As winter turns to spring, so does a school district’s fear that students may see lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and be okay with it. Typically, this comes in the form of banning same-sex dates at proms, but it also seems to include profiles in yearbooks. Numerous news outlets are reporting the story of Arkansas student Taylor Ellis and his school’s decision to pull a profile of him and six other students from the schools yearbook. The belief is that the profiles were pulled because the school did not want to publish a profile of a gay student. While this may seem like a new development in the ways people try desperately to erase any awareness of gay people, the concept isn’t a new one. In 2012, yearbook adviser and teacher James Yoakley was removed and threatened with an investigation. Mr. Yoakley was eventually transferred to teaching at a middle school.
Profiling a LGBT student in a yearbook or student publication is done as a way to raise awareness and reduce shame. While it may only be one student that is profiled, I can assure school districts that there are many more within your classrooms who find comfort, solace and solidarity from these profiles. This is especially true for students who may be in the closet. Seeing someone who is like you is important, especially so for those who are to be the next generation of leaders for this country. Erasing these profiles from your yearbooks and student papers is adding to the stigma and shame that is perpetuated upon LGBT people. Stop perpetuating that shame. Hate is something that is taught by both active and passive means. Let your student body learn something else.
At Proud to Be Here, I highlight LGBT people through the LGBT Profiles. This is done to show those who may not have or know of LGBT a gay person to whom they could look up to; who may be like them. It is a way to give folks a reason to be proud where they are, too.
I encourage any students who are LGBT and may have had their profiles removed from yearbooks or school publications to send them to me. I’ll put them up here. Because I want you to be proud where you are, too.
Read the profile of Zac Mitchel, Lenior City High School Student. This was the profile that in 2012 got Mr. Yoakley in so much trouble.