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Member & Activist Spotlight

'We all belong, and we deserve to belong in that space just as much as anyone else'

Dirk Andrews is an Elementary School Teacher in Natrona County, Wyoming and winner of the 2023 Virginia Uribe Memorial Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights
Dirk Andrews
Published: October 13, 2023

Being a gay educator in Wyoming, it's not always an easy job.

My “why,” why I continue to do the work that I do, is I have a platform where I can advocate for those who haven't found their voices yet.  Here at the state level, that advocacy comes with telling your story.

Growing up I always knew I was different—couldn't necessarily put a title to it. When I started high school, I knew I was gay. My freshman year of high school was the year that Matthew Shepard was murdered. At that point, I decided to hide who I was.

After freshman year of college, I moved to Casper College, where I met my now husband, and discovered I needed to come into who I was.

In July 2004, I came out to my parents. They disowned me for about six months.

I was starting some courses to be an educator at that point and picked up a book … about how one in 10 educators identified with the LGBTQ community. Within that book, it had a comment that resonated with me. It was about how ‘you may not believe that I'll be with you in the afterlife, but I want to spend as much time here and now in this life with you.’

I gave that spiel to my mom and we both bawled our eyes out. But it mended that relationship.

When 2014 happened (same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Wyoming), we were the first to apply for a marriage license. Hit the paper and everything.

What was acceptable and how I felt in 2014 really changed. I got active within the education association immediately and started to run for some positions. I'm lucky, as I get to be the NEA director for the state of Wyoming and … meet directors from all over the country.

If I could go back and have a conversation with a younger Dirk, the thing I would talk about: It's OK to be your authentic self. We're all unique in our own ways. We all belong, and we deserve to belong in that space just as much as anyone else.

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.