the wrong side of the bed

Thursday, June 17, 2004

cuz i never was cool

on the way to meet my students for drinks the other day, i ran into bill*, a student from a previous semester. he was a sweet kid, slightly above average smarts, and very quiet in class. his section was pretty silly. one or two of the students definitely needed a lot of attention as often as they could get it. during one section, which took place during coming out week, bill said something, and later thought he had revealed that he is gay. it was sweet because no one, myself included, noticed his slip. he came up to me at the end of class, shaking like a leaf, and asked me if i thought the other students had noticed him saying anything funny. i had no idea what he meant, and had to drag it out of him. i told him that, especially given what the students in class had said about coming out week, that even if they had picked up on it, they probably wouldn't care. i also should have told him that the other students in class were too busy thinking about what witty thing they could say next to notice a shy, gay kid who said "we" instead of "they" when talking about gay high school kids. i felt especially terrible for bill because I had fully intended to tell my students that i am bisexual, but i had chickened out. when I told bill, i was shaking like a leaf. you’d think that at 28, something like that wouldn’t make me nervous, but i was worried that a student might react poorly and (horror of horrors) give me a bad course evaluation or be a disruptive ass in future classes. i was going to come out to my students in the first place because the whole idea of coming out week is so that people can have lots of support and i thought that it might be nice for some random 18 year old gay kid to know that he/she (ze?) wasn’t alone… i felt especially terrible for being such a wimp since this poor kid was obviously so torn up about it, so i made a point to tell the class the next week that what i had planned to do and how I had chickened out. of course, they couldn’t have cared less, but i hope it made that one student (maybe others?) feel better.

after that week of class, i always found myself smiling reassuringly at bill and asking him how he was doing. then i started worrying that i was some how outing him just by talking to him. in my own experiences in school, the gayer a teacher was, the more likely i was to be the teacher’s pet in that class.** well, with the exception of fourth grade. despite the fact that his name was really, really, really gay, i never guessed it. my mom actually told me about it later. but, the first teacher that all of us kids recognized as a lesbian, my 7th grade life sciences teacher ms. klein, had me doing all of those goofy tasks that the good kids do. the worst, and most damning in the eyes of my classmates, involved me actually touching ms. klein. i mean, it is one thing to be favored by your lesbian teacher, but it is another to touch her! it was the day that ms. klein brought in the knee joint of a cow that she bought from a butcher. blood was dripping down her sleeves and she called me up to the front of the room to pull them up for her. i couldn’t get the wide sleeves on her lab coat to roll up properly, so she asked me to stand there the whole time holding them up. i swear it was only later that same afternoon that some kid accused me of being a lesbian (it was either that or the fact that my friend amy and i were talking about Doctor Who). my 9th grade biology teacher was also a big ol' dyke and also constantly singled me out. ms. taylor not only always called on me in but also, during an in class assignment where we were supposed to pretend to breed with a classmate and predict our kids phenotype on a couple of traits she paired me with a girl! and made a big stink about it! great. in my high school, where some boys actually killed a gay man by beating him to death with sticks, this was so not a great thing for her to do.

of course, i fared a lot better than my friend jason. my favorite english teacher, mr. johnson, singled him out for attention, but went we beyond my lesbian teachers did. mr. johnson actually slept with my 15 year old friend. i didn’t know about it until i was in college, so for a long time i considered mr. johnson to be the best teacher i had ever had. he was always really nice to me, too, but i lucked out by being a girl.***

* all names, except for my own, are changed to protect identities...

** i should say here that i wasn't just the favorite of the gay teachers. any teacher with obvious mental health issues was sure to single me out. for example, i had a teacher who had to leave school for a while because he was missusing alcohol and anti-depressants. when i ran into him in a park with my friends, he gave me a big hug.

*** i really hate that mr. johnson did this because it seems to feed into a lot of stereotypes. i feel pretty certain that my straight art teachers also slept with students. they were both pretty creepy. mr. prescott was always drawing either barbarian women or my friend dorotha adams in his sketchbook. ick.
10:53 PM


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