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Superior High School’s only out lesbian English teacher spoke at UMD on Monday about what it’s like to be openly gay in her profession.

Laura Jensen has been teaching at Superior for five years. At the very beginning of her teaching career she made the decision to be out, in other words let it be known to her colleagues and students that she is gay. “I made this decision after having seen the hard time friends of mine who weren’t out in their profession had.? She saw friends struggle with their choice of pronouns when talking about a partner instead of a husband and also watched how they often lived somewhat of a double life. Jensen, who lives in Duluth said, “I could easily have went to teach every day and come across the river to my regular life, but I didn’t want to live like that.? She went on to say, “I wanted my life to be consistent personally and professionally.?

The life she leads as a lesbian teacher has not gone without complaint. When dealing with a case of plagiarism by a student, Jensen was dealt what she called the lesbian card. “The student’s dad kept calling the guidance office saying he wanted his kid pulled from my class because he claimed he thought his student would never cheat,? Jensen said. The school refused to pull the student from Jensen’s class because they don’t pull students out of the classroom because of plagiarism. “Finally, the dad said the real reason he wanted his kid out of my class was because I was pushing my lesbian beliefs on him,? Jensen said. She also said, “I have never experienced homophobia from a student or parent until they were angry about something else, and then it was easy for them to pick out the fact that I’m in a lesbian, and I’m sure it’s similar to the experience of other minorities.?

When students and staff find out about Jensen’s sexuality, they often make an assurance that they won’t tell anybody. “I tell them that it’s ok to tell people. I would never ask anyone to lie about it,? Jensen said. She wears a ring that was given to her by her partner. Jensen said, “students ask if I’m married and I say no. They ask if I live with my boyfriend, and I tell them, no I have a partner. I’m always very honest.?

To Jensen, being out is important. She is the leader of the Gay Straight Alliance which is a group of both straight and gay students who support each other. Not only gay students seek the support of Jensen. “A boy of middle eastern decent came to me when he was being harassed. I did not previously know him,? said Jensen.

Jensen made sure to point out that she wished that even if other teachers were straight, she wanted more allies. “I don’t hear gay slurs in my classroom,? Jensen said, “but I’m always the one complaining about homophobia.?