Friday, December 3, 2010

Rainbow radiance

This past weekend, I was at a gathering which I attend several times a year and about which I have written about before. Near the end of the weekend, a man told the group about being an openly gay teacher at a big-city junior high school in a poor, rough neighborhood consisting of mostly immigrants.

Although he was already "out" at the school, after the recent spate of highly publicized gay teenage suicides, the teacher decided that he had to speak out more. With the other teachers’ blessing, he went to all the seventh grade health classes, beginning the conversation by asking, "Who here is gay?" After some denials and giggling, he would say, "I am." This would produce considerable shock, but then there would be lots of good, constructive questions from the students, which the teacher answered as honestly as possible. When the teacher asked if any of the students know anyone who is gay, most did - a cousin or such - and said that "they are alright."

The man explained that the school shares the campus with a much larger high school and said that, one day after these conversations, he decided to sit outside during recess, knowing that he was taking some risk. He noticed some seventh-grade boys looking and pointing at him and went over to ask what was up. The boys asked him more provocative questions ("Who gives the sperm?"). The teacher was beginning to answer when he was hit by an open carton of milk thrown from afar.

The seventh-graders were nearly as shocked as the teacher and asked him why this happened. The teacher asked the boys if they saw who threw the carton. One or two pointed out a high school student. The teacher, still dripping with milk, went over and confronted the boy, who told him, "Don’t talk about gay stuff!"

After finding out that the high school student is the older brother of a seventh-grader, the teacher was told by school administrators that he had to get a number of witnesses in order for anything to be done about the incident. The teacher found that many students refused to get involved, but he did get enough of them to point out the high school boy, who was then sent to a juvenile rehabilitation facility.

We can admire this man and say that he is brave. We can say that he has balls to teach at a junior high school - not to mention one in a tough inner-city neighborhood and being known to be gay. But that would be too easy.

This man is doing what we in the GLBT community all should be doing, the hard work every one of us needs to do. He is getting out there day after day, standing up for all to see and being honest about who he is. Not only that - and more importantly - he is not letting those who want to deny his existence, shame him and destroy him succeed. In being his true self, he shines and is the one who, in the end, is stronger, survives and thrive.

The failure to do this is clearly evident in the success of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, in California. The gay community couldn’t even say "gay," and the opposition ran with it and made it all the more shameful and frightening.


  1. This story is all to prevelant and is too often swept away with dust in the air. It is still there, but people refuse to see it or even believe it is in our breathing, on our clothes. Take a look at the particles under a black light in a small closed in room. The dust is all too prevelant, in your face, on your face, like this teacher. All too alive, all too honest, all human, gay, and not just a word gay, a person!
    It reminds me of when the Palen daughter was twittering or facebooking or just plain shooting off her mouth on one of those tell all about yourself sites, some moment by moment, which is all too proud for me, but the girl definitely had a word like gay and faggot pop up and was initially doing so because another person was said to be wrong by her. Well, lo and behold, Dr. Drew of all people defended the so called language as a slur and not to address the hatred of the gay community, world perse, but told everyone, we need to come up with a new word, as if gay was used this way to call someone fat or black or whatever. It isn't a language semantic problem, as I see it, it is more of a hate problem and the word gay is not thrown around like a profane gesture, it is depicting a race or a culture or a group of people as any other minority but taken to the point of acceptance to defile and degrade, and yes we should change our language then. But I need to go a step further and say, behavior and character flaws are taught and portrayed just as violence is resembled and nurtured. We need more acceptance of difference and less attack on personal preference. I don't know how to say it but the whole world should not focus on culture and God, but gather some rationality of love and tolerance. Let love lead.

  2. Thank you for sharing this story of bravery. I, like you, am proud to know Mike F, the gentlemen of whom you speak. He's a true Queero!

  3. Powerful insights and commentary. There is more hard work to be done. His story and your words are very moving.