completing our map this summer. With all the states for all the states. Yeah. Besides like Hawaii and Alaska, but continental US. Yeah. Yeah, the continental US. So we I'm just so excited to be able to do that. And so that is something that that will be on our you know, great things that we've done lists so
Oh, that's great. Oh, I hope that's as wonderful as you're imagining it. I always wanted adventure with three
reactions because some people were like, you know, we can barely stand each other like you know, to go 30 minutes down the road. Yeah, so our road trips are full of, you know, listening to audiobooks and you know, music and you know, scenery and, and stopping at every, every state marker and, and stuff like that. So that sounds like so it's very fun. We're gonna have a great time here like your time, Jeanne Gainsbourg, thank you so much for being on the thick inclusive podcast and really appreciate your time.
This was so fun. Thank you so much for having me.
That chime means it's free time. This week, I want to share a conversation I had with Taslan Magnusson, a Program Consultant with freedom to read at Penn America. She researches censorship attempts in K 12 libraries and supports Penn America's work in creating resources to support authors whose work is targeted. Here we go Haslem
Magnuson, and I am a senior consultant with pet America freedom to read teeth. I don't come from a First Amendment background, a library background or teacher background. I graduated with an MFA in writing for children and young adults. So in fall of 2021, I was hanging out working on my drafts teaching, and lurking on Twitter, like all writers do, and found, people started to talk about they were getting banned places. And they were really concerned. And they were being asked by librarians, and teachers and students to help all of my author friends. And so somebody said someone should keep track. And I was like, I shall take this on. When I started a little spreadsheet. And the spreadsheet quickly became like secretly passed around from labor and delivery and Marian. And then pan America asked me to come and help the freedom to read team develop their analysis and program of tracking what has become a every state national crisis in book banning. pen looks primarily at schools and school libraries. But really, it's about access in general to what kind of stories we will keep in our libraries, what kind of histories we will tell, and what kind of information we want for our kids to have access to. And it's really about power and control and pushing back against narratives that people are feeling really uncomfortable with
the bands that are happening now. How is it different than the four there was such a push in local school board meetings? Is there any sort of precedent for this happening?
This is pretty different. Many things, the closest it's been compared to is like, in the 80s, there was a great push back and banning like a lot of Judy Blume and sexual content. But what's always been available to parents is the ability to challenge a book, whether you're challenging a book for your individual child, or you're challenging for your family, you can opt your child out of an assignment, you can work with the teacher, and if the teachers and helpful then you can escalate to the principal. And you know, there's always been a process in place, but it was designed to meet the needs of a parent at a time with their kid, it was not prepared for mass challenges. Like we have schools that are coping with 500 challenges at a time. That was not the system that was created to balance both parental concern and worry with students rights to know things and the rights to have a library that reflects the society we live in. We're balanced on this sort of like challenge one family one book kind of process, that that's been blown to pieces. By the experience of banning pen Americans found over 50 groups that have lists, and they exchange them across the internet. And they compare notes and they offer feedback about how best to get books removed under the guise of protecting for children. But it's really about protecting children from LGBTQ stories and bipoc stories. And Penn America's research has proven this couple different times pretty distinctly.
Can you give me an example from Penn America? What would be a proof point for well,
it's so interesting, because when I first started doing this, I'm as a kidlet. Author, I'm really acquainted with all these. And I started to say these books are like all the LGBTQ love stories that have come out in the last five years. It's every single one and there is a group out of the University of Wisconsin. It's called the Cooperative Children's Books. center. And they do a survey every year of how many books were published that are about a number of different marginalized groups or by those groups. And that survey has documented pretty clearly that the number of books that are published every year are very small, very small amounts that are about black or Indian, or now they're tracking disability. And they're tracking LGBTQ content, very small portion of all the books published for our young people. But I was saying like, every other book was an LGBTQ story, or trans story, like every book about, there aren't that many books about trans kids. And so we begin to count it. And we do a content analysis. And the first year, we saw, like, a huge amount of tabs that were books that were bipoc, focus, character focus, we don't track author identities, because that's a whole nother level of tracking. But we we do track the stories, and what kind of stories and we're losing stories that are about black and brown people. Picture Book, biographies, all kinds of elements of free reading and choice that would reflect in and provide a sliding door in for young people into other people. So not only do we have the content data analysis, but we have access to large amounts of challenge forums, where people are saying pretty clearly no LGBTQ stories, no bipoc stories. This is CRT they're calling like, just like the story. I just saw it again, the story of Ruby Bridges, CRT propaganda, like these sort of critical things are being mislabeled. And the terminology is being thrown around, backed up by now legislation and policies that put teachers jobs at risk, put administrators fundings at risk, people aren't going to they're not going to choose that book anymore. It's too risky and labeled this the chilling effect. But that's what's happening is people are scared. And they are also many of them tired, and have less patience for the tired. More patients for the scared but we all have to jump in. This is an emergency time.
So what can educators do, though, if they're feeling scared, if they're feeling tired? What extra steps can they do?
Number one, I think that these stories are so important, and there are people and I want them to know this. There are people in every community where I find bands, I find people trying to fight those fans, and trying to fight that censorship and trying to fight that fear culture of fear. Teachers need to hear you, the librarians need to hear you, the school board needs to hear you. Even if you're standing up there talking about the most favorite thing a librarian ever did for you. That matters because you have to counteract this large amount of negative. So that would be the number one thing I would want them to know. But then secondly, when they can keep teaching these books, they matter to kids, they matter so much that we hear about whether it's they're providing knowledge that kids didn't have representation that helps them grow and be healthy, whole people. But also, they're good stories and kids love. And I think we like to talk about the things that we can learn from reading, hate you give. But also they you can it's just a really awesome book. It's a great story they take it's a powerful story of what a young person's voice can do. I mean, there's like lots of stuff that we can talk about for our culture in our society. But we have to remember to these are some really great stories that kids love. And really make a difference and help them learn to be good readers across their lives. I think that's the biggest thing. It's really hard for them. And whenever they can. We can talk to them privately. We can talk to them. I talk to teachers a lot and I will do whatever I can to protect the identity and I will help connect you with people who will also support you in this but no, it matters. These books really do matter. And their work matters. It's not a lack of concrete action because also people need to live. You need Yeah, their families
if you're really threatened with losing your job, right. That's a hard decision to figure out how to be subversive without losing income,
and there are no there are teachers I found quite a few that are close to retirement that are like ready to speak. And on their way out the door, they're just like, I'm telling it for everyone. That's helpful when that can happen. But also, like, the most important thing I think teachers do is be there with kids every day, and provide quality instruction that is amazing and helps them grow. So like, at the core, what they're doing every day matters. Even if they can't fight for XYZ books.
Do you? Do you see any glimmer of hope?
So okay, there's two things that give me help. One is there really are people everywhere. Mariana was amazing. When I talked to the parents that were organizing. I mean, it was quite clear these books were gonna go. I mean, all signs pointed, but the amount of work and dedication they put to try to save these books and to use every possible recourse available to them. That's huge. And they're going to do it, and they're going to keep doing it. Because this is a marathon. It's not, it's not a winnable fight right away. But then also the young people. I tell everybody that I work with, because everyone is like, how can I get the young people to work at my community, I'm like, you can, like really, it's on us. I'm a parent, like it's on us, we're asleep. It's not only young people to save us, but when they choose to get involved, and speak out, they know what's happening. They know what's wrong. And they know what teachers do for them. And so whenever I see I just saw before I got on here, there's another set of bands in Virginia. And the high school students are doing a walkout and they had it on X, Twitter, whatever, still, and they were filming each other and talking about how much books mattered to them, and how much their teachers mattered to them, and how much they wanted to be heard. And they're doing it without any of the adults like that I know in the community that are doing it. And so that gives me hope. I don't want any young person to feel like they have to go to the school board meeting and testify to their worth as a human. That's not okay. But when they decide to do that, why are they powerful? Like they have a lot to say. Thank
you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. Yeah, he's awesome. Thanks
a lot. Have a great rest of your day.
Okay, you too. Okay, bye.
Okay, that's it for this week's episode. Love thinking cluesive. Here are a few ways to let us know. Rate us on Spotify, or leave us a review on Apple podcasts. And if you're listening to us on Spotify, check out the q&a prompt in the app. Leave us a response and we'll share it on the socials. Another way you can show us your love is to donate to MCIE with a one time or monthly donation so we can keep making things inclusive and our newest podcast series inclusion stories. To donate go to bi T dot L y slash MCIE. Dash donate or visit MCIE.org Are you ready to elevate your educational landscape with MCIE partner with us in shaping educational systems that foster high levels of engagement, a sense of belonging and evidence based instruction where each learner success is our shared goal. Learn firstname.lastname@example.org thinking cluesive is written edited sand design mixed and mastered by me Tim Vegas and is a production of the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Original Music by miles credits. Additional music from melody. Thanks for your time and attention and remember, inclusion always works.
How do you pronounce your name?
It's a genie like I dream of or in the bottle. Depending on your generation, not everyone remembers the show. I Dream of Jeannie. So
I used to watch that. Did you?
Yeah, we're eating.
I would watch IG mute genie and bewitched you look like you're
coming from a different generation than me but I also watched all those shows after school