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Leading the charge for equity and inclusion: Embracing intersectional identities and challenging inequities

Personal essay by Salvador Ramirez (he, him, el), DSST Manager of Equity and Inclusion

My identity as a first-generation, queer, Mexican-American, bilingual, cisgender man has influenced who I am as an educator in many ways. My college education allowed me to understand my positionality in society and gave me knowledge that informed my experiences of oppression as a person with marginalized identities. I knew that I wanted to provide the same opportunities to my students, so I built a social justice program that would give opportunities to high school students to engage in knowledge that helped me feel seen, valued and empowered. I was intentional in building a curriculum that helped my students unpack both white supremacy and patriarchy, and I often shared my personal experiences and valued those of my students as foundational knowledge. However, it wasn’t always easy being able to speak to all my identities.

Where there was comfort and power speaking to my experiences as a person of color, my experiences as a queer person brought discomfort and often fear that has been instilled in me from growing up in a patriarchal, machista culture. It’s difficult only living out your partial truth and having to hide part of who you are. This is why Pride is so vital for the self-determination of the LGBTQIA+ community in our society. 

Pride for me is a celebration that brings visibility to identities in the LGBTQIA+ community that are often hidden in the margins of society. It is a reminder that we want more than just to survive but to thrive and live our lives as our most authentic selves. In a time with the most anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation ever, celebrating Pride at DSST is imperative in affirming our LGBTQIA+ staff and students that who they are matters. It is a commitment to continue doing the work to ensure our organization is "eliminating education inequity" for all our students.

Pride is also an opportunity to remember that la lucha sigue (the struggle continues) in doing the work, to have our voices heard, our power valued and our community celebrated. Especially when Black Trans women continue to have the highest murder rate in our country. 

As Marsha P. Johnson, Black Trans Gay Liberation Activist, said, "No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us." 

With that said, I am in the process of transformation as I learn to shed some internalized beliefs that have often held me back from speaking my truth in order to embrace and celebrate myself and all my intersectional identities. It’s hard. But, being surrounded by powerful LGBTQIA+ leaders in our network living their most authentic truths has helped remind me that it’s possible. I'm grateful for leaders like Bel Damiani (Science Teacher and Trans Youth Advocate at CG Middle School) and Meg Goble (Leadership Development Team) who model how we can show up as our whole selves in our leadership. I am also grateful for allies, like my team, Dr. Griffen (Chief Equity Officer) and Mercedes Blea-Davis (Senior Manager of Diversity and Belonging), who challenge me to show up as my most authentic self.

As streets fill up with rainbow everything and people celebrate with chosen families, I am reminded that there are others who are organizing to fight against dehumanizing legislation and create access to basic human rights. I am choosing to ground myself in the privileges I have been afforded as a cisgender man to do the work necessary as a network leader to create the change necessary that will move us closer to equity.

In the wise words of self-identified “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde:

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”