Stuck in the Closet
I grew up in a faith that did not accept me being gay. I am also in a profession that does not accept it. I’m a teacher.
I grew up simply keeping my sexuality hidden. I earned my Eagle Scout award (before gay scouts were “allowed”), I didn’t date girls, I just didn’t date. I’m sure my parents suspected that I was gay, but we didn’t talk about it. At nineteen, I served a mission for my church, I came home, and I went back to college.
...There are laws in many states that make being gay a crime. Yes, these laws still exist, and they can be used against public employees without any difficulty.
I've wanted to be a special education teacher since I was twelve. I finished college, earning money as a substitute teacher until I could get my license. Now I work with children with special needs. Like most teachers, I love my kids. My work is challenging. In addition to helping my students learn important life skills, I write individualized lesson plans for each child, I change their clothes when they have accidents, and I keep them from hurting themselves. I have scars on my arms and hands from their bites and scratches.
My colleagues respect me. My parents are proud of me. My students like me. I’m a good teacher.
Meanwhile, there are laws in many states that make being gay a crime. Yes, these laws still exist, and they can be used against public employees without any difficulty. We sign contracts. More troubling are state laws known as "no promo homo," which keep teachers from even discussing homosexuality in a school environment. No matter how much my heart wants to say to a student, "it's okay to be who you are. I get it. I'm like you." I can’t. It will end my career. So, I remain silent.
At this point in my life, my silence doesn’t hurt me. Or maybe it does. It is hurting my students. And that does hurt me. Silence hurts.