What I want you to talk about when you talk about the Orlando shooting.

Last weekend, there was a shooting in a gay night club. I've felt this feeling before.

I remember this feeling.

I am 18, and I am at a stoplight. A pickup truck pulls up next to me in the turn lane. I glance; inside the truck are three or four guys, my high school classmates. It’s June. Their windows are down, they are listening to classic rock, and they are wearing undershirts in the heat. I know they’ve seen me, so I timidly wave hello.


Photo via iStock.

Did they wave back or did they laugh and call me a faggot? It doesn’t matter. The light turns green, and I go. The truck swerves out of the turn lane to go straight, and follows me closely. Here’s where I feel it.

My heart beats faster and faster and my knuckles are white on the steering wheel. If I drive home, they will know where I live, and if I drive to a friend’s house and that friend isn’t home, I’ll be alone with them — either way, I risk not even making it to the door. But if I keep driving, they could run me off the road. I have to stop, but I can’t find a safe place.

Finally, shaking, I decide on a gas station. And as I approach the parking lot, I glance in my rearview mirror: The truck turns away and disappears, as if none of this ever happened.

I grew up in Missouri, close to St. Louis, but far enough away that I could play Marco Polo in a wheat field.

When I came out of the closet, I knew of no other gay kids in my high school’s student body of 1,000. I was a senior then, and it was terrifying. Because when I was a freshman, I saw the story of Matthew Shepard’s torture and murder on the TV news. It happened to a kid like me in a town like mine, and I never forgot: It could happen to me too.

When I saw news of the massacre in Orlando, I could see that truck swerving in my rearview mirror again.

I imagine many queer people felt the same way.

The window of a gay bar in Brussels. Photo by Siska Gremmelprez for AFP/Getty Images.

For us, this is different from other all-too-frequent mass shootings, and it is not the same as other terror attacks. This attack was meant to remind queer people, specifically, that despite all of the progress of the last two decades, we can still be made to feel that we exist only at the mercy of others. It was designed to humiliate as much as it was to exterminate — to trick us into believing our breath is a luxury rather than a right.

Queer folks know better than to buy into this. Our diversity can be dizzying — we are intersections of trans, bi, lesbian, gay, gender-non-conforming, black, Latinx, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and so many other identities. But one thread ties all of us together: We know the importance of asserting our humanity. And despite all the risks, we’ll keep doing it.

Our elected officials might be tempted, as any of us might be, to treat this shooting as a gun rights issue alone or as an issue of terrorism or national security.

It is certainly those things: Calls for reforming gun policy, and calls for love instead of terror are valid. But this attack did not occur randomly; it was not aimed at the general public. It was aimed at queer people. And addressing it as though the identities of the victims are of tertiary importance — identities for which real people bled to death — is more than dishonest. It’s a new kind of erasure, a quieter kind of violence.

Flowers at a memorial in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun for Getty Images.

There are politicians who fight their hardest to steal the dignity of trans people, who fought against my right to marry, and who ignore the epidemic of homelessness among queer youth of color. Watch now as they pirouette gracefully: They will say an attack on gay Americans is an attack on all Americans. They will say this should strengthen our resolve to arm every schoolteacher. They will use it to justify pouring money and lives into the war on ISIS. It is our civic duty to hold them accountable for this hypocrisy.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

For my entire life, I have heard from public servants, faith leaders, and even some friends and family members that my existence is an inconvenience — or an abhorrence. Imagine it.

Now imagine real violence done to people who dare exist like me. And imagine it going unspoken or being used for political gain. Imagine what it would feel like to have someone who hates you suddenly force you to take their hand in fellowship.

A year ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed gay people the right to marry all across the country.

I celebrated with my fiancé. I saw rainbows everywhere, online and off. I was buoyed by the outpouring of love, pride, and positivity that followed.

I thought that — just maybe — that shaky 18-year-old, knuckles white on the steering wheel, had finally found the safety he deserved. Imagine being wrong about that.

You’d be angry too.

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Modern Love

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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