Elena Joy: Welcome to Out of Queeriosity. Consider us your field guide for Queer Pride. You will hear from the best of the best in terms of queer business leaders, queer relationship experts, the activists working to protect us all and everyday LGBTQ plus people, but have figured a few things out so you don't have to, out of curiosity is brought to you by the Pride and Joy Foundation.
Let's do this.
Welcome out of Queeriosity, y'all. I'm Elena Joy, pronouns she her, your host. I'm so excited to share today's episode with you. Nicholas Prosini is one of our two teachers that is teaching the course Leaders for Inclusive Change. We go into all kinds of detail with what this class is and why everyone should consider taking it, but I think the biggest thing that I got from this interview today, Was realizing how helpful it is for LGBTQ plus youth to have adults around them who understand what internalized homophobia, transphobia.
Racism, misogyny, et cetera. What that looks like and how it manifests. And the only way we're gonna understand that is if we do that work for ourselves. And I hadn't even thought about this class Leaders for Inclusive Change as being a tool to be able to do that. I've really thought about this as really focused, right?
This is a class for educators, parents and community leaders to learn how to hold safe space for LGBTQ plus kids. And now I'm realizing. Oh no. There's so many people that need this class, like people in the community, late in life, bloomers like me, people who came out and had no idea how to actually be a part of the queer community or know the history or the culture or the language, right?
Like this class has so many different applications and my mind is just spinning cause it was just such a great conversation. I'm excited for you to hear it. I give you Nicholas Prosini.
Elena: Welcome to Out of Queeriosity. We are so excited for you to be here with us today. We are really excited to give you a sneak peek, a glimpse behind the scenes of the Leaders for Inclusive Change class.
So this is a class that we provide at Pride and Joy Foundation in a way to pursue our mission of preventing suicide and homelessness in our LGBTQ plus community. We are going out and finding those allies, parents, educators, community leaders. Even religious leaders that want to know how to hold safe space for LGBTQ plus youth in their communities, we are providing a class to help support them, understand all the nuance of what that might look like for them.
So we have a D I Y class that's on our website that you can get access to at any time, day or night, and go through the six modules, which are very robust. As well as this summer, we are offering the class live for six weeks. There's going to be a live conversation around every topic. There's going to be community and discussion, and we are so excited to host this experience.
Now, today what we're doing is meeting one of the creators of the class. We're gonna ask them a little bit about what was it like to plan this class and what are their hopes and dreams for it, as well as. Where are they seeing trans, non-binary and other LGBTQ plus youth in the education system? And right now of course, it's a really intense time.
So we're gonna get into it and get their perspective. So excited. So Nicholas, thank you so much for being with us here today. I am so glad to have you.
Nicholas: Thanks for having me. It's so great.
Elena Joy: Tell us a little bit about where you are, share your pronouns and where you are in the country, and a little bit about what you're doing in the world.
Nicholas: My name is Nicholas and I use they, them pronouns. I identify as transgender, non-binary. I'm disabled and I am a bonus parent to a five-year-old child.
Elena Joy: Oh, I love it. I love it. So how long have you been in that child's life?
Nicholas: Since they were three. So roughly two years from a distance, and then now six months full-time.
Elena Joy: Yes. Oh, my partner has been a bonus mom now for. From a distance five years and then up close and living together for about three and it's been, there's a special place in Heaven for bonus parents. That is all there is to it. So you are one of the teachers for our Leaders for Inclusive Change class, and I hear there's a story about how you found out about our call for proposals.
We, Pride and Joy Foundation, put out a call and said, we want someone to put together this curriculum. We wanna pay you for it. Thank you to the Gamma Mu Foundation, and we received about a dozen different proposals. So tell us what that looked like on your end.
Nicholas: I got a Facebook Messenger message from a woman named Christie Wiley. And she does a lot of work on this. She, I believe, is active in Massachusetts schools and has written a book about pronouns. And just does the work. Uh, she is, has her doctorate, so she, I think, did a dissertation about trans youth in schools. And I had seen her work or stumbled onto it because I often just explore social media to connect and learn more about being transgender. Identities that don't overlap with my own. I'm just a learner. And one of the major ways I learned is on social media. So she messaged me and said, “Hey, you should apply for this. It's a great opportunity.” So I click on it and I see, oh, okay, you know, these topics look really good. I was excited about the topics that were outlined by you.
And I texted my partner Ær. And see if they wanted to apply. And they did. They are great with the applications. They're the more talented writer among me and them, and they applied and we got it. So then summer 2022 came along and we had to try to figure out, okay, how we're gonna write all these topics into a learning experience. And there were a lot of, I guess, emotional things that we had to work for, especially with the L G B T Q history and the gender discussion. It was really tough. It was really tough to start to get together what we were gonna say and it took days to decide and script it. So we scripted each episode or class topic. And then we timed it and read it out loud and did start of the beginning editing. And then we started filming each one. And it turned into this really exciting thing that I could see was just a combination of both of our work together. And by the end, we really, you know, we decided, okay, we're wearing different shirts and it was just stuff we had around the apartment and we didn't make it super formal, but we were so invested in what became the product. I took it and audio edited it and did the video stuff cuz that's my expertise. And I found myself just so excited and wanting to offer captions to it. So I sat there and edited all the things we said on a website that does scripting and. I really like seeing captions on things I watch. And I thought the slides we created and that you, you know, that you sent us were just so engaging. I wanted music to be a part of it. So we found a way to have fair use licensed music. So we wouldn't be in violation of copyright. And yeah. I was like, wow. This is not taught. And through the grant that you were given and the opportunity that you created, it gave us a chance to do that.
And it just has pushed me forward so far in wanting to do the message. And especially with L G B LGBTQ history, it really uncovered something for me. And in the internalized homophobia and transphobia segment also, I was like, well, I have stuff to dismantle and so does everybody else. And it just made me more aware of different behaviors. It's fantastic. This has been such a fantastic journey.
Elena Joy: Oh, I'm so glad to hear that, because sometimes we can get into advocacy work and it can knock us over or knock us on our butt, you know, like sometimes. And so I was concerned and I was actually really grateful that you had each other to kind of work through that, that this wasn't all one project on one person, because that could be really, really heavy. And so I'm so glad that you had each other for that. So thank you so much for bringing up a few of those different topics for your standard, let's say a community leader, someone in the community who says, okay, I don't know that my community is safe for our queer kids here. Maybe I need to put something together. And so you have an ally, who really their motivating factors, making sure that the kids in their community are safe. Which section of the course are you most excited for them to check out and start understanding some new concepts and having different things kind of click into place?
Nicholas: I would say there's creating a safe space and building your inclusive network in terms of how to be visible. In the way that you are able with what your community is, we talk about. Uh, resources that can be navigated quickly away from resources that have chapters all over the country so that the chapter of PFLAG, for example, that is nearest to your community, is in your state and knows what's going on at the state level and how it would affect the people in the community, especially with regard to youth because they're in the schools and PFLAG.
And other organizations like it look out for what's going on legally, policies that are, that are being decided on at the state level and also with the board of education of that state. There's also the gender discussion and intersectionality, modules four and five that I think are really important because that gives you the terminology that you may need to start even just bringing up a discussion with someone. Maybe you are, you can't really be visible, but you know, the dialogue can start and having the proper terms is very, very important. And understanding intersectionality is crucial once you do have some other basic terms, because the marginalized groups have multitudinous challenges when you bring in being queer and trans into the picture, and there's many things to know regarding that.
Elena Joy: Yes, so it's not just intersectionality. So in my day job, I work as an HR consultant, and I work with corporations discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion. Right? And in this scenario, when we're talking about intersectionality, it's not just pointing to, we wanna be as inclusive of the whole person as possible. And so we're recognizing intersectional identities. In this case, we're pointing to. Every time we add an intersectional identity, we are adding more potential harm, more potential things that we need when we're the adult in this situation, we need to be reaching out for. So that's a, for me, that's a new perspective on the intersectionality.
Nicholas: Yes. Being aware of specific issues on, in intersecting identities and realizing that those are always present and it's never just one or the other. There's a lot. There's a lot somebody needs to know and be able to keep in mind in front of mind at all times.
Elena Joy: Absolutely. So speaking of intersectional identities, I was thinking when you were saying that it was important to you to make sure there were captions on it reminded me that there was that was one aspect of your proposal that our entire board really appreciated, was that you really created multiple ways of learning. There were the videos to watch, there were resources to read, there were discussion points to have. I really appreciated that, and the more that I got into it, the more I realized. Whoa. The Venn diagram of the, our LGBTQ plus community and our Neurodiverse community is almost a full circle. Yes. It's rural close, and so yes, I'm starting to teach my clients, my corporate clients, that when we're setting up LGBTQ safe spaces, we literally have to also make sure we're setting up Neurodiverse safe spaces, so was that a part of your planning process as well?
Nicholas: Uh, yes. Ær has taught me a lot in terms of making sure disability is always a part of the conversation. Before I came to teach in Virginia, I have had my own experiences with creating, many access points to my lessons with the youth because just on, on the places I taught, We want everybody to get a chance to access learning, and one of the main things that needs to happen is differentiation and things need to be res represented visually and different verbal things. Kinesthetic, like being able to manipulate something, having control over. The learning so that every student will engage. And with adults, that also has to be super true because what could appear as a lack of will, like the adult says, I don't want to do this. I'm not doing this. Could be in the background of, oh, I'm afraid I can't do this and that could be for a variety of reasons, but we wanna eliminate as many of those potential reasons. And learning differences, eliminating and accommodating learning differences can be a major way to get somebody to say, I can do this because it's made for me. Or part, you know, I'm, I'm included in this experience.
Elena Joy: Mm-hmm. And let's, yes, included in that experience I wanna address, if we have someone who feels like, okay, I know this is something I should do, this is something like I should be learning about and this is a really great opportunity, but I. I don't know that I can do this, or what if I get into this class and I end up saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, right?
Like I have found 80% of the allies I talk to are allies, but are nervous to be vocal about it because they're worried they're gonna say the wrong thing. So if we have people that might be on the line, whether they wanna sign up for this class or not, what, what would you say to them?
Nicholas: Fortunately, each live discussion will be governed by norms that we set up, when we do our workshops too, because people are very afraid to say the wrong words. Something outdated. There's words that have been taken back by the queer community. There's words that. Maybe you wouldn't wanna say, but we make sure we announce that everybody is here to learn and therefore you don't wanna jump all over someone just cuz they say a wrong word.
Use the language that you have and we'll help you. Maybe we'll have a norm that says, for example, don't worry if you use the wrong language or the wrong word. We'll politely correct you. And in feedback is, not an attack, just most of the normal things that you've heard when groups discuss sensitive topics. And, we're just here to be your cheerleader really. We really just want people to have the access to this information so that youth can have a safe space at school. And, and in other, other environments where adults and kids are.
Elena Joy: Right, right. That is the goal to make communities safer.
Have you heard about Leaders For Inclusive Change? It's our online class for parents, teachers, and community leaders to learn how to create safe spaces for our LGBTQ plus youth. This class is typically a DIY online class. But this summer you have the opportunity to take the class live with the two trans teachers who created it, join them and other parents and leaders for six weeks of incredible learning, community building, and yes, joy.
For more info, check out Leaders for Inclusive change dot com. Class begins in July, 2023. So get in there and join us, or take the DIY version all year round Leaders for Inclusive Change dot com
Nicholas: for spaces, more of the spaces that kids inhibit will be more knowledgeable about these things. You know, kids do lots of things. They participate in activities and they have interests that they wanna pursue. And the, the idea of feeling shut out of it because you can't, can't, don't have room to exist there. That's, that's terrible.
Elena Joy: Absolutely, absolutely. There's room. There's always room, right?
Nicholas: To that point. So for that same person, you know, we're, we say we're gonna make it comfortable for you, we're gonna make sure that there are norms that everyone understands, so that everyone is safe to learn and you're gonna bring the language that you have.
Elena: I love that. And what would you tell them? What is the payoff going to be when, at the end of these six weeks, like what's gonna be different for them? What's the payoff?
Nicholas: Great question. Great question. Well, they're definitely gonna walk away having learned the words that they need. And then also they'll have the resource booklet to refer back to.They'll know about the basic organizations that everybody should know. They'll know where to go if they have follow-up questions or they need to revisit something, they can always reach out to us. But really, the organizations that are local to their area are gonna be most key. And then on a personal level, This course is for people who are ready to reflect on their own identity.
That's what sort of, it makes you grow as a person when you're able to show up and say, Hey, I don't know everything. I want this to be a learning space for me. So I deserve that, but also I'm willing to go out of my comfort zone and see where it takes me with my own gender, the. Internalized homophobia and transphobia that I have because we all have it. Because we all have it. We all go to school or we all grow up here in America, and so we're taught. Toxic gender norms from many, avenues. And a lot of that has to do with like media too, tv, uh, movies, just things in our environment. And then, uh, how to create the space. Even if you can't be Visible. There's other covert ways to show. What I noticed there that you have in the background is you have a small little flag next to that picture and you have a little piece of art and like those are the little things that people who are looking for it. Notice, of course, you see I have the big rainbow curtains back there, but sometimes what we do is big. Sometimes what we do is small. Sometimes we have a sticker like this, and then sometimes we have just a little key clip that's this big. Yeah. Big or small kids are looking for it and they'll notice.
Elena Joy: And I love that you bring up, and this is something that I teach everyone as well, that we, we really do all have internalized homophobia, internalized transphobia, Internalized racism, internalized misogyny. Ableism. It's there.
Nicholas: Ableism. Absolutely. It's there.
Elena: And so it's a matter of are you going to recognize that reality and be aware of that reality, or are you going to ignore it? Like it's one of those two things. And I love that you're saying we can use this course as a way to be able to identify that and deconstruct that. And for the adults that are willing to go on that journey. And frankly, you're not gonna push yourself past what you're able to do, right? Like, And, and it's a spiral kind of thing. Like if this was a course that we took every year, we would all be able to deconstruct even more every time we took it, right? But for these adults, they'll be able to go through that journey for as much as they are able to, and then they'll be able to recognize that journey in the kids they're working with because our kids are dealing with internalized homophobia and transphobia. And when you watch that happen, When you watch a 14 year old start to act authentically and then pull back because, and they don't even know why, it's not even conscious.
It's just like a, a reaction to one little thing. You know, when you're an adult and you see that and you've gone through that experience of being able to deconstruct your own internalized stuff, it means so much more to be able to help and support that kid through their process.
Nicholas: Yeah, I completely agree. And. Even doing the work of dismantling the internals, internalized biases or, implicit bias that we have makes you behave differently towards kids. And that in and of itself creates a space for kids to be queer and trans. If we don't, if we have that internalized and, uh, homophobia and transphobia dismantled to a degree, we won't be policing gendered behaviors that are only our own perceptions of what behaviors are gendered and who should be doing those and who shouldn't. And it's different for everybody and a kid. Bumps up against every, all adults ideas of those different things. So there end up a toxic version of whatever gender of their people think they're supposed to be. That's the, that's a critical component of this course. And you know, it's not, not really any big deal, it's just we're a product of our environment, so let's just get to work and talk about it. It's nothing to be scared of really. Yeah. Like, don't, don't worry about it. Come on in. It's gonna be great. Like, but we gotta do it. You know, there's some work we as adults have to do, and this is, this is one thing.
Elena Joy: And what I love is that when you start to learn those little things of what you can do for different communities, I'll say the trans community, because that's where I have felt it the most when I have learned to start to do those little things. And I see the light in their eyes and it feels like a massive hug. Uh, most of my meetings are over zoom, so I don't get to do it in person very often. But for example, our director of operations is trans, and if I was able to correct someone when they misgendered them in a meeting, right, like that is just. I am so grateful that I have that skill and that knowledge to even be able to hear it and then absolute confidence to be able to say it, you know what I mean? So that they don't have to take on that emotional labor. It just feels like a hug, and I love it, and I'm so glad that I've been able to learn that skill, and I feel like that's the kind of thing we'll grow in confidence in. Being able to do the live class where we can have conversations and we can practice, right. Correcting someone or correcting ourselves if we misgender someone right, and be able to practice that in a safe space. What are you excited about for the live class?
Nicholas: I just really like sharing my knowledge with people. I'm a teacher and a learner, and I'm very excited to get to know the people in the course and see where people are at and what their concerns are. As they go around their school, uh, during our q and a segments, when we do workshops, the most interesting questions always come out, because we get a range of age people in different parts of their teaching career.
At our workshops, we get the college, uh, kids who are pre-service and about to go out. We get the people who are end of career and everybody reacts to gender. Information differently, and so the questions are always very interesting and I'm excited to see what questions people have. In July, I am going to present at a principal's conference, so I'll also have some.
Principal concerns that I'll be, uh, happy to share and are fresh about and like just building that collective knowledge with new people is just the most exciting part because I always come away knowing more and what I should do next time. I do teaching or workshop with these topics. I'm excited to share what I know about, L B T Q history because that is truly not taught and as each day passes, I feel like I'm getting more and more, I'm becoming more and more, of a history student.
Elena Joy: Oh, I love that. Yes, it's not easy to be able to access lgbtq plus history courses, especially built by trans and LGBTQ people. I mean that, I think that's just so valuable and beautiful. And so you are a teacher, like you said, how. I think it's fascinating that there are school districts that are letting you in to teach workshops. I can't get into any school districts in the state that I live in, so how is that happening? Give us some good news on how that's happening and how that's being received.
Nicholas: So basically it is very few school districts that will accept these topics at this time. In the areas I've taught in. So for context, I just came from 10 years in New York City schools. A misnomer or a misconception rather, is that NYC is very progressive, et cetera, et cetera. Yes, but the schools aren't like any big city school system. People are very conservative and it seems to draw an employee that is very conservative. I'm not really sure why, but everybody was Catholic. Oh, in the schools employees and, and Christian and, and Muslim and, and people are devout with their religion there. They do have. Conferences for every subject though, so people go to the conferences and that's where the workshops are starting to appear at state education conferences or local conferences.
And here in Virginia, same thing. It depends on what region you are, how progressive it is, but unfortunately, last year, When the Virginia got a new mayor, the mayor came out with a big long document that the Board of Education of Virginia has to follow about parents' rights. So everybody I think is a little on edge right now, but it's gonna pass.
That's my good news is that we gotta just keep pushing and although there's this moment of fear, collectively we're gonna have the 2024 election, everybody has to really make sure they hear their voice heard and get out and vote, because I think that will help the con, turn the tide and help the conversation about.
LGBTQ kids and adults in the school setting, in the public school setting. I feel like that will push our work forward more quickly if we're able to elect someone. Democratic. Yeah. Yeah, it, it's just a momentary thing. It feels really difficult, but this is the time when you get armed with affirmation. So when you have the chance and things just get a little bit easier because they're not gonna stay like this.
People, I think people want to try and reduce, but it's like that phrase that everybody always says, love always wins. Mm. It really is true and although things aren't good right now, I. It's, it's gonna, it's gonna pick up again because people are gonna get tired. Parents aren't gonna have time to keep on saying, oh, should I ban this book or not?
Like I, I just feel like they're gonna move on with their lives because it'll be out of the news cycle and if the news moves on to something else, everybody else will.
Elena Joy: It is true. It is true. It's like how much is leading it? Is it the politicians really leading it? Is it the media that's really leading it? Is it the churches that's really leading it? Like Yeah, it's an interesting debate there to see how the cycle's gonna kind of peter out.
Nicholas: There's also a big, big law firm called Alliances, defending Freedom, who's, I think, also controlling this situation a lot. Yeah, they have a lot of money and for whatever reason, when they do a big case, it always seems to pit the media. Yeah, and I guess that sort of fuels the fire, so to speak. But I'm sure they fire a hundred percent. They'll have something else to do and we're not gonna go away and our kids are not gonna go away. So we're just gonna keep on pushing.
Elena Joy: That is absolutely true right there. We're not going away. We're not gonna go away. We're just becoming a bigger and bigger and bigger piece of the population. So it'll be interesting. I'm realizing that another potential audience member that might wanna consider taking this class is maybe someone who's come out later in life, right? Like I'm thinking about myself and a lot of my peers. We come out and we're now ready. And wanting to be a part of this community where we now want to be queer and we don't know how to be queer. And there's, it is hard, right? Yeah. And that's something that I've pointed out a lot in the past, that lgbtq plus individuals are some of the only individuals of a marginalized community born to parents, not of the same marginalized community, right?
So we are raised not knowing our own culture, our own history, our own tips and tricks for staying safe, et cetera. And so when we come out, that might be earlier. It might be later. We have to find those things. We have to seek them out, and I feel like this class is like, I don't know, like the speed version of knowing like what we need to know.
Nicholas: Definitely I have learned so much from Ær on that because I'm 40, but Ær is 31, turning 32 like soon. So just that small amount of difference and our ability to have. I guess micro intergenerational connection cuz I guess we're both millennial, but I'm like an Xen sort of. So like I have a link to the Generation X and was raised in that similar, oh you're on your own devices fashion. So I mean they are just so much better and more aware of, of their queerness and like I just had to learn from them how to just be out with it and be proud of it and celebrate it. And like, I tend to turn to younger people. That would just be my advice. And we talk about this in the course a lot.
Being intergenerational in this work is critical because they will teach you what you need to know. The younger, the younger generations definitely teach you what you need to know and. Centering them as leaders is very important in this work, and it's important for creating the safe space as well.
And so if we show up as the one who can make them have access to it, they will just lead the rest of the way. And they'll want to, they'll want to have control over that. And it'll be a very hard road no matter what, because they also are probably born to parents who are not of their same or worse yet, they are the same. And because of whatever trauma they've faced in their life, cannot come to it, but may come to it once they see that their child has been.
Elena Joy: Oh yes. There are so many stories of that.
Nicholas: Yeah. Yes. Now, so yeah, it being intergenerational and, and listening to us on that through the courses is vital, and just by being around Ær, everyone will become queer. No, just kidding. I'm just kidding. But like Ær is very, very unique and is able to just be that person. She, they embody it so well. I love that, the celebration of it, and I've learned so much from them.
Elena Joy: And I feel like that is the magic that draws people to our community is that joy, that queer joy is so singular and unique and beautiful and, and it can be so easy to get bogged down in, in the being of queer, that we feel unable to access the joy. And I feel like that's a huge part when you talk about inner gen, inner generations within the queer experience. Like making sure that we, I feel like I have really pointed myself towards the elders of our community because they have seen this crap before.
You know what I mean? Like, They, they've been here. This is not a new gig for them. And so I feel like they are not feeling as frustrated, almost as hopeless as a lot of. A lot of us are feeling because they've, they've seen it come and they've seen it go, just like you were saying. Right. And so I feel for myself, like that's where I'm looking to for my hope and then for my inspiration, I'm looking to my younger ones and, and witnessing how they're just like, we're gonna burn it to the ground. It's fine.
Nicholas: Yeah. The elders, you're right.
Elena Joy: You're right. That's what we should do.
Nicholas: The elders are great and I find myself. Trying to just share as much of myself with them as I can because they, in learning about the AIDS crisis, I was alive during, but no one taught me about I really, that could have been, I could have. It's been different in that way. And they lived through that. So hearing those stories or whatever they wanna share, and also in finding myself as, uh, demi gray or on the asexual spectrum, uh, leads me to believe that there's a whole host of elder elders out there that are also cut off from that.
And that's sort of my main, my little project right now is to say like, Hey, elders, you know, you're kind of by yourself. Are you queer? Yeah. And drawing them into the fold that way. Ooh. Not, isn't that an interesting perspective? Like not telling them their business, but like saying, Hey, I'm trans and I'm queer and I do all this work.
And, I'm also a teacher trying to survive everybody's, what, what's going on right now? And just letting people know what it's all about. And that asexual identities are valid, but they're often erased.
Elena Joy: Very much so. Yeah. Yeah. That's gotta be one of the biggest, I study a lot of binaries of the brain, how our brain will default information into one of two cat categories, Right. And that has to be the biggest default of, we're all sexual beings. We must be, because it, so many of us understand it as this really primal thing, and it's actually really not. Right. And so, yeah. Yeah. The validity and me. Seeing of the asexual identity, I think can be so freeing and powerful for so many people.
Nicholas: Yes.it's also that default. It's like another little section under com, compulsory heterosexuality. There, it's there. It's, I think I, I think we definitely spend some time on that in one of these modules, because I was just learning about, when I, when we , wrote these scripts. And I was like, oh my dear Lord.Yeah. We all need to know about that. I was like, oh, wow. This is terrible. Wow. For anybody, not just people who assigned female at birth, like for people assigned male at birth, like this is all it hurt, hurts every single person. Yeah.
Elena Joy: Yes. It's a, it's a binary that we can break out of to so many, to so much goodness. And I think kind of the last place I wanted to go was what is, what has been your experience? Being trans, being a teacher in the schools, have you been able to feel like this visibility is worth it? This visibility is a good thing? Or has it, and maybe alongside that, has it been, this is what I have to do, like I need to be visible. I know that's it for me, like. People will say, you're so brave. Just being so visible. And I'm like, no, you don't. Like, I, I have to, like, for my own mental health, I need to be seen. Right. What is your experience like for you in the schools in like 2018?
Nicholas: I. Realized I was trans, non-binary, and because I met other trans non-binary people that were younger than me in my dance community. And then I was like, oh my God, I'm not, I can't be in the closet anymore about anything. Like when I first started teaching oh six, I stayed in the closet as gay for like three years until I got tenure in New Jersey. And that took like seven more years to get over like I needed to be on depression medication because that's how depressed I was.
And so that took along the way to work my way out of, so when in 2018, I. Coming out as trans, I was like, Nope, I have to. I have to change my pro pronouns at work. I have to change my honorifics, and it didn't go well. It did not go well. I would say mainly I was told not to correct the students after about a year or so of being out, and I couldn't do it. Because it also meant that adults could misgender me when kids were present. And since it is our, our job to supervise and teach them, the children are often present except for some little parts of the day when you're on your lunch and your prep period. So I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no, no. And so I didn't ascribe to that and it ended up costing me that job. But it was worth it because I had met my best friend there, who classroom's next to mine. She'll teach us over there. She's the dance teacher and she has carried on my work. Mm. And the next year, like all the fifth grade girls were like gay. And like, it was more acceptable than I think it would've been before. And I feel like I made a space at that school. It's just that they couldn't. They didn't want me physically there. It's okay if they weren't ready for that. Yeah. It, they, if the, it's okay if the kids are gay and stuff, but they don't want that gay and trans adult there because That, I guess they can write it off easier. Well if I'm not there.
Elena Joy: Well, and I feel like having an adult there really confronts, again, that internalized homophobia and transphobia. Whereas when it's a child that identifies as queer, like you said, I think it's easier to write off. But when there's an adult, it's forcing you to respect that and forcing you to deal with what's going on inside you, Right. And that, that is probably just easier to just not, not give them a contract for next year cuz Right. It's too much.
Nicholas: And they would've had to gimme tenure also because, oh, I had been at that school for three years total, and if they hired me, Again, I would, they wouldn't have been able to really, it would've been harder. Yeah, much harder to get rid of me. And it took a long time to get over the trauma of that. And I'm like, yeah, is it really worth it? Like you're asking your series of questions there. And then at times in my hard times I've been like, Nope, this is terrible. It's not worth it. And now I am like, yes. It is, and I'm about to go teach middle school.
That's my job for next year. And it's gonna be even more important, but even more difficult because the kids are older. And the teachers will have to, alongside dealing with me, they'll also have to confront an older child, a young adult who is like coming out as queer. Or being extremely homophobic and transphobic to hide it so that their friends don't see them.
Absolutely. And at this point, I'm great at navigating those dynamics and basically like kids on the side will be like, hi, I'm bisexual, and they'll just come out. They'll just, uh, Randomly say it. There's just no pretense. Yeah, they, they just are like, are you a boy or a girl? Or like, are you trans, like in front of everybody?
Yeah. They ask and I'm like, no, not now. Let's not talk about that now. But ultimately I'm visible whether I want to be or not. Now that I've been on testosterone for almost three years and I think that's great. Yeah, I, and if people complain about it, that's on them. And fortunately, I'm enough years in my career that I can just turn around and get a job somewhere else.
Absolutely. It doesn't happen, but because I really like what I'm walking into, it's a good setup.
Elena Joy: But, okay. That was gonna be my question was can I ask, what was there about this new district or school that pulled you in? Was there, what were the indications that that was the right place for you? Teaching band??
Nicholas: Okay. Older kids. I'm a little older and my back kind of hurts, so, I'm a little tired of teaching the kindergarten and first graders. It's just too difficult to do that amount of movement and the style of lesson that you need to do with them. Materials getting out and putting away materials a lot. And then also as a performing arts school. Okay, so it had a beautiful feeder. Mm. That was inspiring, just walking in there. Yeah, and it's in the city suburb. Teaching doesn't feel as good to me as teaching the city, so that's pretty much what drew me people. At the school, I don't think we'll get my gender identity correct if I tell them I've been going by Mr and he, him when I'm in new environments so I can get people, get a chance to get to know me. And I think this is something that no one else I know has named, and I think I should name it. when you teach in city schools or even in the suburbs, there's. Diverse staff, racially diverse staff. If you're at all close to a city or just lucky enough to be in the right place and I got a choice to make as a white person, do I correct them right away and then I give off a “White is right vibe”, or I just teach them little by little, which is what I did my school at my school in 2018. And you know what? It ended up benefited the kids cause even though I wasn't there anymore, there was no like visible. Hostility between me and other staff, so kids never saw that, and I would rather kind of take some of it on the shoulder because I will tell you their access, like I said, they were all Catholic. Their access to learning about queer topics, and then also that that school happened to be generational poverty impacted by generational poverty. The lack of access to queerness and, and being trans and, and many, many different topics, none, right? And so I'd rather shoulder it and I encourage other white people to do the same.
You don't know by just taking a little bit of burden on your shoulder, what it can do for someone else, and how much. Or how, because they have, more intersecting, marginalized identities. That's what intersectionality can be also. Lack of access in a way that a white person cannot conceive of because you're stuck behind a white lens. So reaching out is, is very, very important. And I think people don't realize the impact of intersectionality. And that's one way I've sort of dealt with it. So what I'll probably do in the situation is just teach them. Like I always would and take it on the shoulder because people have thanked me before for giving them the time and space to learn. That's why people don't need to be concerned about when, if they take the class. I'm like, Nope. You know, like, I've done this work. As at, at my job while I'm trying to do my job at the same time. And it's worth it. Other people do need the space and time. Especially because the racial trauma or like racial mistrust needs to be healed first and they need to feel safe with me before I correct them.
Elena Joy: Oh, that's powerful. Thank you. Thank you for saying that. I agree. That has not been talked about and that is an important part of the conversation.
Nicholas: Yes. What us as a white queer can do is just give people space to learn because you might perceive somebody as cis, and they might perceive themselves as cis, but that's just cuz they haven't had access and we didn't have access. And it took us till now to, to know these very, very important truths about ourselves. That happens for other people too. Especially if they've grown up in Christianity, Catholicism, Muslim, any devout religion. Absolutely. Where every single time they go to worship people were saying homosexual is wrong for their entire life. Yeah. As soon as they could be in the house of worship, that's what they were told. And they have other trauma to, to contend with on top of that, that we don't have.
Elena Joy: Absolutely. So. Well, thank you. Well, if there's one last thing you wanna leave for your future students that will be in this class with you, what would you like to leave them with?
Nicholas: Definitely come and take the course.It's gonna be great. We have so much to share with you and what you were referring before about when you, when you're able to, to do this work with you and life. Life or sorry, light comes back into their eyes. Yes. That's what will happen. And they often breathe the size of, of relief. They're just like, this is somebody I could trust. Yes. And they may not have that. We're all this in this for the kids. And, if you work with kids at all, or even if you're educational support staff, just come on and take the course. There's nothing to be scared of. It's, it's just a learning experience that I am, I promise you'll walk away with knowing more things about yourself, as well as how to affirm youth.
Elena Joy: Yes. Oh, I'm so excited for everyone who has the opportunity to be in this class with you and Ær, and it's just going to be an incredible opportunity to expand. Expand our worlds, expand our sense of self, expand our relationships with others. That's what I love. I love looking back at who I was five years ago and who I am now and thinking, oh my gosh, my world is bigger.
My world, I had no idea my world was like this, and now I get to see and, and who knows how big my world is gonna be five years from now, it's gonna, yeah. I love it. Thank you so much, Nicholas. You're welcome. Appreciate you and thank you listeners. We will see you again next time. On Out of Curiosity, pride, enjoy Fam, what did you think about that conversation and about this wild class that we are doing?
Leaders for Inclusive Change? I hope it piqued your interest. One thing that I really got out of this conversation with Nicholas was this idea of. How taking a class like this can really help us as LGBTQ plus individuals really feel like a part of our community. As a leader in life, lesbian myself, I found myself at 38 ready to embrace my queer identity, but having no idea how to actually be a part of the queer community.
And this happens really often because lgbtq plus people are some of the only people born to parents, right? Not of the same marginalized population. If you've listened to the podcast before, you have heard that spiel of mine. And so we grow up not really having the lgbtq plus culture integrated into our family culture.
Unless our parents did that, which that would be amazing. Right. And then we find ourselves as adults being a part of a community, but not knowing a lot about the community and it can feel really disconnected. You know, we all know or feel like we are. And l lgbtq plus person who. Feels like maybe they're not quite queer enough, right?
Maybe we don't qualify to really be a part of the community for whatever reason. Maybe we're straight presenting or maybe we're in a straight presenting relationship or whatever it might be. And yeah, there can just be those barriers. But a class like this allows us to really dive in and learn history and culture as well as how to spot our internalized homophobia or transphobia.
As well as how to create safe space for intersectional identities within the queer communities, which I think is so important. So for so many of us that are looking for a way to find our community or create our community, This class experience could be an incredible way to jumpstart that. So I hope if you're interested, you'll go to Leaders for Inclusive change.com.
Check it out, get into the class with Nicholas and their partner Ær, both trans teachers who are doing absolutely amazing things in the world, as well as lots of other leaders, allies, and LGBTQ plus individuals that just want to learn more and create safer communities for all of us. So I hope to see you there.
Have a great day, fam. Take care of yourself. I appreciate you.