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Walking in the Shoes of LGBTQ Student

Walking in the Shoes of an LGBTQA student: “Be educated so you can educate others.”

I wanted to share my recent Walking in the Shoes experience and the time I spent with Tristan, a junior at Squalicum High School. This school year (2015-16), I am focusing on spending time with students with unique circumstances. I’m a little behind schedule! I had a great time last year shadowing staff, and I’m thrilled to be able to focus again on our students.

My first walking in the shoes this year was with Tristan, who used to be known as Shannon. They (notice the use of “they” because not everyone falls into the “he/she” binary) are a transitioning high school student, and I was really excited about our day together, which happened to be the second day of the second semester in January. Tristan told me that going to some of their classes for the first time as a transgender student can be hard because even introducing yourself can feel difficult and awkward. Their year-long classes are choir, AP Biology and AP Psychology and new classes included technical writing, business and marketing, and world literature philosophy. Tristan likes taking AP classes, but they’re required to take AP tests at the end of the year and those come with a price tag. The $92 charge for each test presents a real challenge for some of our students and families.

Dr. Baker and Tristan

I learned Tristan attended Columbia Elementary (shout out to former principal Ms. Ferguson, who Tristan loved!), Shuksan Middle and now Squalicum High Schools. They still have a lot of friends from elementary and middle school and Tristan smiled when they told me some just say “hey you!” if or when they aren’t sure which name to use.

I got to experience their 10:20 a.m. THOR class, which stands for Tutoring, Homework, Organization and Reading. We were in a classroom with 30 new desktops (thanks, technology levy!), and it was great to hear how awesome the new computers are. Tristan worked on an assignment for next period: business and marketing.

Ms. Stevens taught business and marketing, (with more brand new computers – thanks again tech levy!) and today’s class was all about branding. It was interesting to hear students’ reflections about what kinds of quality and values they associate with a variety of businesses (like Macy’s, Target, Chipotle, etc.). Students got to design their own logos and business cards that reflect their own brand identity.

I was able to attend Tristan’s philosophy class taught by Mr. Dolmatz, and this was the first day of class, so Tristan had to be prepared that their name would be called for attendance. This can be a stressful situation for students as they may be referenced by a name others may not be familiar with. It went smoothly, and Tristan seemed very relaxed. I learned that Tristan met with Mr. Dolmatz the week prior to explain their context, and Mr. Dolmatz later shared with me how appreciative he was for the conversation and interaction. He said he’s hoping to engage more with Tristan about whether they want to share or explain to the class anything further about their background (or not).

I also have to give a shout out to Mr. Dolmatz, who is one of our Promise Award winners! I guess this is one of the good things about waiting to send out my blog: I get to link to updates that we didn’t know or have finalized back in January when I walked in Tristan’s shoes. Mr. Dolmatz is an amazing teacher who has taught for 37 years and is retiring after this school year. I could go on and on about him and all the teachers I witnessed, but I’m already running long on this blog… I’ll just add that the students love the unlimited access to hot chocolate and hot tea.J

It was a pleasure getting to know Tristan and hearing various reflections about school, wake up times and their passions. They are really involved in after school drama and the QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) Club. At the time, Tristan was going to be an assistant director in an upcoming play, then planning to co-direct a play after that.

Tristan shared with me that it’s been great having gender neutral bathrooms this year at Squalicum. I shared with them that the district is making this change at our middle and high schools, and as we build new schools and facilities, we want to keep improving on our intentionality to make more restrooms accessible to all. We have also recently added new LGBTQ+ Welcome signs in our schools.

LGBTQ Poster

At lunch, I enjoyed a Harvest of the Month chicken sandwich, and we sat with many of Tristan’s friends. They talked about some of their favorite elementary and middle school teachers, and it was wonderful to hear their sweet and funny memories. It was also a great reminder how some students in our system are able to go to elementary, middle and high school together. They also talked about their emotional goodbye to Mr. Marshall last year and how excited they were to have Mr. Parker as their new choir teacher. It’s always good when we can land an outstanding person to take over for someone with really big shoes to fill.

I had to ask them about high school start times in light of the bell time adjustments that were coming (but in January hadn’t yet been announced). Tristan said they wake up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. bus and loved the thought of more sleep. They said they especially felt bad for their friends who are in Storm Singers and arrive at school at 6:30 a.m. Tristan said, “They love the class, but it sucks that they have to get up so early.” I’m looking forward to having music and more electives be incorporated into the new schedule and to allow our students the sleep they need.

One of the most meaningful aspects of my day with Tristan was attending the QSA after school club at Squalicum.

There were about two dozen students from all different grade levels who attended the club (and me) and the QSA advisor, Bethany Barrett. We all sat in a circle and their meeting begins with a “check-in,” which involves each student saying their name, what pronouns they prefer for themselves, how their day was and an answer to the question of the day.

The question of the day was, “What tattoo or piercing would you get?”Answers ranged from sentimental names of loved ones, meaningful quotes to a sailboat (that was mine!).

I observed a lot of smiles and laughter throughout the meeting, and a lot of support for one another.

Students talked candidly about a lot of different topics, including topics in the news and curriculum, specifically about health class, like what they feel is missing from our teaching and learning about sexuality and ways we could broaden our curriculum to be more inclusive.

Students also talked about pronoun use by staff, and the power of more neutral “they/them” as opposed to “he/she.” They have many wishes and wonders for our district, including more staff training and student education about bullying and healthy vs. abusive/unhealthy relationships; improved support for LGBTQ+ students; stronger learning about the use of gender neutral terms (from registration forms with “male or female” check boxes to a classroom tactic to have “girls on one side and boys on the other”); and revising the high school dress code so it’s more gender neutral (which we did last year at the middle school level).

One student articulated their wish for our staff: “be educated so you can educate others.”

I want to give a shout out to Bethany, who helps provide this supportive and amazing environment for our students.

We also talked about The Bellingham Promise, our strategic plan, which guides our work, and our mission:

We collectively commit that our students are cared for and respected, and that
they will graduate from our schools prepared for success in the global community.
Each will be exceptional in his or her own way, with strong character, a passion for learning, and ready for the widest range of educational and vocational options
to support a diversity of life choices.

We do not take edits to The Promise lightly, nor do we make changes often, but I greatly appreciate the feedback to change “his or her” to “their” and believe this is a revision worth making.

Many students talked about what they perceive as nervousness by staff to try to be more gender neutral and their reluctance to use “they/them” instead of “he/she.” This point really resonated with me, because before my day with Tristan, I was worried I was going to mess up and use the wrong name or pronoun. Tristan, Bethany and all the LGBTQ+ students I met that day were all very reassuring and always gracious about my missteps. Their wonderful attitude helped me realize that this is another powerful part of helping support our staff and each other: our students can be our most powerful teaching and learning tool!

Thank you, Tristan, the QSA club and the team at Squalicum for an amazing day!

 

Comments (55)

  1. Mark Parrish

    3 years ago

    Dr. Baker,

    Thank-you for supporting our students at Squalicum! LGBTQ+ is one of many clubs that help celebrate the diversity of our student population. It is wonderful to have a leader that is sensitive, supportive and understanding about the unique needs of our students. Thanks again for blogging and walking in the shoes of our students. Your support is sincerely appreciated,

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Tristan, the LGBTQ+ club and Squalicum staff should be celebrated! We have amazing things happening in our district every day, thanks to our students, staff and community. It’s an incredible team effort – or better yet, a collective commitment!

  2. Elizabeth Boyle

    3 years ago

    I love that you are making the time for these amazing learning opportunities! Thank you!

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you! I am learning a lot, and I’m grateful others are learning from these rich experiences with students and staff.

  3. Virginia F. Herrick

    3 years ago

    Dr. Baker, thank you for this extraordinary sharing of the experience of a trans high school student. By accepting and using Tristan’s preferred pronouns, you are modeling respect for the new understanding of gender that is revolutionizing our culture. Some women who fought and advocated for women’s rights to be treated as equal to men found the shift initially confusing, but now are embracing this opportunity to acknowledge, once and for all, that gender does not define a person. Thanks again for your leadership on this issue.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Wonderful reflections!

  4. Guest

    3 years ago

    Dr. Baker, Agreed – Thank you for supporting our LGBTQA students! This means a lot to me as a parent looking ahead. Any news on when or how students will be able to use preferred names at school instead of their legal names? Forming a student/family support system would also be helpful. Thank you again, Julie

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for the comment and good question about legal/preferred names. Students right now should be able to share with staff their preferred names at school. Depending on the situation, it may be a conversation with a teacher, counselor or administrator is the appropriate place to have the initial conversation. With regards to support systems, we have a number of student groups in place. For family support systems, we have some community groups that support families. For anyone that wants more information I would encourage them to contact their school counselor who can then share district and/or community services. We have much to do though to ensure students/families are aware of what currently exists and to expand services. Thanks again for your thoughts and questions.

      • guest

        3 years ago

        Thank you for addressing my questions and concerns, Dr. Baker. It’s good advice that is greatly appreciated! Our LGBTQ students and families are lucky to have an Administrator who truly cares and supports this forward progression of change happening in our community and beyond.

  5. Ed Schmid

    3 years ago

    Happy to see this and your deep commitment to our students and staff at all of the schools and keeping the dialog open, honest and helpful to all in our community. Keep up the good work, as I know you certainly will.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for input and support!

  6. Dustin Saldivar

    3 years ago

    Instead of teaching these children to be hyper sensitive to innocent uses of common language would these children not be better served to be taught resiliency. To truly be prepared to succeed in a global community, or any community, one can’t expect that community to conform to every minor whim of the individual. That is a recipe for a lifetime of conflict and disappointment.

    It saddens me to think that these children are being taught to take offense so lightly, to think of their teachers and their classmates as aggressors, all over the most innocent and minor uses of language. How can this possibly end well?

    • Cheryl Enstad

      3 years ago

      Mr. Saldivar, I truly see your comments are from a caring place. But, I think you have missed Dr. Baker’s experience, that the kids were patient and engouraging of his innocent missteps. What is important is, he was making an effort to acknowledge what is not just important, but essential to who they are. It is when someone is aware of such an importance, then ignored, or worse, told it should not be important to them, that offense is taken, and in my opinion, should be taken. I encourage everyone, including me, to think about two or three, things that truly define who you are, your gender, your culture, your sexuality, your profession??? Imagine having that part of yourself ignored, or be called a different gender, culture, sexuality or profession. I would not think you “hypersensitive” if you would like me, a teacher, friend or acquaintance, to get what was so defining and important to you right. I wouldn’t be perfect, but I would try.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for the comment. I disagree that we’re teaching hyper sensitivity. Instead, I believe it’s more about helping our students and staff think about inclusion, respect, compassion and love.

      • Derek

        3 years ago

        With all due respect Superintendent Baker, I believe that your intended message of inclusion, respect, compassion and love can be presented in such a way that does not exclude those in every other walk of life (various religious beliefs, cultural differences etc…). Instead, I believe that your message would have resonated with the entire community if you had signs posted at schools that read “All Welcome” rather than one specific group.

        • gbaker

          3 years ago

          Thanks for commenting. I understand where you are coming from, but I think the LGBTQ community would say they have been marginalized for so many years that a sign that specifically welcomes “them” is appreciated and meaningful. Again, I don’t mean to speak for any one specific cause or group, but I know there are people in the LGBTQ community who have not felt safe, probably more than once, in their life. I believe our schools symbolize not only safety, but acceptance, compassion and respect for all students, staff, families and community members who may walk through our doors, no matter their background, appearance or history.

  7. Tristan Holmes

    3 years ago

    Thank you Dr. Baker for walking in my footsteps for the day!

    It was really great to see that there are people who really do want change. I’m glad that most of the feedback has been positive, and I look forward to seeing how the district can change for all students no matter their race, gender, sexual/romantic orientation, and social status.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you, Tristan! Thank you for sharing your experience on such a broad forum. You are a brave and incredible person.

  8. Shasta Duplantis

    3 years ago

    As the parent of a gender neutral child that will be attending BHS in a few years, this thrills me. Not only the walking in students’ shoes to alter your perspective, but the support for LGBTQ+ students. I don’t think that this is teaching them to be more easily offended, it is teaching others to be respectful and more tolerant. Thank you!

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your perspective!

  9. Al Vincent

    3 years ago

    Excellent blog post.
    Nice work, Dr. Baker
    Al Vincent

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you, Al!

  10. Mom of a High School Student next year

    3 years ago

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your day with Tristan. I think it absolutely amazing how much support Squalicum High School has for all their students, especially those who have special circumstances. I really hope that this is true for all high schools since my daughter will be attending Bellingham High next year and the middle school she attends now really isn’t as accepting. Again, thank you Dr. Baker for sharing this, it gives me hope that there is a chance for all of our children to be accepted no matter what.

  11. Kim Levin

    3 years ago

    Again, I am so thankful to be a part of Bellingham Public Schools. Thanks once again for your commitment to leading our school system to high levels of quality, effectiveness and compassion for the students that attend. As it was with racism, sexism, bullying and other evils of our society, so it will be with discrimination against sexual orientation/gender identity. Thank you for leading this school system and community in changing attitudes and language that discriminates against others. Our students/community members all deserve respect and to be valued and you are guiding us in this direction. Thanks for all you do.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thanks for your kind words. And it definitely takes a commitment across our district and community. I’m energized and proud of the response this blog is getting from students, families and staff.

  12. John Farquhar

    3 years ago

    Today, at Whatcom Middle School, I spotted the LGBTQ sign. Props to the District and Dr. Baker for this public display of support. I am very proud of this community.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Great to hear! Thank you!

  13. Mary Gallagher

    3 years ago

    Hi Dr Baker. I’ll add my thanks for writing this thoughtful, insightful piece. But I really want to thank Tristan for being willing to share their story. Thank you for being willing to let Dr. Baker — and the rest of us — tag along with you for the day! I loved learning more about you and other students at Squalicum. Best of luck to you! 🙂

    • Tristan Holmes

      3 years ago

      Thank you for your kind words! I am so happy that people are benefiting from my experience, but also the experience of my peers.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      I second that! Thank you, Tristan, for sharing your story!

  14. Local Parent

    3 years ago

    I certainly don’t see “Black People Welcome” or “Satanist Welcome” touted in a blog or on a sign in our schools. A bit of an extreme example, but why the emphasis? I’m concerned to why this action to indoctrinate our children is being highlighted and applauded. Yes, the merit might be there. Yes, the cause might be right …However, is this not supporting segregation by highlighting it? A more appropriate sign would say “Welcome All” and wouldn’t exclude those with a differing view to LGBTQ+ (which everyone is entitled to their own personal view without discrimination). I feel like your intentions are aimed for doing something good, however they are a bit misdirected. All should be welcome, even those who don’t agree morally, ethically, socially or whatever with the personal choices of others. We should be teaching respect for others, not pushing acceptance of a specific group. AND, the message should be educating our youth versus getting involved in an agenda to moralize our children based on the beliefs of a Superintendent. Leave parenting to the parents and let the schools teach their curriculum without bringing a personal bias into it, be it LGBTQ+ or religion or politics.

    • Derek

      3 years ago

      Local parent,

      I believe that the districts heart was in the right place, however the message to our children should be that all are welcome and that we all must be open minded and tolerant of those that are different or that disagree with us. I agree with you that schools should leave parenting to the parents and have schools focus on teaching curriculum without any bias (one way or the other) related to LGBTQ issues, religious issues or political issues.

    • John Farquhar

      3 years ago

      You ask: Why the emphasis? Because welcoming the least privileged sends a very strong message that all are indeed welcome. Because this is one of many messages, including the Bellingham Promise, which reiterate that “all children should be loved.” Because it is timely with court cases and school board hearings making the news. But, for me, the most important reason is simple. Because, it’s time.

      • Guest

        3 years ago

        Because its time? That sounds like an idealistic (yet cheesy) campaign slogan. I can agree on the lines of tolerance, but really? A sign? I’m an black american student. My people are in the news, in court cases and on campuses. I don’t see a sign saying blacks or browns are welcome. Black lives matter, right? Wait, no, only LGQBT lives matter, I see the sign.

        • Guest

          3 years ago

          Amen. I see that sign, too.

        • John Farquhar

          3 years ago

          Black Lives Matter. If you are a Bellingham school student, I would encourage you to offer Dr. Baker to walk in your shoes and/or suggest ways that the district can be more welcoming than it already is.

    • Yet another (concerned) parent

      3 years ago

      I agree with Local Parent… This is not an (specific) issue for our schools to tackle. The schools are public and should set there goals towards education of curriculum not social justice. Like it was stated, this is in the courts and in the news which shows it is currently a sensitive subject, yet the superintendent has already expressed and placed his personal beliefs on the community and Squalicum High School. And, as far as LGBTQ+ being the least privileged, I think that is inaccurate. How exactly are these students less privileged? Are they prevented from attending school? Are they prevented from riding buses? Can they not eat aside other students? I don’t see less privileged, I see them being lifted up into the stoplight and granted special privileges over students that are not LGBTQ+. Why not have a prayer room for religious students? Why not have special corners for introverts? Why not have special seating for people of color or race? Oh, wait… That’s because that is segregation. How about this… Why not have a parade for all students celebrating diversity and not excluded others by placing the focus on the “least privileged” LGBTQ+? Wouldn’t that support the Bellingham Promise stated as “all children should be loved” and not the least privileged?

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thanks for adding your perspective. I think we have a difference of opinion, and that’s ok. One thing in your comment that I’d like to correct is that this blog, these signs, etc., are not based on my beliefs. They are based on amazing work and engagement at the student level and with staff. Our staff and counselors worked with LGBTQ students on this sign and proposed this idea of making them available at all our schools, which I fully support. I agree with you that ideally a “Welcome All” sign is what we want. But in reality, throughout our country’s history we have made certain groups of people not feel welcome, and when that happens, I believe it is up to us to figure out ways to change that. A simple sign is just part of a much bigger endeavor to ensure all our students, staff and community feel welcome.

      • Mrs.Premms

        3 years ago

        Staff, counselors and LGBTQ students are the only ones whom created this sign? Congratulations, let’s move backwards. I assume that would be easier than placing signage expressing all the groups that are not so welcome. My apologies for the sarcasm but this seems to be exclusive. Many of our students feel different or segregated for a slew of reasons other than just the basis of LGBTQ considerations. I feel that this sign embraces one group and fails to show open arms towards the rest.

    • Tristan Holmes

      3 years ago

      You also must look at this from the perspective of the students.
      I am just assuming you are not part of the LGBT+ community because you do not understand, but that is just an assumption. I’m going to explain why these signs are important to us the best I can. I think the simplest way is to compare my past to my present.
      School wasn’t always a safe space for me. In middle school I was very deep in the closet because I feared being rejected, and honestly my fears weren’t far off. I’ve talked to current middle school students and they are honestly so much more accepting than they were just three years ago. People aren’t afraid to come out as much as my peers were. It was president Obama’s first term for most of the time I was in middle school. This was before a lot of big jumps happened for the community. Same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized in Washington state until near the end of first semester my eighth grade year. We didn’t know how the state would take us. Yes, Bellingham is pretty liberal and accepting compared to other parts of the country, but there was still that fear. We still didn’t know if schools would accept us.
      When I entered high school I was really hesitant to fully come out. I had friends that knew and my family knew, but I was still in fear for a while. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and basically just went “I’m queer.” I accepted that I wasn’t straight, and people were mostly supportive; however I still heard people using LGBT+ slurs all the time. It wasn’t until QSA started becoming a little more active in my sophomore year did people start limiting their use of slurs, though there are still those bad apples, and people are not treating my friends and I as if we are different anymore.
      That is, until one of us are transgender. Transphobia is much more present than homophobia in Bellingham, and now the bathroom bills it’s causing fear for both cisgender and transgender individuals. Yes, even here in Washington state where we aren’t considering the bill. At the beginning of the school year we installed single stall bathrooms on many of our schools, before the bathroom bills, and even still there is fear.
      Our trans students are afraid to come out based on the chance of ridicule. Even though we know that our staff with accept us, or at least try to, our students still need work. Everyone needs work to know how to help others, but right now the most prominent issue is LGBT+ rights.
      Why do you think there was such a big deal about black kids entering all white schools during the Civil Rights Movement. Ruby Bridges was the little girl photographed in 1960 who went to the all white elementary school in New Orleans. This was almost fifty-six years ago, but that isn’t very long. My father was born only three years later, and while my mother and I joke about him being older than us, this really wasn’t that long ago. What do you think they were talking about back then? What do you think people thought when they said that people of color were allowed in their schools? Do you not believe people were complaining about them having special privilege? People still complain about POC having “special treatment” in schools, and this is when we are closer to racial equality.
      There are many people who are still being put down based on their race, disabilities, ethnicity, religion, sexual/romantic orientation, gender, socioeconomic class, and other things. This said, what is being most targeted in this very moment are LGBT+ people. Yes, there are Islamic students who are shamed for their religion. Yes, there are Latino students who are shamed for their origin. Yes, there are mentally ill students who are told that they are lazy, irrational, or wrong. All of these kids should be welcomes, but we have to work on issues slowly. Ideally all issues should be addressed, but we’ve learned from experience that society doesn’t work that way. You need to ease people into change at times, and at other times you need to reiterate a point.
      These LGBT+ signs reiterate a point. These signs are saying that Bellingham is not going to turn into North Carolina or Mississippi.
      I know this turned into a rant, but I feel like I should speak up because I was the student in the article so I have some more background on this topic, and I have too many peers who are unable to speak up. Too many students still can’t use their voices. Too many people are unable to even admit who they are to themselves. Too many people try to speak over us. Yes, this is long, but the list of LGBT+ students who go unheard are longer than this.
      Maybe these signs can prevent more LGBT+ beatings and suicides.

      • Local Parent

        3 years ago

        I think you miss the point. Despite your rant, you SHOULD be proud that you found the courage to come out. I think that it is great that a burden seems to be lifted for yourself. When you came out, as you stated, you were mostly embraced despite some naysayers. Sounds as if your fear was your own and not representative of the people around you. Isn’t that the climate for a majority of students and people of our nation for that matter? Not everyone is going to like, support, or care about you and your personal choices. Such is life. Jocks don’t like nerds. Skiers don’t like snowboarders. Sailors don’t like power-boaters. Whatever. Hair styles, perspnal choices, sexual preferences, down to the car you might drive or how your dress. Everyone has an opinion. Courage is measured by finding strength to stand-up for yourself and not care what ALL people think. Surround yourself with those who do, right? However don’t make your choice your platform. LGBTQ groups are only a part of the community. All should be recognized as welcomed. Have signs that communicate courage and strength, not dividing by highlighting for a specific group amongst what you want to be a diversified and accepting collective.

    • Guest

      3 years ago

      Excellent Response.

      Thank You!

    • Guest

      3 years ago

      I agree focus on teaching

  15. School timed

    3 years ago

    I love how the Superintendent tries to push the school agenda of start times as being supported by a LGBTQ+ student. All about the students, right!?! Why does this seem like an effort to convince us of the ‘true’ concerns of the Bellingham School Districts is sleep and LGBTQRSTVTH?

    • Tristan Holmes

      3 years ago

      Hi there! I just want to assure you that Dr. Baker really does care about what the students think of the start times. When he asked my friends and I about the start times it was to get a better understanding of not just LGBT+ students, but also a better understanding of high school students in general (believe it or not I have straight and cisgender friends 🙂 ).
      This article just happened to be about the life if an LGBT+ student, and I am an LGBT+ student with sleep disorders and would really benefit from the change. Sadly I will be graduating next year and won’t see the changes; however, I am really excited to see how the underclassmen can benefit from this.
      If I did not believe that Dr. Baker really does care about students’ sleep and truly wanted to support LGBT+ youth I would not go through with this.
      I hope this cleared things up. I’m sorry this became so long and kind of like a rant. 🙂

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      The push for a later start time for high school students is something we’ve been working on for a long time. Over my six years as superintendent, I’ve heard it from every corner of our district: students, staff, families, health care providers, you name it. I’d also add that there are many important initiatives and bodies of work happening around our district.

  16. Teddi Anshus

    3 years ago

    Dr. Baker, I can’t thank you enough for your courage and compassion for creating an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome at the Bellingham Schools. When I walked into Kulshan on Monday and saw the new LGBTQ sign I was brought to tears and overwhelmed by the courage and compassion you have shown. I only wish more schools would do the same for our young people. Even though I know these are ideals that have been encouraged at the school level by so many teachers for years, it is amazing to see the support coming from a district level.

    I was also truly impressed by the courage of the Tristan in your “Walking in the shoes of…” article. What an amazing student to be able to talk openly to make a difference for everyone.

    All I can say is thank you! I love that our community is embracing everyone not just in practice, but by proudly announcing to the world that everyone is welcome and no one will be discriminated against.

    I love it.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you. Great reflection, and I am so appreciative of the variety of perspectives on this very important issue.

  17. Lisa Conlon

    3 years ago

    As a staff member of BSD, I want you to know that your blog and Tristan’s story have helped me to take steps “to be educated, so you can educate others.” I have looked up definitions on the internet, discussed important issues about equity and inclusion, and thought carefully about my use of pronouns and gender neutral language/actions. Thank you for inspiring me to learn more about my community and diversity of experience.

    • Tristan Holmes

      3 years ago

      I cannot say how much this means to me. I’m so glad my experience was able to help others. People like you are great allies, and I cannot appreciate y’all enough. Thank you for taking steps to help our community. 🙂

  18. Jody Benjamin

    3 years ago

    Tristan, first of all, I admire your bravery!! I read Dr Baker’s blog on Wednesday and all of the comments as well. I left work that same afternoon and while driving across Lincoln and Lakeway…I saw a man with a sign standing at the intersection …denouncing “homosexuals” and others.
    I process through music. Here is my contribution to the blog feedback:
    https://vimeo.com/148075057 Jimi Hendrix, If 6 Was 9

    1969, but still relevant today.

  19. WMS parent

    3 years ago

    Thank you for this interesting article. I wish this student all the best.
    I would just like to ask one question about Mr Baker’s comment that there will be a transition to gender-neutral bathrooms at all middle and high schools. What does this mean? Does this mean that all new bathrooms will be built as single-stall bathrooms? Or does it mean that every multi-stall bathroom will now be available to every student and none at all will be marked as boys or girls? Could you please clarify? Thanks!

    • Monique J.

      3 years ago

      What a great question to go unanswered thus far. I’d like to know the answer to that as well.

    • gbaker

      3 years ago

      Thank you for your question. In our current schools and buildings, we have converted single occupancy bathrooms (most formerly staff bathrooms) into gender inclusive bathrooms for students. At our new schools, we will continue to provide both multi-stall bathrooms for those who identify as male/female, as well as single occupancy bathrooms for anyone. I hope that helps! Thanks.

      • WMS parent

        3 years ago

        Thank you! That is the answer I was hoping for.

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