Erin Jones posted an open letter on her Facebook wall in response to the paper rescinding its endorsement and to Sydney Brownstone's article.
An open letter:
Today I have been left saddened and in disbelief after reading the Stranger article earlier this morning. I am saddened because I am a longstanding, strong supporter of LGBTQ children and adults and their rights to be treated equally, respectfully and lovingly in their schools and communities. My lesson learned today is that I have work to do as a person and professional to align my language with my lived values. I recognize and regret using overly equivocal wording on issues related to the LGBTQ community that has let friends and supporters down. I am sorry that I used language that could be too easily interpreted as murky.
I have been asked over the course of this campaign if I think being LGBTQ is a choice or a sin. My answer to both is NO. I do not believe one has a choice in the matter of sexual orientation or gender identity, just as a person has no choice as to what color they will be or what blood type they will have. I also believe we should teach the most accurate, compassionate and open-hearted curriculum in our schools to help support every child, including age-appropriate instruction about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
In my answers to the SW Washington Blog and some of my responses to the Stranger, I made mistakes. As a leader, I have shown true commitment to grow in my understandings of these issues. I have spent hours on the phone talking with friends who are members of the LGBTQ community, allies, experts on sexual health, parents of LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ youth themselves. I plan to continue these conversations long after the campaign has run its course.
I have intentionally sat in spaces to learn and gain better understandings that will help me best serve our students and our communities, because, for me, this conversation is not just about a campaign. It is about growing as a person. As a teacher of teachers on issues of culture, I am always very open that we all have blindspots. Not one of us (including me) is free of bias and prejudice, because we are human. We have all been socialized to believe certain things. The worst thing I or anyone else can do is not acknowledge and address blond spots when they are made evident.
My personal and professional life experiences and actions with the LGBTQ community are a mirror into who I am, and have always been. As a teacher, I worked to ensure that all my students felt safe and knew they were accepted and loved for who they were, regardless of their socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, gender identity, expression or sexual orientation. As a mother, I have two biological children, an adopted daughter who is biologically my niece, and two surrogate children who were ostracized by their families after “coming out.” These young people are not biologically mine, yet I have embraced them and they adopted me as their surrogate mother, because I accept and love them for who they are. The thought of rejecting a child for being his/her/their authentic self makes my heart sick.
I am running for OSPI precisely because of my combined personal and professional experiences. These experiences have led me to serve for over 20 years in classrooms and schools with some of the highest need, highest poverty, and most ethnically, culturally, and sexually diverse communities in our state. I am proud of my work and support for the rights of all people—and all children—regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status. Again, I have work to do as a person and professional to align my language with my values. But I know my values, and they are strong - to make sure every child is valued, that every school environment is inclusive, that every student is supported to be able to become his/her/their best selves. I believe these values fully manifest in my work, life, and commitment to the students of our state.
My sadness today is not about an election, but about the attack on my character. I am sad because I want to be the best human I can be and I want to make sure I engage with all children...all people in a way that shows value, not merely tolerance.
*Please note that I have edited my original post to incorporate my response to questions and requests for clarification.