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Please Don't Fire My Teacher Because She's Gay


The Supreme Court could soon rule employers have the right to terminate people because they're LGBTQ. Jessica Chiriboga pleads with the justices to do the opposite.

Do not fire my educator because she is gay. Do not fire her, because she is the reason that out LGBTQ+ youth like me can thrive and survive.

On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for three cases on whether or not LGBTQ+ workers are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964's prohibitions on sex discrimination. If society wants all students to succeed, they must start by protecting LGBTQ+ educators this term.

Three years ago, I distinctly remember walking onto the gray hallways of Glendora High School feeling scared and depressed. I had not yet come out to my religious family, and there I was in freshman year summer school wondering how I would even get through the next four years. My nervous hands took down notes about LGBTQ+ exclusive sex education in health class, and I heard whispers about there being an out teacher, Ms. El Yousef.

Closeted me held on to those whispers until sophomore year gifted me with El Yousef's AP Chemistry. While admittedly not a science student myself, El Yousef was there to answer my hundreds of questions before, during, and after school about the elements and acids. El Yousef challenged me to interact with exciting labs that taught me the real-life application of science. She offered hours of her springtime after school to give my class AP practice exams and study sessions.

Yet, it is not just her teaching style that I admire, but her character. Every afternoon, I was greeted with a smile and a warm "How are you?" upon stepping into her classroom. As I navigated through deep depression related to my identity, those personal questions about my day and the kindness she radiated made each day a little more bearable, a little less scary. The reality is that many LGBTQ+ youth struggle with their mental health and fear of rejection, so having someone who understands the tribulations eases our emotional burdens.

In my more socially conservative community, she gives visibility that closeted youth can make it through the hard times and reach a place of giving back and educating others. Her visibility shows that LGBTQ+ people can have families just like cisgender and straight people. Every presentation she shows, every lecture she gives as the only out educator at my school, is an indication to me that I should not be scared to pursue my dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice who happens to be LGBTQ+. I am reminded that we must be the representation we hope later generations to see. And I have a message for the current Supreme Court: in no way should my future path to success be blocked by workplace discrimination.

Beyond that, El Yousef, my role model, strives to make my school safer for LGBTQ+ youth as a Gender-Sexuality Alliance advisor. On the first day of my Junior year, I walked onto the oh-so familiar campus to see GLSEN Safe Space stickers in the windows and classrooms of LGBTQ+ supportive teachers. I was shocked and amazed by the display. El Yousef had contacted GLSEN to help incoming students know who else was there to support them. While not every teacher had a sticker in their classroom, I walked into the classrooms of those who did feeling much safer.

The family environment that El Yousef fosters is not only through GLSEN Safe Space stickers but in GSA shirts that El Yousef gives to teachers. On Wednesdays, I navigate to my next class, slipping in and out of throngs of chattering people, and pass by school faculty in rainbow GSA shirts. As the school gym fills with high schoolers and roars in anticipation during assemblies, I spot faculty with GSA shirts up in the stands. LGBTQ+ youth often feel alone because of unsupportive friends and family, so these displays of solidarity become friendly, become familial.

Ultimately, this visibility and these teaching lessons inspired me to join my school's GSA board my sophomore year and apply for and join GLSEN's National Student Council. I would not be the advocate I am today, I would not have the perseverance I have today without her. I would not be writing this piece without the support El Yousef has given me these past three years, so I deeply thank her for showing me the way to a brighter future.

My senior year has arrived and is knocking on my door. As I open it and head out into the gray hallways of Glendora High School, I notice the green grass, the pink blossoms, and the red and black Tartan logo. I am filled with Glendora Tartan pride because my supportive educator has shown me true, authentic pride.

It is when students have LGBTQ+ educators that they too can experience all the beauty of the rainbow and for once, thrive.

Jessica Chiriboga, she/her, is a senior at Glendora High School in Glendora, Calif., and a member of GLSEN's National Student Council.

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Jessica Chiriboga