Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Teaching... that's so GAY!

This is the story of "Tommy."  I will tell the story from "Tommy's" perspective as he told it to me.  
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I have this problem.  I am a teacher.... I LOVE teaching... it is my calling, it is my PASSION. In an age where so many people seem to be discontented with in their work. I LOVE MY JOB! So what's the problem?   Well you see, I'm gay.  I work in a school system in a traditionally minded community.   I love my kids, and I know that I make a difference in their lives.  Until recently this hasn't been a huge issue. I didn't like the fact that I was hiding my sexuality... but it wasn't causing conflict in my life. Then something happened to change all of that. I met Bill... and we fell in love.  We've been in this relationship for over a two years now, each day brings new joys and I am more fulfilled by our relationship than any I have ever had.  We understand one another and support one another in all things.  Bill owns his own business and has this amazing house and has asked me to move in with him. I am so excited,,, and conflicted.  Part of me wants to start packing NOW, but I am fearful that if I move in with Bill, our relationship will be discovered and I will be in danger of losing my job.  I've worked at my school for 8 years, have stellar reviews from my Principal, and am well regarded by my colleagues.  However, recently... our town had the opportunity to add protections to its municipal code to help prevent discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the fundamentalists came out in force spewing hatred and creating a very hostile climate for GLBT people and their allies in the community.  I am afraid that this climate has the potential to cost me my job if my sexuality were revealed. How much longer do I have to my life on hold?
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I too am a teacher, but I am blessed beyond measure to be in a setting where I can be out, and my sexuality does not endanger my job. Tommy's story is all too common, at least here in the midwest.  There is a fear of gay teachers, that I simply cannot understand, it follows no logic that I can identify.

The theory goes something like this: Since gays cannot have children biologically, recruitment of children to their cause, especially at a young age, is essential.

This creates an environment where LGBT individuals who work with children in any capacity are suspect.  Teachers are of particular interest as they spend extended time with children. Many people just assume that a gay teacher is stalking his male students, and lesbian teachers are intent on seducing their female students.  

Okay lets put that shoe on the other foot... shall we? Imagine a male heterosexual teacher, do people automatically assume that this teacher views his female students as sexual objects? Do people assume that heterosexual female teachers are stalking the little boys in their classroom?  No, of course not. So WHY when the teacher is not heterosexual do people make that assumption?

Teachers who are GLBT serve as positive role models... not only to GLBTQ students, but to the entire school community.   To students who identify as queer or questioning, seeing someone on the teaching staff that is gay can be very powerful and promote a positive sense of self. To heterosexual members of the school community, a gay teacher just might be the person that helps them deconstruct their stereotypes and challenge erroneous assumptions.

It is estimated that one teacher in ten has a sexual orientation other than heterosexual.  According to the 2000 census, there are 6.5 million teachers in the United States. If one teacher in ten is GLBT that makes 650,000 teachers whose lives and careers could be shattered by whole "gay teachers as recruiters" mentality. 

So... what are we... as forward thinking individuals going to do about it?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Times they are achangin...

I celebrate today! I celebrate the fact that after twenty-five years of deliberation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Church Council has abolished its anti-gay policies, effective immediately. Of course I have to wonder WHY it took 25 years of deliberation to arrive at this place, but I celebrate nonetheless.  There are a great many denominations that have been discussing this for much longer and are not there yet.  I am not Lutheran, I'm not even exclusively Christian... but I do believe that this is a sign of hope. It is encouraging to see a Christian denomination conducting themselves in a Christ-like manner! I know... sounds like a no-brainer... but that is not always the case.  I'm not one to bash... just sayin'.  The fact that a major denomination like ELCA can take this step... is a very good thing.  But it IS only a step... I'll be interested to see how these policy changes translate into action, into affirmation and IN YOUR FACE inclusiveness in ELCA congregations in this country. 

Keepin' It Real...