Previous Post Next Post

Babble Voices

With

Seth Taylor

Connect with Seth

Seth Taylor is a teacher and writer in Southern California. where he lives with his increasingly precocious tween daughter. He's a contributor at DadCentric and Culture Brats and is featured in BlogHer’s Voices of the Year 2012 anthology.

Brought to you by

I’m a Gay Teacher… And Now My Students Know It.

By Seth Taylor |

3955208694_b48d100e80

Every time you think you’re done coming out, turns out you’re not.

Maybe you bump into someone at the grocery store whom you haven’t seen in a few years, who asks you, “So what’s new?”

Or… maybe you get a Facebook message from someone you forgot was on your friend list, who happens to see a blog post of yours where you were being all Out and Proud, who writes you a sarcastic note saying, “Dude, thanks for keeping me in the loop.”

Or… maybe you’re teaching a roomful of college students, and in the context of a class discussion, a student innocently asks you a question you can’t just shrug off — and before you even realize it, you’re telling 30 young people that you’re gay.

All three of these things happened to me recently. The third situation took place this week, and it’s the one that I’m still thinking about. Here’s how it went down:

On this particular day, my students had brought in drafts of an essay they were working on, and we were about to engage in a workshopping process where they’d be reading and critiquing each other’s essays. Before the workshop began, I was talking with the class about the value of having a good reader for their work. I made some cavalier remark to them, something along the lines of:  “If you find someone who’s good at reading your writing and giving you helpful feedback, hang onto that person! Never let them go! Maybe marry them!”

Ha ha ha ha ha. Good-natured chuckles all around.

One student in class raised his hand and asked in a sincere voice, “Is that how you met your wife?”

Oh. Um. Erm.

I’m sorry I didn’t catch that didn’t quite hear you I think the A/C is on too loud sorry wow look at the time we really should wrap this up why don’t we just move on then ok good.

I could’ve sailed us all right past the moment. It wouldn’t be hard for them to assume I was straight.  I’ve mentioned my daughter in class before. The students see the Commitment ring I wear on my left hand. They could easily think I was straight, and I could easily do nothing to correct them. I could’ve said, “Yes! Sure! Let’s say that!” and moved on.

Clearly, my personal life is my business and doesn’t need to be brought into my classroom. I rarely talk about my non-teaching life unless it’s relevant to course-related subject matter. However, simply nodding and smiling away a direct question like that is the same thing as lying about it. Which I vowed not to do when I came out in the first place. That was sort of the whole point.

The student’s question might’ve been innocent. Or maybe he saw an opportunity to do a little fishing, and answer a question that might’ve been circulating about me before now. It really doesn’t matter. The fact is, he asked.

“Well,” I replied to the student, “I’m actually gay, but my partner is definitely a helpful reader who gives me great feedback.”

Easy, truthful, and related to the discussion at hand. Done.

The great part of the story is that no one in the room seemed to care, truly. It didn’t faze anyone. No one acted like I’d shared something unusual (“Also? I really like to dress up in a giant beagle suit every full moon and howl from my roof until the cops come and pull me down.”)  This is a generation of young adults growing up in a culture that, increasingly, no longer sees being gay as something exotic, weird, or perverse.  After class ended, I thought about it and realized that the vibe I got from the entire room was one of non-reaction. To them, learning I’m gay was about as impactful as learning I’m left-handed.

The only one in that room who felt uncomfortable when I told the class I’m gay was… me.

But why? I know plenty of straight teachers who talk about their families and spouses pretty frequently, whether it connects to the day’s lesson or not.

It could be because I’ve only been out a few years and I’m still waiting to be on the receiving end of homophobic treatment, whether it’s passive-aggressive bigotry, or in-my-face discrimination (which hasn’t happened yet, thankfully). Or it could be because I’m usually careful not to share anything truly personal in class beyond stories that actually relate to our curriculum, and this was a moment of accidental vulnerability in an unexpected place.

Or it could be because, for all my public bravado about the value of coming out, about being honest and authentic and truthful… I’m possibly not as completely totally galactically awesomely well-adjusted as I want to be.

A good friend of mine who’s been out for decades once told me that no matter when you come out, you’re never actually done doing it. There’s always someone new who asks, always a new situation where you’re called upon to make a choice: tell the truth, or don’t. Be yourself, or don’t.

So I’ll just have to keep on being.

More on Babble

About Seth Taylor

sethrot

Seth Taylor

Seth Taylor is a teacher and writer in Southern California. where he lives with his increasingly precocious tween daughter. He's a contributor at DadCentric and Culture Brats and is featured in BlogHer’s Voices of the Year 2012 anthology. Read bio and latest posts → Read Seth's latest posts →

« Go back to Babble Voices

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Comments, together with personal information accompanying them, may be used on Babble.com and other Babble media platforms. Learn More.

14 thoughts on “I’m a Gay Teacher… And Now My Students Know It.

  1. Mandy says:

    I love this post. And I love when teachers can be themselves and be present in front of and with their students. Thumbs up!

  2. Great piece Seth, when I first came out a friend told me that the assumption is that you are straight and within 30 seconds of an initial conversation people are telling you that they are straight, “My wife” “my kids” etc. I’ve learned to weave the cues into my conversation as well. When I say “my husband” there is little doubt of my orientation.

  3. Sarah says:

    I’ve started to get more okay with sharing personal stuff in class when I feel that students will be receptive and it doesn’t detract from my lesson. This past spring I found out that I had had a miscarriage and had to go teach two sections of a college class later in the day. I didn’t tell students what happened, but I did open up and say that I was feeling really down about something, and that I had an unplanned medical procedure happening the next day. A couple of students were really great and supportive about it; most folks just took it in stride. One stayed after class to say she would pray for me. It is always awkward, but being open with students can be incredibly therapeutic. Glad your outing went so uneventfully :)

  4. Seth Taylor says:

    Sarah — I’m glad your students were so supportive!

  5. Mags says:

    I asked if you’d answer this question a year or so ago–so thanks so much for writing this! I’m an out lesbian to my friends, family, and workplace, and it is so hard when students (I can pass as straight very easily) ask questions like that. I’ve gotten to the point where I might let it slip out midway through the semester to the ones I trust, but generally it’s hard (I’m also in the midwest US, so…). I feel you on the discomfort, though–I felt that way when I told some students last spring about my partner! One said, “Why didn’t you tell us you had a girlfriend?” When I explained that not everyone reacted positively, the group of boys thought that was the weirdest thing ever–why wouldn’t I feel fine sharing my coupled status?

    Haha, but congratulations!

  6. Laura says:

    You handled that well. It was a brave moment.

  7. Moose says:

    Your students won’t care except when they do. And when they do? It’s because their gay and shy or closeted or questioning and it means THE WORLD to them to know that there are LGBTQ professors out there. As a queer student, learning that one of my professors was Family made my day and made my semester. I never talked to her about “queer stuff”, but I knew that there was someone in my career path who was like me and that made all the difference. (Openly LGBTQ people are vastly underrepresented in STEM.) So thank you. :)

  8. Katrina says:

    LOVE! I am (hopefully) raising children that will have the same *non* reaction that your students did! My kids are 5 and 2 and my son just started kindergarten and I want so much for him to realize that love is love and that people are people! It must be terrifying to be in your position because this arena of non-reactionary students/people is still relatively new. Good for you and keep up the good work in your teaching career, both as a professional (haha) professor and a professor of life!

  9. Claire says:

    I’m bisexual, and in my first teaching job was in a relationship with a woman. I was young and not quite ready for the impact social media had and one of my students tracked me down on myspace (a while ago now!) and saw my orientation was bisexual. She had recently come out (at 14) in school and was thrilled to find a teacher who was also in the lifestyle. It meant the world to her, and her parents, that she had a ‘role model’ – her words not mine – to show that you could have an ordinary life.
    My life has changed since then, but I’m glad I made a difference to her. I’m also much more aware of how effective my online privacy is!!

  10. Stupidosaur says:

    I wanted to let you know that I had the same reaction as your class – not much reaction at all. And the best way to show that would be by not commenting (reacting) at all! Or would it?

  11. High School Teacher says:

    I am a high school teacher. I’m ready to come out. Slowly doing it with colleagues. I came out in 1993. Said I would never want to return to such a horrible, dark place like the closet…and yet I did when I changed career paths and went into Education. It’s time. It takes too much energy to think about using gender-neutral pronouns. Any advice? I’m in a conservative area…at least the parents are.

  12. Katie says:

    I’m in high school and we have a substitute in English and we all think he is gay and honestly nobody really cares. There are quite a few open gays at our school so it’s not a big deal. Don’t feel uncomfortable about who you are!

  13. Chris Bolton says:

    I am gay and I love it. I am 30 years old in Topeka Kansas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Previous Post Next Post