[ social justice ]

NYSUT LGBTQ Committee charts year ahead

By Kara Smith



embers of NYSUT’s LGBTQ Committee are charting their path for the year ahead. Part of that work includes developing resolutions for the statewide union’s annual Representative Assembly that center on topics including transgender rights and improving the school climate for LGBTQ educators and students.

“I encourage members to develop LGBTQ committees in their home districts,” said J. Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer and LGBTQ Committee chair. “Having local committees across the state will help us share best practices and get like-minded people working together.”

NYSUT Executive Director/Political Director Melinda Person detailed the statewide union’s efforts to defend the freedom of LGBTQ students and educators. It’s important to push back against efforts that target educators simply for teaching the truth, she explained.

“The goal is to get the majority of Americans to value their freedom and our democracy more than the divisive factionalism running rampant — and to get them to vote that way,” said Person.

Tanya Truesdell
Tanya Truesdell, Edwards-Knox Central School Service Employees Association.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten spoke with attendees remotely. Acknowledging the difficulty of the struggle, she offered strategies for safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ individuals and encouraged committee members to keep up the fight.

“Book tasting” events, which allow attendees to read passages from and take home free age-appropriate copies of LGBTQ-inclusive books for students at all levels, also were discussed. Past events have been funded through a grant started by former NYSUT First Vice President Catalina Fortino to promote LGBTQ inclusivity statewide. Modeled after the National Education Association’s Human Rights Campaign Day of Reading in support of transgender and non-binary youth, events have taken place in Western New York and at NYSUT headquarters. Along with book giveaways, past sessions have featured panel discussions and Q&As about transgender issues.

“They’re a great opportunity for individuals to discover new publications that promote inclusivity and learn more about the LGBTQ community,” said Abraham. “Reach out to your district’s library media specialist for a list of book suggestions.”

Committee members also discussed how allies can support LGBTQ members and students, citing the book The Savvy Ally: A Guide for Becoming a Skilled LGBTQ+ Advocate by Jeannie Gainsburg as a useful resource.

NYSUT’s LGBTQ Committee includes teachers, School-Related Professionals, higher education faculty, retirees, school librarians and school psychologists. The committee aims to educate peers and ensure that all LGBTQ members feel safe and welcome in their workplace.

NYSUT’s LGBTQ Committee members
photos: El-Wise Noisette
NYSUT’s LGBTQ Committee members and leaders from across the state gather to discuss equity in education and how to help foster a safe learning environment for all.
LGBTQ+ publication cover with Wanda Sykes
For an exhaustive list of NYSUT LGBTQ member resources, including sample contract language and information on available support by region, visit nysut.org/lgbtq.

The union also has several downloadable posters available through its online publication catalog. Visit nysut.org/publications.