coming out (updated)

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.

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13 Comments

Filed under coming out, Politics

13 responses to “coming out (updated)

  1. Congratulations!

    I hope that you students will still show you the respect that you deserve, and value what you teach them.

  2. vee

    Brave of you. I’m sure that it’ll have made some of them re-evaluate.

  3. N

    Wow. That has to have been hugely moving. *hugs* In the end, did he seem to understand at all?

  4. Good for you! That was a very brave thing to do and I’m sure was an even greater help to at least one or more students in the same boat as we once were.

  5. Brave and cool. How do you feel about it?

  6. MT

    I also say good for you. I have never really been able to come out in my place of work and sometimes I wish I could.

  7. liberationtheory

    i think so many right wingers are so staunch in their opinions because they simply haven’t seen the other side up close and personal. it’s not real to them so it’s easier to hold onto abstract ideals.

    i actually came out a few years ago to students when i taught jr. high. their tone completely changed because they had to actually live and breathe respect for all, and they were a lot more conscientious about teasing, etc b/c now being “gay” wasnt just something they saw on tv, but it was their actual teacher that they had bonded with.

    i dont think a lot of hetties get why coming out is such a process and is necessary. it not as simple as just living your life and keeping everything private. it’s a necessary step to push everyone’s comfort zone so that hopefully we can arrive at a middle.

  8. tbean

    Good for you! Glad you did it!

  9. Wow! Congrats! When I was teaching I was “out” in general, but never in front of a whole class–somehow didn’t have the nerve. You are awesome! I really believe coming out one of the most potent political acts we can do. Kudos!

  10. poppycat

    That’s great!!! I know a lot of people resent having to “educate” the hetties about their lives, but it is so important for them put a face with the word gay or lesbian. It’s important for them to know that what may be an ideolological or conceptual issue to them is actually a very real life issue for someone they know or love.
    In my life and work I have always found being out and proud steals peoples power to be hateful and ugly.

  11. wow!

    pleaaaaaase come and do the coming out interview on my blog?

  12. I can’t seem to stop crying over Prop 8 and I’m so not the crier.

    For weeks I’ve had to drive up and down my street looking at all an incredibly large number of “yes on 8” signs until I was convinced all of my neighbors are conservative homophobes that would torch our house if they knew lesbians lived there. Then on a recent morning, two “no on 8” signs went up on a couple of our neighbors yards and then a few days later there were two more. When I saw them I got totally chocked up.

    Then I actually saw a “no on 8” rally last night and we couldn’t believe it. We kept saying “Are you sure it’s not a ‘yes on 8’ rally.” That set the tears off again.

    On my way home from voting, there was a “yes on 8” rally on the street corner but this lone woman stood near them with her “no on 8” sign.

    A coworker, who I thought was really conservative based on her not allowing her kids to read Harry Potter because it’s about the occult and the devil, started a rampage in the break room about how ridiculous Prop 8 is and she can’t believe anyone would vote for it. “We all have someone gay in our families and how can you vote against them?”

    I could keep going on and on about the amount of “no on 8” support that I’ve seen in the past month that keeps watering my eyes but essentially I’m just surprised. I guess that I was thinking less of people than they deserved.

    I’m still really nervous about tonight….

  13. I know I’m horribly behind, but I just wanted to say that your coming out story is inspiring. I struggled with this when I taught – it’s so hard to come out to that many students. And though I can’t know for certain, I feel pretty sure you influenced that conservative student. Good for you!

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