Letters to the Editor: I was a closeted gay teacher. Textbooks with LGBTQ+ figures matter to gay students

People in a meeting hold up cellphones.
Conservative members of the audience record a school board meeting last week in Temecula during a contentious discussion on LGBTQ+ figures in textbooks.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Reading about the debates over LGBTQ+ rights in schools, I wondered how many teachers are expected to lose their identity when they walk through the school gates.

As a retired gay teacher from a conservative district (Chino Valley Unified School District), I never felt I had the freedom to share my life the way my straight, Christian colleagues did. My gayness was a well known “secret” and much discussed among students and parents.

I only wish that my LGBTQ+ students saw hope in my presence, closeted as it was at school. I know they felt comfortable telling me their troubles, sometimes cloaked or vague in wording. Still, they deserved better from me.


My husband and I just celebrated 45 years together. When speaking about the truth of my life is dismissed as “perverting” or “grooming” children, I can see that much work needs to be done.

Pride flags are meaningful, reassuring symbols for gay kids, just as the American flag is meaningful to all Americans. Books featuring gay people represent historical accuracy. Both are needed to help kids see a world beyond their hometown.

Steven Harrison, Claremont


To the editor: State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond called members of the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education “extremists.” He could have used the term “deplorables,” made famous by Hillary Clinton.

The Chino Valley Unified School District has a very mixed, majority-minority student body. Parents have the right to know what’s going on in their school and what’s going on with their minor children.


Jeffrey Whitfield, Laguna Hills


To the editor: To all parents demanding public school teachers notify them within three days of a child identifying as a gender different than what’s on their birth certificate, why is it not your responsibility to know your child?

Good parents try their best to make their children feel safe and loved as their authentic selves. If you are a parent who equates LGBTQ+ people with pedophiles and perverts, you will obviously be the last to know if your child identifies with the very large, loved and wonderful LGBTQ+ community.

It isn’t the teacher’s job to reconcile that conflict; it is yours. Good luck.

Marie Puterbaugh, Redondo Beach