I came out to my class tonight. I have never in my eight years of teaching come out to a whole class of students, but tonight it had to happen.
I gave them half of the class session to talk about the election. We took a straw poll for the presidency (Obama won with over 70% of the vote), and then we began discussing California’s propositions. One of my students who is in the military, grew up in the South, and is decidedly right wing, began asking me questions about Prop 8. “Don’t they get the same rights with domestic partnership? What’s the big deal? Why can’t they be happy with that?” I had all the right answers to give him, and so did other members of the class, but he kept pushing. And pushing, and pushing.
And I did it. I told them, “You know, I have never come out to a class until this very moment, but I cannot stand here trying to explain this proposition pretending not to have a stake in this. My partner of ten years and I were married this summer…” I told a very brief summary of our story, and I choked up. I didn’t burst into tears (that would have been embarrassing), but I did show my emotion about this. It was a strange moment. Many of them sat there smiling at me. The right winger shut up and crossed his arms over his chest. I told them I simply couldn’t participate in the debate objectively and asked them to continue the conversation amongst each other. They did, and I sat back taking it in.
We moved on to discuss other ballot measures, and I kept looking around the classroom wondering how their opinions of me had changed. For some of them, I imagine their opinions are no different. For the right-winger, I think he already knew and was trying to get me to out myself. And the others, well, I just can’t worry about that.
Edited to add this:
One of His Moms asked me how I felt about this, and I have to say, I feel good. I have never exactly hidden who I am from my students, but I’ve never announced to a class that my partner is female. I’m glad to know that even if they didn’t before, they know a gay person now. This class has a lot of respect for me, and for some of them, I may very well be the first gay person they have known. Knowing and respecting a person, and then finding out they’re gay can go along way toward building acceptance.
I did hear from the above mentioned student today. He wrote to apologize for upsetting me. He then wrote the following:
I do not think that anyone should have their pursuit of happiness be corrupted just because someone else may not believe it to be right for their own life. I feel it doesn’t even have an effect on them, so why protest?
Whether my story did that, or he was already leaning this way, I don’t know, but his message meant a lot.