Country Queers @countryqueers8 months ago ·  West Virginia

9.  It’s been a long road to finding a job in Central Appalachia where I can bring all the parts of myself into the room at once. . Most of my paid work, before my current job, centered around education & youth. I taught GED & adult literacy to folks aged 16-70 who’d all had horrible experiences with school.  I then worked in the WV public schools, supporting youth who were struggling academically, emotionally, socially - where I wasn’t able to be out at work.  2 years in a small rural middle school & no-one ever even asked me “if I was married” which meant they probably knew I was queer, but didn’t want to go there. . There was the principal who told me “Tolerance is a pro-gay buzz word, and we aren’t here to talk about that” after I described a Teaching Tolerance activity I wanted to do with the students, because the *three* students of color in a school of 300 were dealing with all kinds of racist bullshit.  The queer kids still found me, of course, and a handful came out to me. . Young people in Central Appalachia are often carrying a whole lot. I had students who were working side jobs to pay for food for their families, trying to help their parents stay clean in the middle of a state where drug firms dumped over 20 million prescription pills into one tiny mountain town alone.  I had students who found their parents dead after they had ODed and had to call someone, kids who had (out of terror) told the cops who raided their homes where the drugs were, and were riddled by guilt that it was all their fault their parent was in prison. . It’s been 3 years since I moved on from that job, but I think about those students daily. WV teachers are doing what they can with what they’ve got (& recently, showing up in powerful ways to demand better for all public employees!!!), but our schools are failing our students:  through long bus rides (mine was 4 hours a day in high school), through a lack of resources to for students needing more support, through teaching to a test that has no cultural or practical relevance, & through recreating spaces where students of color and lgbtq+ youth (and teachers) don’t feel safe to be their full selves.