In Deerfield’s quest to increase diversity on campus, students often forget this effort should extend toward the faculty and staff too. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) faculty and staff make up a small portion of the adults at DA. They want to act as support systems for students who may be struggling with LGBTQ issues.
Math Teacher Mr. Joe Grimm, who identifies as bi, stated, “I do hope that I am perceived as available here. The general part of being in the gender sexuality minority is being invisible.” Despite coming from diverse backgrounds, many LGBTQ faculty and staff believe that what makes Deerfield special is its acceptance.
Dean of Advancement Mr. Christopher Menard, who identifies as gay, said, “I can honestly say I have not knowingly experienced any form of discrimination or any other problem here because of being gay.” Mrs. Lynn Valle, Senior Leadership Girls Officer, who identifies as gay, agreed: “My employment and benefits look exactly the same as anyone else under the marriage category.” Mr. Menard added, “On a day to day basis, I don’t think there is a difference in the treatment of gay men or gay women here.”
Many have noticed the recent emphasis of inclusion and diversity on campus, and some LGBTQ faculty members note the remarkable support of the administration. Mrs. Valle, who left Deerfield in 2005 and came back to work at Deerfield in the fall of 2015, is astonished by the change in the community: “Issues of inclusivity and diversity matter to me much more than my own representation in the community. I am happy to see that faculty and staff have become significantly more diverse in the last five or ten years than any other time in Deerfield’s history.” She attributes this change in culture to the hiring of Ms. Marjorie Young as the Director of Inclusion & Community Life in 2013 and the constant support of her adult peers.
Athletic trainer Rob Kearney broke boundaries by coming out a year ago, becoming the first openly gay professional strongman. Mr. Kearney received media attention and subsequently witnessed a wave of support from the community. He talked about the students who came to congratulate him after they heard, how “everyone was really supportive and excited for me”.
However, many faculty and staff would like to see more of this kind of support extended to students. Mr. Grimm remarked, “It feels like it is easier to be out as a faculty member than a student, which I find really upsetting.” Even with all this representation in the faculty and staff, LGBTQ students are sometimes unaware of the support available to them. Working as the GSA advisor in 2008, Ms. Valle’s experiences with the group showed her “how important it is for adults in the community to identify themselves to all students.” Mr. Kearney added, “If I had that person I could confide in, it would have changed my life from an earlier age.” Although LGBTQ faculty and staff experiences are different than those of students today, Mr. Grimm believes, “There is value in knowing that you’re not alone.”
Generally, the biggest challenges faced by LGBTQ faculty and staff are assumption mentality—when others assume things about their peers based on stereotypes—and the lack of a gay community on campus. To combat assumption mentality, Mrs. Valle believes the community needs to “find the courage to share more about [themselves]” and help educate one another.
On a similar note, Mr. Menard mentioned another difficulty of living in the Deerfield community: “The challenge for a gay adult in [this] community is that the community is so small. And for all our efforts of trying to integrate all the many groups, there are times when we draw fuel and subsistence from being with our own kind”
Mr. Grimm agreed. “It is easier sometimes when you can find a group of people that are like you. The conversations I have had with other gay and lesbian faculty have felt a little more homelike.”
Some believe that the lack of a LGBTQ community on campus is what has led to many young gay faculty and staff members leaving Deerfield after a few short years. Mr. Menard suspects that these young faculty and or staff members “ are seeking that [gay] community I have been speaking of.” Despite this, the LGBTQ faculty and staff believe they are lucky to be in an environment like Deerfield. Mr. Menard summarized by declaring, “We are incredibly fortunate to live in an environment like this where we are free to be who we are.”