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OPINION | Why I Support Debbie Carlsen for Seattle Public Schools Board District 1 - South Seattle Emerald

Author: South Seattle Emerald

Source: https://southseattleemerald.com/2023/10/30/opinion-why-i-support-debbie-carlsen-for-seattle-public-schools-board-district-1/

Image of OPINION | Why I Support Debbie Carlsen for Seattle Public Schools Board District 1 - South Seattle Emerald

by Sabina NeemOn Wednesday, Sept.27, I attended the Seattle Public Schools board meeting.Many community members were there — students, parents, teachers, administrators.Several on the agenda were slated to share why students should not be supported in their right to a safe learning environment if they are not cisnormative in their gender identity and expression; in particular, they were protesting “3211 Gender-Inclusive Schools: Transgender and Gender-Expansive Student Rights and Supports” adopted in July 2020.The support for LGBTQ+ students and the community was strong. After the few initial comments, there was a flurry of comments advocating that trans* students have a right to an educational environment that is safe and supportive.There were many who expressed gratitude for all that has been done thus far to achieve this.Next to me, I heard a community member exhale, “I’m so tired of us being so grateful for getting the scraps.” I felt it too.Yes, gratitude is a powerful mover.It opens us up to want to do more, be better.And, in Seattle, it feels like those of us on the margins are always expected to wax poetic on how lovely it is to be invited in. We’re invited in, and then what?I am a queer brown cisgender woman living in the South End.I moved to Seattle from Philadelphia over a decade ago.Philadelphia is a city in which the largest racial group is African Americans (40%), not white people (34%).It is a place where Black people run sh*t.And it shows. There are no “thank-yous” delivered for platitudes.Walk the walk or get out of the way.In Seattle, I experience a kind of dysphoria I have never before encountered — not growing up in California, not in college in New York City, and not in my time in Philly.In Seattle, the toxic culture of whiteness is everywhere.Those on the margins have learned that we need to say “thank you” for the scraps. Those who are closer to the mythic norm, cisgender heterosexual white-bodied people, invite us in, but most of the time, do not challenge themselves about the notion that they are “one of the good ones.” How can we all contribute to a culture shift?We can reflect on our internal hauntings and what transformation and liberation are going to require of each of us.We can support leaders who are listening deeply.Who invite engagement and are responsive to the voices of those who are on the margins.And who can build bridges across differences and across systems.In Philadelphia, I was a founding member of the Trans-Health Information Project; a sexual health educator at the Attic, a queer youth center; and served on the mayor’s advisory board on LGBT Affairs. We actively addressed policy issues, including safety and self-determination for trans* people who were homeless and encountering city emergency and shelter services.In Seattle, I have cochaired the City of Seattle LGBTQ Commission.The most essential lesson I have learned, especially in Seattle, is that representation matters.I’m not talking about tokenism, the notion of one person of a marginalized community at the table to check your equity box.Real change happens when multiple representatives are at the decision-making table from historically excluded communities. Yes, I’m talking about real representation.Centering the voices of those who are most impacted in policy making.Seattle, let’s listen.Truly notice who is speaking and who is not.Who is in the room when policies are made and who is not. This November, we will vote on new school board candidates for Districts 1, 3, and 6.I encourage you to take a nuanced and critical look at not only what the candidates say, but who they stand for and how this is demonstrated in their civility and their personal and professional experiences.It is with these values in mind that I am eager to share with you my support for Debbie Carlsen.I have known of her work since I moved here 13 years ago, and I began working with her in 2012 in my role on the Seattle LGBT Commission.At that time, Debbie was founder and executive director of Queer Power Alliance (formerly LGBTQ Allyship). We joined together to negotiate with the Space Needle executives and garner greater attention to stalled union negotiations.A journalist who wrote an article in The Seattle Times about our work shared that it was because of the linkage between LGTBQ+ and workers’ rights that they were able to call attention to the labor issue.These are the kinds of ties (between and across issues of education, labor, health access — all as LGBTQ+ issues) that Debbie can build with authenticity and great clarity.And she has a keen understanding of how the political process works.Since September, Debbie has cohosted four town halls across the city to bring more transparency and community voice to the recent teacher reshuffle of 50 elementary schools as well as impending school closures.She has held numerous listening sessions and meet-and-greets of parents and educators throughout the city, listening to the challenges and hopes of each school community. Debbie is someone who will bring diverse communities together and will help bridge the north/south district divide to advocate for needed resources, equity-centered policies, and a student-centered budget.At the September school board meeting, Superintendent Brent Jones stated in his initial remarks, “This district stands for inclusion and belonging in policy and in practice, and representation matters.” Yes.As a queer parent of color, I understand that representation matters.It is imperative that we continue to have intersectional LGBTQ+ representation at the highest level of decision-making in our school district.I hope you agree.Debbie is endorsed by Seattle Education Association, MLK Labor Council, Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, Teresa Mosqueda, Lorena Gonzalez, current school boardmember Lisa Rivera Smith, and more. Go to Debbie4SeattleSchools.org for more information.The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.Sabina Neem is a Seattle-based psychotherapist.She has over 20 years of experience in clinical, policy, and community work, including serving as associate director at the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Seattle University; a therapist at GirlSpace, a residential treatment facility; program manager for the Asian Arts Initiative; an HIV tester and counselor/case manager at the Attic Youth Center, an LGBTQ youth center; and was a founding member for the Trans-Health Information Project.She received her B.A.in anthropology from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a dual master’s degree in social service/law and social policy from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research.📸 Featured Image: Photo via Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.comBefore you move on to the next story …The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers.Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. 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