HBO’s groundbreaking series, Euphoria, has garnered widespread acclaim as a gritty, no-holds-barred “representation of the modern LGBTQ experience.” And while the show itself portrays queer identity in a widely accepted light, there’s also an unsettling undercurrent of the consequences of queer repression that holds implications for both educators and parents alike. 

While American society has made tremendous strides in accepting people of all gender and sexual identities, it’s far from perfect. According to a 2019 GLSEN study, over 85% of LGBTQ youth have been harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation. 

A disheartening percentage of these students have avoided extracurricular activities and school functions because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. 

Perhaps statistics like these helped inform Euphoria’s creator in how he portrayed the show’s primary antagonists, star athlete Nate Jacobs and his father, Cal. So in today’s post, I’ve decided to take a deeper look at Nate and Cal’s characters and relationship, why educators should inform themselves of the ripple effects of gender confusion and queer repression, and how we can better serve our LGBTQ students.

Nate and Cal: A Legacy of Queer Repression and Sexual Violence

You may remember Nate from an earlier post about the cycle of domestic and sexual violence against his girlfriend, Maddy. In addition, Nate’s deeply troubling family history with his father’s disturbing pornography and struggles with his own identity manifest themselves in multiple violent incidents. 

It quickly becomes apparent that Nate’s attempts at queer repression have detrimental effects on more people than just himself. 

While challenging to forgive at face value, Nate’s transgressions are somewhat more understandable as we learn more about his father, Cal (played by Eric Dane). Before Cal is introduced as Nate’s father, he appears in episode four as Jules’ sexual partner in a clandestine motel hookup. 

In addition to having committed statutory rape, Cal’s own sexual repression seeps out in what Them describes as “obsessively-cataloged pornography” that Nate is also exposed to from a very young age. 

Cal and Nate’s attempts to repress their sexual identities are psychologically, emotionally, and physically damaging to themselves and those thrown into the trajectory of their lives. 

And while their situation is fictional, countless young adults are experiencing the same struggles as they sit in our classes, walk through our hallways, and silently attempt to navigate what they’re thinking and feeling without alerting their peers. 

The Big WHY

So, now comes the Big Why. Why should educators be aware of these ripple effects of gender confusion and queer repression? After all, don’t we have enough crosses to bear? 

I understand firsthand the many burdens that have fallen on educators, and I’m also keenly aware of how polarizing issues of gender identity are right now. Of course, everyone has an opinion on the matter, and I’m not here to tell you how you should think or feel. 

What I do believe, in my heart of hearts, is that our job as teachers is to show up with support, love, and guidance for every single student. Every one. And that support might look different for one student than for another, and that’s okay. 

It’s vitally important to understand that when LGBTQ youth attempt to repress their queer identity to avoid judgment and harassment from others, the consequences aren’t isolated to just them. It often affects friendships, relationships with family members, and interactions with their peers.

How Educators Can Better Serve LGBTQ Students

I firmly believe that all educators should be committed to striving for equity, building a positive classroom community, and providing safe places for LGBTQ students to learn and interact with each other. Here are a few ways you can do this in your own educational environment:

  • Make Your Support Visible: Make sure your LGBTQ students know that you’re someone they can trust by showing your support. You can choose to place a Safe Space poster or sticker on your door or somewhere in your classroom or post a set of behavior expectations and guidelines to go over with your students. 
  • Immediately Address Anti-LGBTQ Behavior: If a student is experiencing harassment in your presence, you should address it immediately. If a student uses anti-LGBTQ language, firmly inform them that it’s unacceptable. If possible, I always advocate for turning these situations into teachable moments, but you’ll need to read the room and determine if that’s a realistic route to pursue. Regardless of the type of anti-LGBTQ behavior, you must take action against it. The worst thing you can do is nothing. 
  • Re-Assess Your School Policies: Do your current school policies prohibit anti-LGBTQ language and behavior along with anti-bullying and other anti-discrimination guidelines? To fully support LGBTQ students, they need to feel seen. This can be a valuable step in the right direction.

While it has been difficult to watch Nate and Cal’s downward spirals on Euphoria, it’s even more heartbreaking to think of the many LGBTQ youths who feel like they have to suppress who they really are in order to escape harassment, prejudice, and violence. Thanks to all the educators who show love, compassion, and understanding to each and every one of their students. 

KNOW THYSELF BUNDLE #3 is a great way to have students open up about their struggles with identity.

Thanks for stopping by!

Linda Jennifer

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