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June 26, 2019

1.15 PRIDE Part 3- A Conversation with Dr. Adam Carter

1.15 PRIDE Part 3- A Conversation with Dr. Adam Carter

This week Jimmy talks with his husband Dr. Adam Carter.  He is a professor of counseling at Northern Illinois University, a licensed counselor, and a specialist in children's grief counseling.  They discuss the importance of representation in the work we do in the classroom and on stage, strategies to support queer students and teachers, and the meaning of being an ally.  This is part 3 of a 3-part series for PRIDE month.


Dr. Adam Carter’s Resources:

www.thesafezoneproject.com

Fostering Resilient Learners: Creating a Trauma Sensitive Classroom by Kristen Souers

Transcript

JIMMY CHRISMON:

You're listening to episode 15 of THED Talks with Jimmy Chrismon. THED Talks is a podcast for theatre teachers and theatre education students. Hi, I'm Doctor Jimmy Chrismon theatre education professor at Illinois State University. Each week I'm going to bring you stories and interviews from experienced K12 theatre teachers, current theatre education majors and professors of theatre education that will warm your heart, renew your faith in teaching and provide resources to better your practice in your theatre classroom. Thank you so much for listening and tuning into this final part, part three of our three part series on PRIDE month. So I have had the chance to talk to Harry Culpepper in South Carolina Annaliisa Ahlman here in Illinois. Uh, Brian Daniel Oglesby who is a middle school and high school theatre teacher who writes original works with and for his students in Texas and Alex Faulkner , a BFA acting student at UNC Greensboro. This week I'm excited to bring you a special guest is Dr. Adam Carter . He teaches at NIU, Northern Illinois University and he is head of the doctoral program there in counseling and trains future counselors. Uh, so I asked him to come on to bring us a different perspective on working with LGBTQIA students, or queer students as we'll call them in the episode. And , uh , also how we as theatre teachers can help those students and, and be supports for those students. So I hope you get a lot out of that episode. Thank you again for listening. Please check out our website, www.thedtalks.com you can find the archives and transcripts of all our shows, as well as all the resource lists from each of the teachers who have been on the program. You can also find out there on social media, our listener survey where I'm really hoping that you will provide me some great feedback on how to continue to improve the podcast and provide things that you are needing and wanting to hear about it. So thank you again for listening and I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Adam Carter . I am happy to welcome Dr. Adam Carter to THED Talks today. Uh , he is joining me. He is a mental health specialist, a counselor , um, and he is a trainer of counselors . Uh, he is joining me on our side , my side of our basement , uh , where my studio is. And uh , so Dr. Adam Carter is also my husband. So I am happy to have him here today to talk about some mental health things about what we as theatre teachers can provide for our students. And a just a little bit more about that aspect of working with LGBTQ plus youth. So Dr. Carter , if you will please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background.

ADAM CARTER:

Sure, well first of all, thank you for having me and thank you for letting me interact with the stuff that I see sitting on the table and have no idea what it does. Um, so I really do appreciate that. Um, so my specialty is in counseling children and adolescents . I thought I was going to be a third grade teacher all the way up until I graduated. And there was something about the bureaucracy that didn't sit well with me. My student, student teaching experience was on a native American reservation in Arizona. And in the mornings we would have children who would come in and it would be exhausted. It's not really, their head wasn't in the game. And I was curious about why not. And through having conversations with elders in the community, it , it had to do with, they were seeing their parents fight and potentially see their mother's being abused the night before the morning of, and then expected to come to school the next day and be able to do the eights or sevens multiplication tables. And I still don't even know my seven and eights multiplication tables off the top of my head. And I said, there has to be more to this. My role in the classroom cannot just be figuring out where to put the trashcan. So it has the, the, the flow of the room is the best , um, that it could be. And that's what I was being taught. That was, that's what I was being taught by my cooperating teacher. So actually on the flight home is when I decided that I was going to graduate that semester , um, with an ed studies degree. But I didn't know what I was going to do. And through my exploration I found clinical mental health counseling and specifically in counseling children and adolescents . So that's what I got my masters in. And as a clinician I worked with children and adolescents in urban and rural settings. And when I went to get my doctorate, I have found that my area of focus really when working with children is around grief responses and trauma. That's where I find myself kind of drifting nowadays professionally, I am a professional trustee for the association for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Counseling, ALGBTIC for short. My responsibility there is state branch management and membership. So this is a division of the American Counseling Association that has the mission of providing counselors in general with high quality information on how to best serve queer and trans individuals in the community. So that's how the two worlds merge. That's how the world of um, children, adolescence and LGBTQI plus or Queer is what, the word I will use. Issues Merge.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

In your, in your opinion and your experience, what, what are the most pressing issues right now with Queer youth that teachers need to be aware of?

ADAM CARTER:

All right, well I want to share first and foremost that I think there's a misconception that all of a sudden things have gotten easier, they haven't. Representation of , uh , of the queer culture is becoming more mainstream, but it's becoming more mainstream, largely in a, in a capitalistic way, meaning that individuals are making money off of queer culture. So there's certain parts of queer culture are being highlighted and their parts that may not be everyone's experience. So it's, it's stuff that I'm not going to surprise you being the , the queer individuals who make the cover of queer magazines are not always the, the body types and the skin colors or the gender expression that our students are. And so when they see a very thin, cisgender white male who is very appearing to be very comfortable with his body and his sexuality and his, and his race, that's then leading everyone to believe, well, I guess gay folks are comfortable now. And when we know that's not the case, we still have queer youth who do not identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight. Our queer youth are so much more in touch with who they are than I think our generation was or is still, they're comfortable and they have, they have the world at their fingertips and the world, in their pocket . So when they're comfortable and they're able to, to search information without the fear of retribution, they'll do that and they'll find something and they'll find this, this for example, this, this pan identity. And we, we as adults sometimes question that and we're like, well that's bisexuality was , well know bisexuality is still dichotomous. It means male or female. But where's pansexuality says that I am attracted to the person, not the gender. So we as adults sit there and go, well there's genders, there's male and female. No , there's, there's actually a lot in between that and our , our trans youth understand that and identify. And so when you ask me what the issue that's facing our trans youth, it's, we're not listening to them. We, we treat them as though they are ignorant children who need to be ushered into this, this, this, this world, this way of being. And that we know best. Even if we have no idea what their experience is, we still know best and we're not listening to them. Adults are not listening to them. I, you know, I love and respect teachers, but teachers are not listening to them. Parents are not listening to them. Mental health counselors are not listening to them because we're treating them as though they have no idea how to, how to classify or , or discuss their experience. In addition to that, we have substance use and abuse is, is pretty high amongst our queer youth. Um, when you're told you're less than consistently, it does something to your brain, physically to your brain, not, not just metaphorically, but it physically does something to your brain. And when you don't want to hurt anymore, you find ways not to hurt anymore. And so substance use and abuse through alcohol or in narcotics ways to temporarily relieve the pain is something that is, is, is prevalent in the Queer youth community. And then again, it's no surprise and it consistently comes out and studies that our queer and Trans youth have a high suicide attempt or death by suicide rate. And it depends on who, who is using that stat. But what I'm telling you, it's, it's not that individuals are attempting to end their own life because they are queer, which is what some may say, it's some are attempting their life, to end their lives because they've been told that their queer experience is less than human and that they don't need to exist. So the more you're told that, the more you start to believe it. And especially when you have that adolescent mind, which I I say respectively is like Jello. It is, it's, it's still in its like Jello that hasn't set up in the refrigerator yet. You can tell it's on its way, but it still doesn't have that shape if you popped it out of the container. Um, that's an adolescent brain . So you, you're seeing that it's , it's on its way to its full adult form, but it's constantly being told that it's less than, it's constantly being told that it's existence isn't real. It's constantly being told that they are abomination and they did . They don't deserve to exist. So the more you hear that, the more you start to believe it and the more you start to buy into the fact that you don't need to exist on this mortal plain neither . So there's , or there's just some pretty big things that are facing or queer youth.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

I'm going to have you on a later episode to just to talk some mental health just for adolescents in general, but with this being a , for the PRIDE episode for how can we use theatre teachers support our queer students better.

ADAM CARTER:

Sure. So there's a , there's a couple fold here, right? So my, my research when I first started and when I was a baby doctor was kind of a baby doctor, not a doctor of babies, but um , was around this idea of coming out in college. So what, what does the support systems in place to help individuals come out in college? And I believe the results of that study apply to teachers as well. The first had to do with representation; that individuals felt comfortable existing and being kind of an authentic version of self when they saw adults who are being authentic versions of themselves who also happen to be queer. You and I, Jimmy are from the south. We, we understand that that's not always something that even to date is , is able to, to be possible. You know, as someone who works with children, adolescents, I kind of hold my and kind of play my sexuality close to my chest because there are times where people don't want a gay man to work with their children in fear of what I would do to their children. Um , either physically or emotionally or um , just by the nature of who I love that I'm a bad influence on their children regardless of what type of clinician I am. Same thing with educators in the south who have the potential to lose their job, lose their job, lose, lose their livelihood, lose the opportunity to practice this profession they've dedicated their lives to, to perfecting and because of who they love. And, and so depending on where you are in the continental United States, it may not be possible for you to exist as an openly queer educator. But if you are, that's something that has the potential to save lives. Not, not just help people through hard parts, but the potential to save lives. When our , our youth are able to see individuals like you and I who are professionals, who are out and we have three children and we have three dogs and we have a cat and we are as quote unquote normal as can be. Um, there's something to that. There's something to being able to see that , that I can exist in a world where I can have what I want. If, if having a family is what they want. Not everyone wants a family, but if having a family is what you want, that that has the potential to save lives. If you're not, don't happen to be a queer educator, which I don't assume everyone is. There's, there's a word that's used a lot, but I, if , if it's okay with you, I want to talk about kind of in depth what the word ally means.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Please do,

ADAM CARTER:

Because you know, we, we early on in my, in my work with , um , queer communities , um, LGBTQIA plus there's a lot of conversation around the , the letter A and what the letter A means. Um , some believe it means ally, but I'm letting you and your listeners know right now that the A stands for asexual, not for ally. And the reason that that A does not mean ally is because allies not part of the acronym. All right. And the reason that is is because allies generally don't need to be part of that oppressed acronym just for the recognition of being, hey look, I like gay folks too, um, and so Dr. Keith Edwards puts forth, this model of ally development, where at the first stage an ally is for self interest, which is, I may , for example, I may know someone who's gay and it's not okay that people aren't, aren't nice to them. All right ? Your ally, your allyship really is on a very small micro level. You're thinking about that person every time you do something. And so it really is for this self interest because you don't like the way they are treated, right? That's, it's hard to hear, but it's still a form of allyship, right? The next level is um , aspiring ally for altruism and this is where it has moved to. Okay. I'm not just thinking about this one person, but I'm thinking about them. I'm thinking about the LGBTQIA plus community as a whole. It's not okay what people are doing to them. There's still a very firm line between us and them. And I'm going to do what I can to make sure they are not oppressed. And it moves into this last level, which is aspiring ally for social justice, where you start to understand that the oppression of anyone is the oppression of everyone. So if anyone is being oppressed than we all are because it's , it's kind of, it's kind of like no one is free if anyone is not free type of mentality that that's the exact same thing that's going on. So it's no longer an us and them mentality as much as it is , um, this is for a betterment of, of , of a better world. And so when you think about allyship and you think about how to do that, the other piece of that is you do not get to call yourself an ally. Ally, allyship is not, is not a title. Um, allyship is , um, an action and when allyship, and when you are performing this action of being an ally, that's when individuals in the group who you're an ally with then get to kind of bestow that title on you . It's Kinda like being knighted. It's when the community says, you know what, Jimmy, thank you. We see what you're doing. Um , we appreciate what you're doing. You are an ally because you were, you were here with us. You are using your power and privilege to make sure that spaces are created for us, that there are spaces at the table. You're listening when we talk, you're not talking over us. You're not trying to make our experiences equitable to yours. You are, you're here with us and that title of ally is given to you by the group who you're advocating for. That's hard to hear, that . It's hard to hear because you want to say I'm an ally. But there's a difference between being okay with gay folks and Queer folks and being an ally saying, I'm willing to kind of get into the trenches and fight the social justice fight. That needs to be fine. That's something just to keep in mind is that for our, our , our friends who are not queer, just keeping in mind that there are this level, there are levels of allyship and kind of the commitment that goes along with all of those.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

So what, what are some practical physical things that the theatre teachers out, Gay theatre Teachers, closeted gay theatre teachers, straight theatre teachers. What are things that, that we can do to make, make our classroom an inviting space, make and to do that. Um, and to provide a space for those queer students in our classroom.

ADAM CARTER:

And I really appreciate it because it is, it is, and I use those words often and we use those words in our house, but it is about creating space. It is, it's not about what can I do, but it is all rather, it's not about what I can do for this group of individuals is how can I create space so that they can exist and fill that space with who they are naturally.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

And that it's, and for we as teachers that it's just naturally part of the culture of our classroom.

ADAM CARTER:

Because you know, when we talk about the individual individualization of education that we, that's really what we're talking about is how do we create space for each individual learner. And, and that's, that's such a difficult thing to do. And I applaud everyone who spends every day of their life thinking about how to make or differentiate an educational curriculum to hundreds of young minds who are sitting in a room. Because that is, that is a monstrous task when we're talking about being an ally and these practical tips that I'm about to give you, what we're talking about is creating a space and creating a structure where it is part of your classroom environment. It is something that you can talk about on the first day of class and continue to talk about , um , so that your students understand this is, this is part of the culture of so and so's classroom. Um, so here's, I got six for you if that's all right . All right. The first is posting a safe zone sign in your classroom or your office because it's a signal. Um, again, when I, when I was doing my study on individuals who are coming out, this concept of symbols came out a lot about individuals who felt safe to talk to other people. So when you see a rainbow color flag pin on someone's book bag, that's almost the nod saying, okay, I see you, you know, and if, and if we ever talked someday, this might be something that we could talk about. Um, a safe zone sign is very similar to that, which is this, this adult, this person who I um, am learning to trust and respect and have given over my education to understand that there's a part of me that needs additional support and needs to be highlighted. Now the thing is I don't encourage you to just print off a sign that says safe zone. I do encourage you to go through some trainings that are either offered by your district or through some agency in your area. But if that's not possible, there's a fantastic website that I have my master's students use and it's thesafezoneproject.com where you are able to go through a safe zone training online. It is, it is free. It does not cost anything. I think they take donations, but you do not have to give one or to take the training. And then once you finished that training, then you are able to print off your safe zone identification. You know, and I , there's something about, again, there's something about that which is you've , you've taken the time and energy to invest in learning about something. I'm not just assuming that you're able to translate it from , um , from a heterosexual standpoint and to say, okay, I'm trying to understand your queer experience by relating it to my heterosexual experience. Okay. I understand. Cause it's kind of like when I do this, that's what we want to avoid. That's what we want to avoid. We're not trying to put someone else's , um , existence into relation of yours. Right. That's , that's what privilege is about. Trying to understand someone else's experiences by equating it to yours.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Before you hit those other points. Cause I do want to hear those. It, I went through the safe zone training at ISU and as a gay man, there were things that I learned in that then I didn't know. And I think it's important to make note for the Queer teachers who are listening to this, that you don't know everything. Your experience is different from other people's and, and there's always something to be gained from, from educating yourself beyond your own experience.

ADAM CARTER:

Yes, one of my favorite counseling theologians is Dr. Carl Rogers . And when he talked about education, he said, once I realized that I didn't know something is, is when I start , when I was able to start learning about it. And because when we put up these, these barriers in our brains that I already know or um, I don't write many Facebook rants, but I did write one yesterday about this concept of just because you belong to the quote unquote gay community does not mean that you are no longer responsible about learning the journeys of our queer and Trans siblings who walked beside us. Because what I appreciate about what you said Jimmy, is you just said as a gay man, you're exactly right. You have privilege in that space as a man, you have privilege that others do not have. And as a cisgender man, additional privilege on top of that. As a white, cisgender man with education, my goodness, we're talking about a lot of privilege in in this environment. And so you're , you're , you hit the nail on the head. Just because we may identify as LGBTQIA plus or a queer teacher does not mean that we stop learning. Actually what I think it does is it called , it's a call to action that we need to learn more about those who stand beside us. You know that we are one little letter in that acronym, but we have individuals who are beside us that that still need us to help and still need us to attempt to seek understanding of their experiences as well. You know, there's, there's not a giant blanket and we throw over it and, and I really appreciate you sharing your experience. The second thing to do is , is more than likely something that you're doing already and I just want to call attention to it, which is confronting homophobic remarks and sayings every single time they happen in front of you every single time. And eventually what happens is individuals, we'll do a couple of things. One, you may, you may have students who use them in front of you just to get you going. Um, and I trust that your, your training as educators help you with that. But the other pieces you may have individuals realize that I didn't know what I was saying was wrong and I'm going to give you an example. This is me being very vulnerable here on your, on your podcast. But there was , um, there was a season of Project Runway. Um , Christian, I do not remember his name. Um, one and now he's, he's, I think he's a judge. He used to use the phrase hot tranny mess. And as a, I was still , um, I was not out at that time. And I remember thinking hot tranny mess. That sounds hilarious. I think I get to say that too. And so I used it, I started to say it in the, in the, in the world that I existed in. And it wasn't until someone was like, uh, what are you saying and why do you think you get to say that? I'm like, but it's on TV like, and he's gay so he's gay and he's saying it. So it should be okay. Well at that time I wasn't identified as gay and so, you know, I, I didn't get to play that card, but the answer was that the , my use of language wasn't appropriate. It wasn't appropriate. But at the time I thought it was okay. So being able to kind of hold up a mirror to those and understand that the language is, is, is important and that it, and calling it out when you see it is key. To take it a step further into , into your specific work confronting anti queer or overt heteronormative themes in your work is really important as well. Not shying away from that, is understanding that, okay, well we're doing a show. I think Legally Blonde is a hilarious show. I enjoy the movies and I enjoy the show, but every time I see the gay character on stage who is acting flamboyant , um, who is comedic relief, you know, I, I as a heads up, I can be flamboyant. I have learned how to love and appreciate that part of myself. And I think that that's fine. I do not want that to be comedic relief in people's life because that's my experience and that's my way of being. You know, the way that I talk to my queer friends is not designed to be humorous to straight folks. That's just not the way it works. It's, it's the way that I feel comfortable communicating. It's the way that I feel my group feels comfortable communicating. So when you put that on stage and you make it a farce, that's not only saying to me that you don't understand what's happening there. It's communicating to your students that Queer folks are a punchline. Right? Um, so again, if you've , if you've done Legally Blonde, I'm not mad at you. I have no personal vendetta against you. I'm just saying these are the types of things when we talk about homophobic language and slurs, that's what we can do. If you do have a queer character in the materials that you're working with, making sure that you take some time to kind of flesh that out with the individual who are individuals who are going to be portraying those characters to make sure first and foremost that they're comfortable. Um, don't always assume there's going to, they're going to be comfortable because there could be a litany of reasons that ended, that a young person could be closeted and scared of playing a character pretty close to who they identify with. This individual could not be closeted and just not comfortable playing a queer character and pushing the issue is rarely going to be a fantastic educational exercise , um, that they're going to remember you as the person who forced this upon them as opposed to let them be part of a process that really could be educational. So I'm not saying not to do anything with queer characters, it's just being mindful of those characters and those experiences when choosing materials and then executing those materials with your students.

:

Well, a couple of points of that is because I, I did , uh , a beautiful show , uh , when I was still at South Pointe called Lonely Planet and it was about , um, two queer best friends. And not only did I discuss that with the students and with their comfort level, I also reached out to their parents. Um, cause I didn't want to surprise them, but I also wanted them to know what we were doing with it and , uh , to take a moment to educate them and to make sure I had their support before going forward with such a bold piece and that we were telling the story in an honest and real way. And, and really capturing these two men their, their experience. Um, so I think, I think it's important also to note that that , uh , we, theatre teachers are not just educating ourselves and educating our students, but the parents and community as well. And the power, and I'll , I'll say in the privilege that we have with that, but, but in, in, in touching back to what you were saying about Legally Blonde, I know there they're going to be teachers who , who , who and most likely they're not going to have gotten to this part of the podcast anyway because they've turned it off and moved on because they don't want to talk about queer issues. But for even those teachers to say, well, it's just a joke, it's, it is what it is. I've done the job of communicating this to the students and the parents and I've got my administrator's support and we're going to go forward with it anyway . More power to you. Go for it. But I think it's also important for those teachers that they need to acknowledge their , their power and privilege in that situation with being able to do that, that they're not the one, it's probably not their life being put up there on stage and , and made a farce like you said.

ADAM CARTER:

Right. And that's, that's, that's one of those core definitions of power and privilege is that you don't have to think about it. I mean, it really is when you, when you talk about power and privilege, what you boil it down to is that these are things that you do not have to think about and you can move on. And for those of us who, it's our daily experience, it's what we think about all the time, you know. Um, and that's, that's an important piece of that. You and I have talked multiple times about how I believe that what you do and what others like you do and training , uh, educators and teachers and, and doing theatre, the responsibility that you have. Um, I don't know if you've, if you've ever talked about it with anyone as much until you met me, but it's this responsibility that you have because when you put things on stage, you have given, you have given them your stamp of approval and you as a, as a professor , um , it's, it's a huge stamp of approval because what you're doing is you're, you're giving that stamp of approval to individuals who are then going to go out into the classroom and who are going to do something similar. For those who are doing it in the classroom, you're giving a huge stamp of approval to not only those young folks whose eyes are on you for instruction, but for every single person who comes and sits in your audience and lays eyes on your show, you have given permission for this to be. And that's, that's just a big piece. And there's some modification that can occur if, for example, with with Legally Blonde, what if that was a female character instead of a male character? Well , what if you did that instead? Um , what if you kind of really did a scene study to find out what was the funny part about that? What's the funny, why? Why is there laughter that occurs after this character speaks? Is it, is it because what they say is funny or is it because what they're doing is making fun of themselves, or over exaggerating themselves. And that's a, that's a huge piece of it. Now there is a flip side to that which is , um , actually what I want to speak for number three, for those who are keeping keeping track and the three is making sure that you do seek out opportunities to incorporate LGBTQIA plus issues and writers into your work. So making it intentional, not just accidental, but intentional. We're talking about queer issues right now. I hope that what individuals are able to hear is that diversity itself is important, right? Um, not just, you know, plays by old dead white men. Um, but that you're choosing materials that have various viewpoints that are going to be able to touch individuals in different areas because narratives seem to match because that representation matters. Once I'm able to see myself in art, it gives credence to who I am or further credence to who I am , um, is important. And so I, again, this is your area. This is , this is where you and I support each other, but we don't overlap. I'm not familiar with queer literature and Queer plays, especially those that can be performed at a , um, elementary, middle or high school level that involve , uh , same sex or queer themes. But they exist.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

They do,

ADAM CARTER:

They, they, they exist. And they exist in a way where it's not going to, because when we talk, when we talk about LGBTQIA plus, I don't know why people think we're going to be putting intercourse on the stage. Right? Right. Like we're not putting intercourse on the stage. We're not doing a how to seminar on , um , the queer experience as much as we are saying this. This is an experience that was undocumented. This is a work of art. And then this is our interpretation of Said Work of art. So choosing materials and then choosing authors. So again, if you're in a southern state and you're not able to put queer on stage because you have an administration who was like, the church would protest us, we would have people outside of our school. If you did anything reminiscent of Angels in America Jr , which I don't think exists. Um,

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Nor should it

ADAM CARTER:

Nor should it, I would love to see it boiled down to an hour with no intermission. Um, but it , we would have the church outside and it would take away from your program. It would take away from what we were doing here because all of the focus would be on this hatred and not on the good work that you're doing. If that's something that's not possible then then choosing authors and playwrights who are queer, especially queer individuals of color and queer women of color who have these fantastic narratives and fantastic experiences. So if you're not able to put a queer experience on the stage, making sure that you are bringing in queer voices and talking with your class about how that influences this, this author's voice.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

I think it's important to know that, I mean productions are only a part of our job and if I was not able to put queer on stage , uh , uh , at South Pointe and, but I, I had free reign of doing what I wanted in my room, in my classroom. I, we could study, we could studied blatantly queer literature. We could study queer authors. I, I had a section on my script shelf for queer plays. So whenever I turned my kids loose to find monologue or scene work material to do in class, there was a place they could go to. I wasn't putting it in their hand saying you should do this. But the options were there and they were represented on that shelf of the hundreds and hundreds of scripts that I had. They knew where to go to look for that material.

ADAM CARTER:

I appreciate that because it's, it's providing opportunity and it goes back to what we talked about and creating space, right? It's creating space. It's showing representation. It is. I'm being intentional about the materials that you're bringing in and , and where you place those materials and how you address those materials. It's just, it's just key. It's key. But in that same vein of being intentional, it's ways that you as an educator can be intentional in what you're doing as well. So the fourth thing I want to talk about is how you choose to spend your time and align yourself. We talked about how being an ally is not a title as much as it is a verb, right? And so it's, if your school does have a GSA or a gay straight alliance , um, being involved or being agreeing to be a faculty advisor for an organization such as that, or if there's already a faculty advisor figuring out how you can support that organization. Is it an additional way? It's a very concrete thing that you can do as an , as an educator. So do you attend meetings if you don't have time to attend meetings because you have to leave school, right? As soon as the bell rings, could you provide snacks? Could you provide juice boxes and cookies from, from the grocery store. Um, and just say, I'm not able to stay, but I want to let you know that I'm here. Um , it's a simple as that. If you do not have the resources to buy cookies and juice boxes, are you able to write notes or send emails to individuals who are in that group? Just saying , um, I am here. I see you, I support you. Please do not hesitate to let me know if there's anything that I can do. So it's , it's being concrete. I want you to think about that ally as a verb. What am I doing? Not what I want, not necessarily what do I think that's of course part of it. But when we're talking about these concrete pieces, what am I doing right? And we should be able to put a ing on the end of this and think , okay, this is, this is what I'm doing to be an ally and my school. Number five is don't assume that a student is gay and don't assume that a student is not gay. That's it's, it's difficult because we do walk around the world and we have these machines in our head that seek classification. That's the way we make sense of the word. That's, that's how we read. We read because we know how to classify symbols into sounds and sounds into words. So at, at our kind of we're able to do that. We're able to do that by saying, okay, I know that I have someone to come in and pick me up. They are in this car. So I'm looking for cars that look like this is the way our brain works. I'm scanning to make sure that I'm not in danger because I'm looking for things that could, is there a bear in my neighborhood that could be attacking me? There shouldn't be, but if I see one, I know that that's not okay cause my brain has classified it as such. So our brains are seeking classifications . So when we experience a person, our brains may say, hmm , what's going on there? What's, what's happening? What's going on over there? What's, what's their experience? And I don't want you to be mad at your brain for doing that. Don't be mad at your brain for , for attempting to seek clarification. But I want you to have a conversation with your brain and say, brain why does it matter right now. And hopefully your brain's like, Oh , good point, good point. It doesn't matter right now. Would that impact the way that I interacted with this human being? And if it does, then again we need to question how would that impact my, my interaction with this person? And is that something that I need to, to , to process with someone who I trust. So that is such a key piece of it is not assuming individuals are gay or are and not assuming individuals or straight, it's just, it's, it's being and it's existing. And again, some difficult things that were programmed from birth. But you as teachers, you may want to talk about who's dating who and who's doing what. You can be part of the conversation, but make sure you do not engage in a conversation in and you be part of the problem to be able to say, oh, you know, well, yeah, I did hear so and so is dating so and so. And you know this, this one on over here. If you don't know what's going on, you could be contributing to the problem, right? Or if a student did choose to , to come out to you, making sure that you hold that information in a place where it is, it is safe. All right? You do not need to run next door to the choir teacher and tell the choir teacher that so-and-so finally came out to you. That's not the creation of safe space. That is the definition of gossip. It is. And it's under the guise of , um , of FERPA is what I like to say. Um , when we talk about these , um, well, we need to let everyone who's involved with this child know. The things that they needed in a no, no , no, no , no, no, no. This isn't one of those FERPA pieces. You don't need to go and make an announcement to all the teachers in the school that so and so has identified as such, that's not your job. And that's hard because we're social human beings. And so that's just an important piece of, of what you can do in the classroom is that if someone does feel safe enough to come out to you, that you respect that. And I do use that word safe. I'm not a huge fan of the word brave. I believe it does have its context in coming out, but my experience is more individuals who feel safe will come out because the context of it, when we say brave, it means that they're a coward. If they're not, that's not the case. It's an issue of do I feel safe to come out and do I believe that the ramifications are worth the risk is really what it amounts to. So if that person has felt safe enough to come out to you, we need to make sure that we are respectful of that, of that disclosure. And the last thing that I have is this concept of organizing or encouraging the larger system that you're in to be LGBTQI plus inclusive and so that that could mean if you are a department chair in your school, if you're the fine arts department chair, making sure that this is something that is being incorporated into not only theatre arts but also into choral arts and instrumental arts. That this is something that is, that is that is a priority that we are going to make sure that our , our queer folks have a space and are safe. Expanding it larger to the administration inside of your school is to be able to say, you know what, we have to do so many hours of continuing education anyway. We have another faculty meeting coming up where we know that people are going to be on their computers playing games. We know that individuals are going to be on their phones playing words with friends because they've heard the same information multiple times. Would it be possible for me to take the lead on and arranging a schoolwide safe zone training that can be taught during uh , continuing education. And then taking a step further and figuring out how to link that to continuing education standards. So it's not just coming in, it's again, remember being an ally is a verb. So it's not just bringing someone in, but it's also making it appealing to your administration as well. And then lot the largest piece of that is your district. What, What are you doing at your district level? The most recent incident than I ran into as an ALGBTIC member had to do with, there was a trans youth who they did not know what to do with Trans Youth during a lockdown drill because they were supposed to go to the bathroom and the the teachers did not know which bathroom to let this trans youth go to. So what they did is they positioned and they said, well just go ahead and go sit in the hallway and we're going to continue on with the drill. So what they in essence said was that if this was real, you are disposable. You are disposable because we don't know what to do. Now, you know, when we're sitting here and we're not under that pressure of, of a drill, you know, it's kind of silly because I just go get out of the what? Like just find somewhere to be safe and put yourself in that safe place. But the policy said that because the drill was called and that individual was in the hallway, they had to go to the bathroom and the , and that's something that you can get involved in, the school board. Um , can the superintendent of the school board put forth a new gender expression and um , inclusion policy. And there were numerous teachers who came forward to speak before the school board for that. And that's important because even if that policy does not pass the school board, your students know that you went and again you've arrived, you went and did something. It was not just an issue of complaining or saying someone should do something. You got up there and spoke on for, on their behalf. And again, just doing that is so powerful and you do have eyes watching you all the time and maybe something you're uncomfortable with but you have time to write down your remarks before you go. It just, it's very, very important.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Well, and a lot of that boils down to what you and I talk about all the time is that good teaching and just good living boils down to the relationships you have with people and those healthy relationships you have with your students. And we as theatre teachers have the , the awesome opportunity of having these kids not only in our class, but we have them for hours after school. We have them days upon days upon days with them and we get to know them really well. Um, so I think we have a really great opportunity to , to maximize on that, especially when it comes to our queer youth. And this is going to segue into my next question for you, which you've touched a little bit on, but I didn't know if there were any other uh, pieces of , of advice you could give for teachers when we have those strong relationships with our students and that affords the time and the opportunity for those students to trust us and have a safe place to come out to . Um, because I, I can't even tell you how many students have come out to me when I was in the classroom. And I know I'm not the only, I know I'm not the only theatre teacher who has experienced that. When happens are there other things that we can and should do when that happens?

ADAM CARTER:

All right , so I'm going to put this in the very top of the list and it's number one. And if you don't listen to the rest of what I'm saying, the first is to continue to listen. Do not fill someone's disclosure of their non heterosexual identity with your words. I think that's the first thing. So for example, do not say, I know it's okay. Again, not appropriate. It's not appropriate for you to say, well, I knew you were gay. It's, it's okay. Um, even if you have a jovial relationship, that's, that's not the appropriate thing to say. It's not, because again, keep in mind that these are some very difficult words to say out loud and you taking away, taking that away from someone else to be the experience that keeps them from doing it again, especially if you're the first person who they've chosen to come out too . So that's the first piece is to continue to listen. Right. That's, that's, that's number one is that individuals may want to continue to , to, to just tell you things. Oftentimes I do get asked about what do I say? When do I say when someone comes out to me? And you know that I'm not a very prescriptive person. I don't like to tell you what to say because it's going to sound fake. Maybe that's why I don't do, you know, theatre like I don't act because I'm like, I don't want you to tell me what to say and that's what a script does. But , um, but yeah, you need to be genuine. You need to be who you are and you need to, to respond in a way that is in vain with the relationship that you have with that student. All right. I can tell you, ooh, again, if you've ever said this, I am not mad at you, but I can tell you one of my pet peeves whenever, cause I still as a, as a adult have to come out on a regular basis. It's cause remember coming out is not a onetime process, right? It's, it's, excuse me one time event, but rather it is a, it is a ongoing process that we have to choose and do on a daily basis, on a daily basis because heteronormativity or the assumption that everyone is straight feeds the world we live in. And so, you know, Jimmy, I don't know, I could not think about, and this has nothing to do with my, my affection for you, but I can't think about times that you and I have held hands walking down the street and we're big. We're big men. I'm six and a half feet tall. Um , so me being able to hold someone's hand or the hand of , especially the hand of the , the man that I love should not be an issue, but it's still is an issue because that simple act is us coming out to every person who lays eyes on that interaction. that And it's not that we're ashamed of who we are, it's just, that's not a battle that we want to fight. Right . Walking downtown, looking for some street tacos. I mean that's , that's not the battle that we want to fight them . So with being said, keep in mind that, that coming out to you as a is a , is a , is an honor. But I hate when people tell me that. I hate whenever I'm like, so I'm gay. And um , someone's like, well, first of all, it's an honor. Thank you for telling me. And I'm like, it's not a, It's not an academy award. You don't have to thank God and Meryl Streep. Like, that's not what's going on. You can say thank you . You can , I mean say what you need to say, but just make sure that it's genuine and it's from the heart. You're the person who is an expert in the relationship that you have with that child or that youth. Use that expertise to, to form your response. But again, make sure that you are doing most of the listening, if not all. And um, that if you do ask any questions, those questions have immediate relevancy. So questions I would recommend avoiding is have you told your mom and dad or have you told or whomever your caregiver is , um, you know those, those are things that they will share with you. They will and they'll share with you if your response is appropriate and they feel safe enough to move forward in the conversation. But don't, don't turn it into an interrogation. Well, who do you , do you have a crush on? Anyone? Who Do you like right now? Look, I'm just figuring out this part of myself. So could you not force upon me this concept that I have to talk about these things that I've keep and I've kept I've kept hidden. I'm not going to talk about them with you right now. But again, the person may want to, the person may want to the person who had been in a relationship with another one of your students and what's the talk with you about it? Again, those are those pieces that you find out by listening. Um, and that's, that's the important piece there. And I also want to make sure that your , your teachers understand that, that checking for safety is going to be okay as well. So if you are going to ask questions, I told you, like I said, make sure they're relevant but also make sure there , there's some questions around safety because that's going to be a key piece. So if someone says , um , I would like some, I'd like to come out to in this scenario, say my, my dad and I don't know how that's going to go. I'm having a conversation about where, when, and if you know, that doesn't mean that you have to be there during that process. It doesn't mean that you have to call dad in and you have a coming out conference in your office more. So it has to do with you've, you've had some conversations with the student about making sure that they're going to be safe through the process because again, ever you do not have to come out at all. Right? I'm just making sure that people know that too. I don't owe you that right . I don't owe anybody that. No one deserves my outness. Right? That's something that I get to give if and when I choose to give it. And it doesn't that I'm ashamed of who I am. It doesn't mean that I'm ashamed of of our lives together, but it means that I have to figure out how to navigate the world and our students are doing the same thing. So just because someone is out to you does not mean that they're going to be instantly out to the rest of the world. And that is very, very important to keep in mind. And that's why we keep it close to our chest and don't run next door until tell our friends in the department.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

I you know my, cause I know you've listened to my podcast.

ADAM CARTER:

I have,

JIMMY CHRISMON:

I know he's an , he's a regular listener. We talk about each one after he listens to it at the, at the end of my podcast I always ask the two questions. The first, you've already given us a great resource with the safe zone training that that's free and that we can all, do you have any other resources that teachers really should know about or anything that would be good for them?

ADAM CARTER:

So I do. As I told you, I don't like to be prescriptive so I'm going to kind of be very vague and what I'm sharing and then I'll give one specific example of one that kind of has my endorsement, but I would encourage everyone who is listening to invest in materials, whether you get them from the library or you buy it on Amazon about trauma informed schools, I think that's paramount. We need to do a better job of creating space that provides room for our learners who have experienced trauma and not just our LGBTQ plus students, but students in general. I told you that trauma physically changes the human brain. We , we see it on cat scans that um, that different parts of our brains are firing in different ways. Um, when someone has experienced trauma and its most basic sense, what we've done is we've switched from being able to thrive and being able to live in a place where we feel safe and we're able to go above that level of safety when experience, an individual's experienced trauma, especially if it's untreated, the brain is no longer in that thrive section. It's in the survive part of the brain, which is, means I'm constantly scanning the horizons for additional threats. All right , so imagine sitting in a classroom. A lot of our students are in that thrive part, right? And especially those who are doing well academically and those who are saying, okay well things are going okay enough for me right now where I can, I can digest the Pythagorean theorem. All Right , I can digest it. If, if I have the cognitive capabilities of understanding what that is, my brain is at a place where I can, can understand it. But with someone who experiencing trauma may not be able to , to take an abstract concept such as that and have it makes sense because we're so far back in that part of the brain that says, what is this going to do to make sure that you don't get beaten tonight? Right? So our brains are resilient in our brains are saying, you've got to keep yourself. You got to keep yourself. Okay? And so what that student may present like in your classroom is someone who may struggle academically but never behaviorally . Because again, the brain is saying don't cause a scene. Because if someone has to come to the school today, you know what's going to happen to you tonight. All right ? So this is also maybe a student who doesn't ask for help because if you call home and give resources, that may be another reason that this student is beaten. So the student's brain is functioning and firing and then such a different way that when you're attempting to create a space the best way, you know how if you're not keeping a trauma informed perspective in your work, you may be missing this. And you may be, and I going to use my jargon here, misdiagnosing what is going on in the room. You may be saying this is a disinterested learner. You may say this child is resilient, excuse me, resistant. You, I mean these, these may be anything that's got that that could be occurring. Um , because the flip side could be very true too, Jimmy is that you may have a student who is um , what we commonly know as the term of acting out. You may have a student who is not able to pay attention. You may have a student who is impulsive. You may have a student who is hitting, like they are hit and you're just like, oh, this is so frustrating. I can't teach what I needed to teach because I'm so busy. Just helping to regulate the student and now consuming some materials on trauma informed classrooms helps understand, oh wait a minute, I'm spending a lot of time helping to regulate the student. This student is not able to regulate themselves. I'm very curious if trauma is part of the student's experience. So there's a lot of materials online. Um, make sure that you vet what you're , you're looking into. But keeping in mind that there are some materials that are for larger schools in general and then some that are discipline specific, some that are missing disciplines , or specific. But the one I'm recommending is Fostering Resilient Learners Strategies for Creating a Trauma Sensitive Classroom by , by Kristen Souers. I enjoy that text. Um , because it , it aligns with my philosophy of counseling and humanness in general, which is how do we create relationships and how do we create spaces where individuals have the capacity and room to grow and self actualize into , um, kind of their most elevated, excuse me, which are the most elevated sense of self.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

And , uh , we're gonna have another conversation at a later point and go way more in depth with this beyond just the general statement I want to say is that we as theatre teachers often put the hat on ourselves of counselor. And I think it's important to know the, the, the resources you're recommending do not make us counselors and we are not , um, we're not administering therapy or participating in therapy, but these are, these are some therapeutic things that we can put into place in our classroom as part of the culture of what we're doing. But I think it's really, really important for, for we as theatre teachers to know that there are people out there who are trained to do the counseling. Um, and when a student comes to you, it's not our job to play that role.

ADAM CARTER:

I liken it to the fact of me giving you a recommendation on how to do a certain exercise. So if you go to the gym, like Jimmy, you said, you're working on this. I recommend that you do this exercise. It does not make me a trainer by any stretch of the imagination. But what I've done is I've given you information to say, let's figure out what's going on. Does that make me a trainer? But I'm able to provide for my experience and these texts that do the same. Um, you do, you do serve a lot of , of counseling capacities, but counseling is exhausting and it's hard and that's not something else that you need to kind of shoulder yourself. I am not saying that you're not good at it. That's not what I'm sharing. I'm saying that it's exhausting work. Um , when you enter into an empathetic relationship with another human being and, and start to learn about the trauma and experiences, it does take a lot of , um, support and training on how to , how do you keep yourself out of everyone's experience. Otherwise you're just overwhelmed all the time and don't see the point of it. So I appreciate you sharing that.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Yeah. And so my final question for you is, what are some parting words of wisdom that you can give give us theatre teachers?

ADAM CARTER:

It, it's , it's cliche because it's the , um , advice I have everyone, I've written it and two cards today and that I've given, which is that you are perfect just the way that you are, I think that's important to know is that you have to believe that about yourself before you can believe it about anyone else. Um, we can say that about other people and we can say that we believe that about our students and maybe even our own children, our own family members. But then we turn around and we look at ourselves and say, oh , but I'm a mess. Um , yeah, you are. I'm just giving you a heads up on that too. You probably are a mess because I haven't met any one of us who's not yet, but that we are perfect exactly the way that we are. And when we accept that in ourselves, we can start to accept that for others. And not only are we perfect the way we are and we're necessary. We're necessary for the world to be this beautiful tapestry that it is. Um, because there is absolutely no one who can do you like you

JIMMY CHRISMON:

Well, Dr. Carter , thank you so much for talking with me and , uh , thank you for bringing your, your experience and your knowledge to the table and I, I hope the teachers , uh, we'll , we'll find at least a few nuggets out of what we've talked about today to be able to implement in their classroom and , uh , to help our queer students out there. And thank you. Can you continue to call me Dr. Carter? I will not.

ADAM CARTER:

Okay.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

All right .

ADAM CARTER:

Thank you.

JIMMY CHRISMON:

And that folks was my conversation with my husband, Dr. Adam Carter. I'm here in our basement just kind of talking about mental health with teachers and with LGBTQIA students . So thank you for listening to our conversation. That is just a glimpse into the many conversations that we have here that they get like that and that we can just go on and on for hours. So it was, it was nice to capture that on air for everyone. So I hope you enjoyed that. Hope you got a lot out of that. I know I did. And , uh , I hope my students will listen to this and get a lot out of it as well. So thank you for checking out the third part of our three part series on PRIDE month. I appreciate you listening. I would love some feedback so you can provide that through our listener survey or you can email me a t thedtalkspodcast@gmail.com. You can find us on all your social media. On Twitter @theatreedtalks. On Tumblr thedtalks.tumblr.com. You can find us on Facebook at THED Talks, Instagram @thedtalkspodcast, and of course our website, www.thedtalks.com where it has all of our transcripts of the shows, the archives, as well as each of the resources that the teachers and my guests have provided. Please go on your favorite podcast providers. Subscribe to the show, rate it, give us some stars, review i t, tell us what y ou're liking in. Also share that with someone out there, theatre teacher or a theatre student who you think could benefit from what I'm doing here. Go on to your favorite p odcast provider, Apple Podcasts on iTunes, Google Podcast, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, Anypod, Tunein. You can find us on all of them. So thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a wonderful summer, and if I don't have more episodes, check us check back with us in August and we'll get the next school year kicked off. So thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a great summer.

Adam Carter, PhD Profile Photo

Adam Carter, PhD

Clinical Director

Adam W. Carter, Ph.D., joined the NACG in 2021 as National Clinical Director. He is a professional counselor and counselor educator who received his doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision, with an emphasis in multicultural counseling, from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Adam has taught courses in CACREP accredited master’s level clinical mental health programs and doctoral level courses in counselor education and supervision and served as the Trauma-Informed Counseling Graduate Certificate coordinator at Northern Illinois University. During his time at Northern Illinois University, he founded the Center for Grief and Loss at the University’s Community Counseling and Training Center, where he provided clinical supervision and education to counselors in training. Adam has an ongoing program of research and scholarship that focuses on early childhood grief responses and preparing counselors-in-training to work with grieving children. Adam’s scholarly work also includes numerous peer-reviewed presentations focusing on topics such as trauma-informed counseling, play therapy, and developing research skills in counseling practitioners. His clinical experience is broad, having worked as a counselor and supervisor in community mental health clinics, in-home intensive settings, community advocacy agencies, and in private practice. In 2014, Adam was one of two inaugural Scholars-in-Residence with the American Counseling Association and helped developed strategies for empowering clinicians to conduct single-subject design research in community settings. In the fall of 2020, Adam was acknowledged for his work in the field of grief counseling and death education by earning the designation of Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement.