Recently, in one of the assignments I completed for my Masters course, we were asked to reflect on some questions regarding different bias’ and “-isms” such as racism, sexism, and heterosexual-ism. One experience that I would like to share for the purpose of this blog post is one that I experienced and was witness to based on bias against the LGBTQ community and directly relates to Early Childhood Education.
Some time, just over a year or so ago my company distributed customer service questionnaires to our families. At the time, I was at one of our largest centers that served 230 children in our area and naturally was extremely diverse. One of our trademarks and key selling points is that we develop family values, and one of the questions related specifically to our delivery of this service – “How are we doing promoting both our and your family values? Is there anything we could do better?” After receiving many questionnaires back, we were reviewing them and my mouth dropped open reading one of the responses to that question. The parent gave us the specific feedback that we could do a better job of promoting family values if we didn’t have an openly gay employee.
To give you a little bit of background, one of our three majority owners is a woman who is openly gay and was very active in that particular center, especially in our Martial Arts department – which is an integral part of our business model and culture. She oversaw and ran the department at the time and was often interacting with students, martial arts students and was instructing children both in the classroom and on our mat. Obviously this family didn’t realize that this wasn’t just any employee, but a Board Member and owner of our company, but the opening biased and overt heterosexism that was listed before me was really disheartening, especially when one of the main things we promote in our program is respect.
In my opinion, exposing children to differences shouldn’t be limited to just diversity in race or ability, teaching children to be accepting of children with different skin tones or disabilities, but also to different lifestyle choices, religions and sexual orientations and having members of our program community that can help us do that and normalize the differences for them will make a more respectful, helpful and accepting child. Reading that statement, in that moment, I was very humbled that I don’t have to have those experiences and never have to feel that kind of hate, but understand also that no one can change their opinion or perspective for them. They would have to make the choice to be more open and accepting and not equate a person’s sexuality as a slight against a person’s character or values.