Kelly and Iris Mendoza talk about being married queer educators. Between them, they teach history, government, economics, ethnic studies, and English at Frida Kahlo Continuation High.

IRIS: When students find out we’re married, they say, “Oh, that’s really cool,” and then they often say, “I have a gay so-and-so.” And they’re more open to talk about it.

KELLY: Queer students come to us and say, “I don’t feel like I can talk to other people about this. My parents aren’t okay with it.” And students of all kinds talk to us about what healthy relationships look like.

IRIS: It’s not only that we’re married and queer — it’s that the students get to see a little of our personal life. It builds that connectedness that is so critical.

KELLY:  When students say something homophobic, other students say, “Check yourself—it’s 2023.”

IRIS: They say, “Don’t be talking to my teacher like that.”

KELLY: Students are so much more ahead of us in a beautiful way, and we as adults need to catch up to where they are. 

IRIS: There’s a lot of anti-LGBTQ+ stuff going on but there’s also a lot of racism and sexism. What can we do to make our students feel more seen, more supported, more safe?

KELLY: We’re both from North County San Diego, where some of the most extreme anti-LGBTQIA+ stuff is happening — where they’re trying to “out” students and dismantle inclusive curriculum. I’m always thinking about all the kids there. Those kids are having to deal with adults and schools that are making them feel unsafe and that they’re not valuable or important. 

IRIS: It’s our responsibility to fight for our students. Young people show up for us educators all the time; we have to show up
for them.