As pride month closes, we shine a light on our Head Start LGBTQ+ community. Thank you Head Start alumnus Shane Dunn, chief advancement officer at Rosie’s Place in Boston and president of the Board of Directors at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), for sharing your story as a champion and ally with us.
I’m proud to be a member of the Head Start family. I see Head Start and my work as an advocate on the same continuum–both in pursuit of true “lived equality.”
I attended Head Start in Utica, New York. My mother had recently returned to work, and my grandmother, who was physically disabled, was my caregiver during the day. Both of them wanted me to be in a diverse academic and social environment. They chose Head Start.
One vivid memory from Head Start is making friends with kids who didn’t look like me at a young age. This early experience in a diverse environment shaped my values of racial justice and equity. For example, when my wife and I were looking for a learning environment for our young children in Boston, we purposely sought spaces with racial and economic diversity. When I think about my children learning and growing together with those who look different from them, have different cultural or religious traditions, have different family structures, speak other languages, or live in different zip codes, I see my children as beneficiaries of lessons and skills learned from my time in Head Start.
Though my experience in Head Start was positive, the remainder of my secondary educational journey wasn’t as smooth. Despite being a good student, an athlete, and a friend to many, I was bullied in middle school and high school for being perceived as gay. This happened when insulting someone by telling them “That’s so gay” or “You’re gay” as put-downs was unfortunately accepted language in schools and communities nationwide. I was not protected, I was not safe, nor were others who faced similar harassment. These experiences shaped me and my desire to advocate for members of marginalized communities, specifically LGBTQ+ communities. After college, I found my voice as an ally and I spoke out for stricter anti-bullying laws in New York State schools.
My personal experience and recognition that I have significant unearned privilege as a straight white man inspired me to dedicate my energy to service and advocacy on behalf of historically marginalized communities. Today, I am humbled and proud to serve as president of the Board of Directors of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) in Boston and work as chief advancement officer at Rosie’s Place in Boston, the nation’s first shelter for women. Along with my wife, I am raising two young children in Boston and will do all that I can to raise them to be kind, inclusive, justice-minded people who embrace and celebrate others.