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2012: A Year in Review

Tonight is the last Friday night of 2012, exactly one week after the world was supposed to end. A lot has happened in 2012, and I decided to highlight everything significant that happened to me this year, month by month.

gs2012

It’s been one heck of a year at GingerSass.

January

Not much happened in January. I turned 22, which was actually a better birthday than my 21st. My friend convinced the bartender at a local bar that I should be given a free bottle of champagne because my 21st coincided with a blizzard and I didn’t get to celebrate. I received a stuffed unicorn and zebra print seat covers from my parents. I, once again, pleaded to Ellen as to why we should celebrate our birthday together and she ignored me. Ya know, the usual.

February

I made it onto PostSecret for the first time. Whitney Houston died and I was devastated so I wrote a poem. Ryan Murphy pissed me off so I wrote him an angry tumblr post turned into a letter, which he never responded to.

March

March was a very important month for me– I STARTED GINGERSASS! (All of the posts posted before March 25th were transferred from my tumblr site.) Fun fact– GingerSass was started because I was pretending to be an investigative reporter at the Sex, Love, and Dating Conference. Also, Adrienne Rich died, which devastated me. A lot.

April

April freaking rocked. Highlights of the month include:

volunteering with NOH8 and later being featured on their website
meeting Frank Warren at my first PostSecret event
saw an opera and a concert in one week
my Poefy (poetry-wifey) was fantabulous in The Vagina Monologues and I wrote about it

May

May was a good month for me. Obama came out in support of gay marriage. I won an award. I graduated college. Life was pretty awesome to me in May.

June

June was an interesting month. I started it out writing about suicide after finding out that the partner of my friend who had committed suicide also committed suicide. I wrote a bunch of 10 Minute Musings for a grad class and reconnected with myself. I came out to my family as a blogger, with the support of Cady McClain, aka Dixie from All My Children. I even inspired her alter-ego, Suzy F*cking Homemaker, to create an internet meme. Suzy also encouraged me to write a post on why I want to be a celesbian…so I did. I also  booked and performed my first paid poetry gig, which was pretty darn awesome.

July

July started off with a roadtrip to Massachusetts with Poefy to the wedding of Taylor and Mike. I basked in the glory of cheeseball goodness. (This post is still one of my most-visited posts, btw.) I fell in love with my job over the summer. I also figured out What Obama Taught Me. I indulged in Restaurant Week. Then I got serious about my blog, invested in an actually site host, got free magnets, and was overwhelmed by the idea of going to BlogHer. I also posted about teacher dress codes, which is also one of my most-visited posts of all time.

August

August started off with me going to BlogHer’12 and MY LIFE CHANGING FOREVER. I made so many blogging friends through BlogHer, and I’m going to (eventually) categorize them on her so you can so who I’m reading. I also won a happy hour party in August and celebrated with wings and food at a local bar with my friends. Woohoo! To top August off, I started my new job, got an apartment to go along with it, and ruminated on why Res Life will always be a part of me.

September

September was an emotional, crazy month. I had an awesome first week of September. I was a national runner up to be the next Verizon Ultimate Insider, mentioned on AfterEllen, and yogurt was on sale. I made it through the one year deathaversary of my friend’s suicide, and I participated in yet another walk for dead people. September was emotional, tough, and trying, but I got through it.

October

October started off with me reflecting on how much I love my car. I also met Jack Hanna, which was a childhood dream come true. I had a kickass lesson on bullying on National Coming Out Day and fell even more in love with teaching. I went to the Dodge Poetry Festival for the first time as an educator, and I helped my students fall in love with poetry. I met Geena Davis and she told me, “You’re changing the world to be a place I want to be in. Keep up the good work.” I saw Melissa Etheridge in concert. I survived Hurricane Sandy, was really upset that Sandy canceled Halloween, and was upset by the whole Sandy experience.

November

November feels like such a long time ago. I participated in NaBloPoMo for the first time and wrote about how I’m a Jersey girl, how Sandy domesticated me, and what Obama’s win meant to me. I also talked about bacon, ghosts, and just how important it was that I found my voice again by going to poetry open mics. I cut my hair, took silly webcam pics, and thought about my future. I ended my first NaBloPoMo experience by being grateful for stickers, and really having peace in knowing that I’m on the right track for what I want to do with my life.

December

December flew by. I think the biggest thing that happened to me this month, right before my student teaching internship ended, was that I realized why I want to teach. I arranged for an assembly for my Creative Writing students, and  it really changed my relationship with them forever. It taught one student to not be afraid to be who she is, and this, in return, encouraged me to come out to her. She then wrote me a note and made me cry. Then the Newtown, Connecticut shooting happened and it hit really close to home, as it was the first school shooting that has happened since I began student teaching. My students asked me if I would take a bullet for them, and I was able to respond honestly and say yes. Student teaching ended, and I managed to make it to the parking lot after school before crying. I got creeped out by the whole Elf on a Shelf phenomenon, but secretly loved my creepy little elf.

2012 was a year of growth. I rediscovered my writing identity, and GingerSass became a very large part of who I am. I’m grateful for the opportunities blogging has given me this past year, and I cannot wait to see what 2013 holds.

Happy New Year, folks! What are you looking forward to in 2013?

PS I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend or not, but if you’ll be at home this NYE, consider joining in on #Tweetin13. There are prizes, fun people, and it’s hosted by two of my favorite ladies. Get on it!

Why I Chose Not to Come Out on National Coming Out Day

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day.  National Coming Out Day was started in 1987 when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Since then, National Coming Out Day has continued to promote a safe and accepting world for LGBT individuals.

I’m currently student teaching in a really wonderful district. The teachers are amazing, wonderful, and supportive of one another. The students are really close knit. The school thrives on diversity. However, one thing I have noticed in the hallways is that the school has a slightly homophobic feel to it. There are no out teachers (that I have met). There is no Gay-Straight Alliance for students to join. In particular, my students have frequently used the phrase “That’s so gay!” or “You’re so gay!” in the classroom. I have had at least four conversations about respecting one another and each other’s differences in my one classroom, but it sometimes feels as if I am beating a dead horse.

Last night, I was so overwhelmed by the ignorance displayed by my students that I was literally restless. I remembered that today was National Coming Out Day, and I became even more restless. I started Googling “student teachers coming out to students as lesbian” and the lack of results was even more overwhelming. The more I Googled, the more I wanted to cry. There were plenty of resources to help support students who were coming out, but none for teachers coming out to their students.

I then remembered a book I had bought at some point last year (one teacher in 10, edited by Kevin Jennings) that is a collection of words of wisdom from LGBT-identified individuals in the teaching profession. I dug the book out and consulted it. While it didn’t really offer much advice on working a Coming Out Day lesson into one’s plans, it gave me inspiration to try to think outside of the box.

I went to bed at 12:30am, but I didn’t fall asleep until close to 2:30 last night. (This is bad when you get up at 5.) My mind and heart were weighed down by my worries about my students, and whether or not I have the potential to help them be more accepting of others. I also was still very conflicted on whether or not a Coming Out Day Lesson would be detrimental to my classroom environment.

When my alarm went off, I was already up and on Facebook. One of my Facebook friends had responded to my post looking for Coming Out Day Lesson ideas by suggesting I take a look at an anti-bullying lesson a New York teacher had done. The lesson appeared on BuzzFeed and proved to be a true source of motivation and inspiration for me.

In my Creative Writing class, where I’m already known as the “cool, weird teacher,” I handed each student a small slip of paper and told them to destroy it by whatever means they felt necessary. Some ripped their pieces, others folded them, and one student even chewed on his. One of my students laughed and said she was “demeaning the paper” as she wrote mean names on it. After the papers were destroyed, I told my students I wanted them to return the papers to the original state as when I had handed them to the students. They all stared at me, dumbfounded, before they attempted to tape, glue, erase, and uncrumble their papers back to normalcy. After a few minutes of scrambling, I told my students to stop, that it was impossible to return their papers back to the original state.

I discussed the one girl’s paper, where she had written mean names and curse words on one side and compliments on the other. “No matter what nice words you may say, the mean words still remain. Bullying is like how we destroyed our papers– once you say something to someone, you can’t take it back. The scars remain.” I explained that I had had the students complete the activity because I noticed a lot of students saying “That’s/ You’re so gay” or “That’s/ You’re retarded” in the hallway. I commented that you never know who can hear what you’re saying, or what scars you’re giving someone as you unknowingly bully them, their friends, their family, or other loved ones. I also explained that it was National Coming Out Day and that some people in the school might come out today, and I wanted my students to try to be supportive of them by making the conscious decision to be careful with what words they say, as you never know who’s listening.

The reaction was AMAZING. A few of my students said “they felt like shit” and that “they just wanted to hug their papers.” A lot of productive conversation was stimulated by the activity, and although I only included it in my Creative Writing class (it wouldn’t have gone over well in the other class setting), it felt like a HUGE success in my day.

Although I have struggled with my identity as a closeted out educator in my school these past few weeks, I chose to NOT come out today because I felt it was irrelevant. Instead, I chose to have a lesson that was relatable to my students. I wasn’t just a gay teacher to them– today, I was a role model. I taught my students a valuable lesson on the power of words and bullying, and I stimulated conversation in the classroom. While my students may not have received confirmation that I’m a flaming homo, they did receive confirmation that I will not tolerate any discrimination in my classroom. That alone is all the more powerful than coming out on National Coming Out Day.

I can honestly say that, for the first time in years, I feel the need to remain closeted in my life. I’m not afraid to be me, but I am afraid of being labeled a lesbian before an educator. Without the label, I am able to teach my students about love and tolerance first, and worry about myself second. That is far more valuable than any moment of sharing my lesbian identity with a bunch of teenagers.

The only evidence of my sexuality today: a NOH8 button I added to my bag