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A Teacher’s Coming Out Story


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“Above everything else that I teach my kids, what I want them to walk away with from my classroom is to be proud of who they are. To know that who they are is worthy and wonderful, without any changes. And I wasn’t living that in the classroom.”  ~ Jessica Lifshitz

Listen to my interview with Jessica Lifshitz (transcript):


In schools all across the United States, all across the world, teachers are hiding.

Students ask if the teacher is married. The teacher says no. 

Co-workers say they want to set the teacher up with someone. The teacher makes excuses. The teacher says they are really picky. The teacher says they are just getting out of a bad relationship. The co-workers eventually stop asking.

Students ask if the teacher is dating anyone. The teacher says no.

The invitation to the staff holiday party says, “Families welcome.” The teacher goes alone.

Students ask if the teacher has a roommate. The teacher says yes. A friend. Always a friend.


Despite worldwide civil rights gains for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), schools are still places where most LGBT teachers still feel they have to conceal this part of their identity.

A few years ago, 5th-grade teacher Jessica Lifshitz decided to stop hiding. She came out to her administrator, colleagues, students and their parents and has been teaching as a whole, undisguised person ever since. I learned about her story when I came across this blog post and asked if she would be a guest on my podcast. She agreed, and I’m so glad she did.

I’m proud to know Jessica and am grateful to the administrators, colleagues, students, and community who have contributed to making this story a positive one. To those of you who don’t work in that kind of school, my heart goes out to you. Maybe someday. ♦

Other Resources:

Jessica’s website is Crawling Out of the Classroom.

To get connected with other educators who are committed to LGBT issues in education, follow the #LGBTeach hashtag on Twitter.

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  1. I am so grateful to have come across this post. Thank you for sharing this, and doing the work. I hope some day I’m fully able to be undisguised in my classroom.

  2. Raewyn Donnell says:

    Just a huge shout out to you from New Zealand. It’s so much easier here – I have a number of gay colleagues who are out. I teach and also run a Diversity (LGBTQI) group in my school for the kids one lunchtime a week – we host a whole school picnic once a year with rainbow flags and shirts – the whole deal. I forget sometimes how lucky we are and I feel for those of you in the States – especially in these increasingly uncertain times. We have to help each other to stay strong. Arohanui.

  3. Brittany says:

    I’ve been looking for resources on how to come out as an educator and what that looks like. At the moment I do not feel comfortable being out at the school where I am a student teacher, though my mentor teacher does know about my personal life. In any case, this blog was very heartening and gave me hope that I can find a school and community where all aspects of my personhood will be valued. Thank you for sharing.

    • Eric Wenninger says:

      Thanks for sharing Brittany. I’m so happy that Jenn’s interview with Jessica helped you find hope. Hold onto that and know there are people and communities who value the whole you. I hope you find a space to teach and live where that becomes a reality for you.

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