Should a new gay teacher be "out" or "in"?

Discussion in 'Relationships, Discrimination, and Jealousy' started by Pattypablo308, Dec 13, 2006.

  1. Pattypablo308

    Pattypablo308 New Member

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    My boyfriend and I have been dating for 3+ years. He is about to graduate from college and become a Music Teacher. I don't know if he is going to be openly out of the closet or not.

    I know this is his decision, but as a long time companion, I feel I have a responsibility to help him come to a logical decision.

    My problem is, I am very pro-open in my life. All the input I would give would be that he needs to be who he is. I worry about this position because we live in Northern Ohio. Anyone who has passed through our misserable state knows that the good people of Ohio do not approve of "gays" in 90% of situations, especially for teachers.

    Boyfriend is out, and does not have a problem with his sexuality. I know that if asked, he would admit it and be truethful. But I couldn't change my life so that he could be in the closet at school.

    I fear that this is something that will drive a wedge between us.

    I ask this community for insight into it's vast personal experiences and thoughts on the subject!

    Thanks

    ~Pattypablo308
     
  2. rob_just_rob

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    That's a tough one.

    I know that it wouldn't be much of an issue where I live - even when I was in high school, 20 years ago, there were openly gay teachers and not many people cared.

    I think you and your boyfriend need to do some research - see if any teachers have been fired for their sexual orientation in Ohio, see what statutory protections there are, if any. And if the results aren't good, you may want to move somewhere a bit more accepting, or stay closeted, if you want to avoid hassle. Personally, I like the idea of challenging the status quo, but you may find it an uphill battle where you are.

    The other possibility is to live and work in a large city where you can be relatively anonymous. Living in a small town, you don't really have that option.
     
  3. Lex

    Lex
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    First, I don't think any teacher should talk about the intimate details of their home lives to students. As a former teacher and administrator, I feel that too many teachers blurr the professional line.

    That being said, I think your boyfriend should feel free to have pics of the 2 of you on vacation on his desk, etc. It's really no one's business and his being in a realtionship with another man should be viewed as normally as a man beng married. Being a gay male in education is harder as there is the erroneous assumption that we are all pedophiles.

    I would be fascinated to know what his decision is and how everyone reacts. Kids know what we are--they see right through us.
     
  4. oldbodybuilder2004

    oldbodybuilder2004 New Member

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    Lex;

    Best for u guy u at least are honest about ur sexuality. Me I guess I am still in the closet.Sorry we couldn't get together on my recent trip to NYC. I must say it was quite an experience. Probably never sing in Carniege Hall again.

    Merry Xmas and a Happy new year.

    Obb 2004
     
  5. mindseye

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    This is his first "career" job after graduation, and the recommendation he gets from this school can make or break his career.

    Give him some space to "feel out" the school and determine how comfortable or supportive the environment is. If it's not supportive, then gently encourage him to apply for other jobs and find a place where you both can be happily out.
     
  6. HotBulge

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    I have an older friend who has been a high school history teacher for 33 and has been with his life partner of 20 years. (Eastern New England). Since he is a semester away from retirement from the same school system, his personal longterm experiences are a frequent topic of conversation. He expressed both joy about teaching history and regret how being (semi) "closeted" in that environment. It has taken a great toll on his personal life.

    Some context: Until the mid-90s (or 2/3rds of his career), there were no non-discrimination laws protecting him from possible termination on the grounds of sexual deviancy i.e. homosexuality. Please keep in mind that homosexuality was classified as a psychological disorder in the '70s. The school system is suburban, working class, and large (4000 students in the high school). The school environment is very self-contained, as many school systems are by nature.

    To maintain his "closeted" status in the school environment, the teacher made several personal sacrifices. For example, he -even now - maintains separate home phone lines from his partner. (Calculate this monthly expense over 20 years of domestic partnership). He has also maintained his own separate health insurance plan over the past 33 years, even though he could have been covered by his partner's health insurance at his partner's place of work. His partner has been working in higher education for the past 25 years and has risen to a high administrative, senior position. As a couple, they could have consolidated their health insurance coverage 10 years ago. The teacher did not want the superintendant's office to notice his health insurance waiver. He is acquainted with several people in the superintendant's office. (Who wouldn't after 33 years of teaching?). He worried that rumors would be spread. (Again, calculate the additional savings the two of them could have had over the years if he had gone on his partner's insurance plan).

    For years, he only socialized with his fellow teachers as a bachelor. If he held a party of his own (which he did once a year), he asked his partner not to attend for several of those years. He's been a little more open with only a few of his colleagues who are longterm or veteran teachers. Other than that, he's maintained a huge divide between his teaching and his social life. His only outlet has been to live in the city with a gay community and to commute ~ 45 minutes to work, each way.

    I agree with Lex that a teacher's personal life, in general, should not really enter the classroom. The biggest hurdle will be how you handle your other colleagues, i.e. the other teachers and the school head. Northeastern Ohio is conversvative and is also culturally isolated. Starting out as a new music teacher, it's probably wise for your boyfriend to take a conservative approach. It will really reduce down to those moments in the faculty lounge when teachers talk about their personal lives. Will your boyfriend be willing to share his personal life or risk a disdain? The key is in finding the right balance. Hopefully your boyfriend won't have to make the sacrifice of isolation that my friend did with his teaching career. Balance is really the key, however!
     
  7. dudepiston

    dudepiston New Member

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    I PM'd a response to this (couldn't get the reply to work, here...) but wanted to add.....on the positive side...that there are many MANY gay teenagers who probably could use good role models in schools in all parts of the USA. It would have benefited me in countless ways to have grown up believing that how I wanted & needed to live my life would be considered 'normal.' Having a gay educator would have probably helped me percieve that normalcy.
     
  8. kalipygian

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    For myself my practice since early in college (I started a gay students group at University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1974) is to be pre-emptively out, it makes the people who are burdened with thinking being gay is something to be ashamed of back up or shut up.

    The school district here (Anchorage) has a progressive superintendant and board. They have a nondiscrimination and anti harassment policy. The first GSA was started in 1997, now there is one in each HS. Most of the GSA (gay-straight alliance, a student group) sponsors are straight allies rather than out gay teachers. I am involved in the local GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, a national organization) chapter that supports them. Few teachers are very out. It's safer for students to be out than teachers. The district is presently signing up people for domestic partnership benefits, one person has signed up so far, she is a school counselor. Many more university teachers are out. Teachers are supposed to be sexless in our society. I suggest contacting up your local GLSEN chapter, very good to network with supportive professional people involved in education in any case. They should be up on the attitudes of the district, principals &C. If you can't find a local group, the national organization can provide a lot of resources.
     
  9. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    I don't think he should have to bend over backwards to hide his own identity, but like Lex said, any teacher, straight or gay, has no place talking about anything involving their own personal sex lives with their students. Unless maybe it's a graduate level university course on human sexuality or something of that nature.

    Of course, idealism aside, it's probably intelligent career-wise for your boyfriend to keep a lid on the fact that he's gay if he can. There are still far too many ignorant people out there who equate homosexuality and pedophilia or sexual depravity. While it would be nice to educate these idiots, I doubt your boyfriend would wish to do so at the cost of his entire future career.
     
  10. HotBulge

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    To add to my previous post, I don't want to portray my friend's situation as being so completely dour. I've met some of his fellow teachers at his annual, private holiday party. He has the respect of his teachers and has seniority over most other staff members within the high school. He's a fixture in that regard. On two occassions, I've also seen former students (e.g. from 10 years ago) state that his class was more rigorous than college courses that they've taken at some historic East Coast private colleges. So, my friend has built up much respect over time.

    It just took years/decades for my friend to build "social captial" and to become more comfortable around his colleagues. He's just lived such a restricted life for so long, and it has taken a long time for him to change. Similarly, it's taken a long time for society's views on homosexuality to change.

    It's fair to say that his social reality was the Clintonesque, "Don't ask, don't tell policy" within the school system. For the school year, he was/is closeted; for the summer, he is his true self and spends his summers at his summer home in Provincetown. If he didn't have that summer outlet and a small network of gay and lesbian couples/friends in the city, he would have died a silent, spiritual death years ago.

    Now that my friend is facing retirment months away, he's having to address a lifetime of personal frustrations and redefine his identity. As Kalipygian, there are now more progressive groups within secondary education that acknowledge alternative lifestyles. So, hopefully being a teacher who happens to be gay will be easier for one who started in 2006 than in 1976 (or 1973).

     
  11. fak_et

    fak_et New Member

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    We had an openly gay music teacher in elementary school. Im straight but he was a pretty cool guy. Maybe an in between stand would work better. He didn't really hide the fact but he didn't go outside and say "HEY IM GAY!"
     
  12. jeff black

    jeff black <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Forgive me for saying this, but I don't see what his sexuality has to do with his ability to teach.

    I think if asked by the students about his marital status, he explains that his private life is private. Or he could comment that his life is none of their business.

    I like the words from LEXand NIC. Don't flaunt but don't hide either. Just be yourself. People are allowed to speculate.
     
  13. Pattypablo308

    Pattypablo308 New Member

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    I thank all for the responses. You have given me great things to consider and boyfriend and I will have so much to think about

    It is always great to hear from such a diverse group who give so many great things to consider.

    LPSG is a great source for anyone with a problem, and I would recommend your support to anyone!

    Thanks again!

    ~Pattypablo308
     
  14. 1kmb1

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    one of the teachers in my area had a sex change over the summer. the school should protect him, but i think he should keep it to himself.

    theres really no need to tell them
     
  15. mindseye

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  16. jeff black

    jeff black <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    I am not arguing with you, mindseye. Most people are realistic enough to understand that you have to play it cool. Yes, don't be ashamed of yourself, but don't SCREAM gay.

    I know it is annoying, frustrating and unfair, but look at all the examples. Mindseye had one, the lesbian art teacher who had a website up with naked pics is another.
     
  17. vinny_spiruccino

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    It's kind of the same rationale that causes Condee Rice to sound so... not black. I must concur that it's really a shame one cannot simply be themselves.

    And she KNOW she eat chitlins for Christmas dinner and had a dead twin name LaQuayQuay...
     
  18. kalipygian

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    That was 2002, did they sue? If nothing else is acomplished, a court case publicly spotlights discrimination, it is an opportunity for public education, reducing the likelyhood of it happening again.

    For a secondary school teacher to choose to not be out yet in this country is unfortunate but understandable. It is not at the university level, bigotry should not be tolerated.
     
  19. fortiesfun

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    This is a very big issue. On the one hand almost no high school adminstrator will be surprised that the music teacher is gay, and most will quietly tolerate it. But that must be weighed against the fact being openly gay factually limits the number of school systems in which your BF can work. In most states, Ohio included, it is not illegal to discriminate against a teacher on the basis of sexual orientation. He can, and will be, fired in more communities than he will be supported. I hate that, and would never advise anyone to live their life in the closet, but the reality is that most communities still have strong anti-gay policies which are (absurdly) legal and enforcable.
     
  20. mindseye

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    It didn't go as far as a lawsuit. The Board of Visitors is appointed by the governor, and the Republican governor (Gilmour) who had appointed these morons had just left office. The incoming governor (Warner) appointed new members to the board, which subsequently reversed this decision.
     
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