It’s officially Lent, the 40-day season before Easter, and it’s traditional to “give something up” during this time.  This year, I’m doing things a little differently.

This year for Lent, instead of giving up, I’m just giving.  I have a lot to be grateful for in my life, and it will be good to share the wealth.  Each week during Lent, from now until Easter, I’ll donate $25 to a charity that I believe in, then blog about it to spread the word.

This week’s charity is the Point Foundation.

From the organization’s mission statement:

Point Foundation empowers promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society.

I think it’s fairly clear why I chose the Point Foundation as the first charity to give to.  This organization combines two of my great passions–LGBT rights and equality and educational equity and opportunity.  But there’s a little more to it than that, as well.

As a teacher and a lesbian, especially working in low-income and rural communities, there is a constant struggle and balancing act that goes on.  LGBT educators face a little-known double-standard, especially in places where it’s legal to fire someone on the grounds of sexual orientation.

When I taught in Texas, I never came out openly to my students.  As they got older–and society became more accepting–most of them figured it out (they’re smart, after all, and I taught them how to draw conclusions) and I’m at a point now where most of my former students are pretty much aware that I’m a lesbian.  They don’t seem to care.

But because of the double standard for gay educators, I had to prove myself first.  Teachers who come out as LGBT right away run a high risk of being seen as simply “the gay teacher”–at best.  At worst, they can be fired, easily and without any cause other than sexual orientation or gender identity.  Gay first, educator second.  Until you prove yourself.

That’s what I did as a teacher, and how I won the hearts and minds of students and parents.  Now, my students see me as their former English teacher, who helped them learn and succeed and prepared them for college, who just happens to be gay.  And that’s the way it should be.

It’s a shame that my success and acceptance as a teacher came at the cost of hiding in the closet for so long.  When I think now of my former students who identify as LGBT, I know they could have benefitted from having an out teacher standing at the room in front of them each day, an advocate with the school administration and within the school community.  By choosing to hide, I denied them that.

That’s the deeper reason why I’ve chosen to donate to the Point Foundation as my first charity gift of Lent.  It’s a way for me to feel I’m taking a stand in support of LGBT youth who lack any other form of support.

If you’re like-minded, I encourage you to do the same.