Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Am I out enough yet?

Today is National Coming Out Day.

Something I realized as I walked back to my department after teaching.

With a slight feeling of guilt that my class probably doesn't know I'm gay. Not that I'm purposely hiding the fact, not that I have an issue with them knowing. It just hasn't come up that I remember.

In some ways, this is my dilemma. I have become so matter-of-fact about being a lesbian that I don't keep track of who I've told, because I assume I've told everyone.

And I prefer coming out in natural contexts. That is, I'm not going to walk up to someone and say, "Hi, I'm gay." I'm not going to announce this to my class out of nowhere. And I don't think a natural opportunity has arisen for me to refer to my wife.

This happened to me when I started teaching junior high and high school several years ago. I never tried to hide who I was, but I realized in my second year that many of my younger students had not made the connection even when I referred to "my partner." In the high school, the gossip had made the rounds, saving me the trouble--I found this out from students in the Gay-Straight Alliance. But apparently this was not a topic of discussion in the junior high. So I made an effort at least to address gay issues when they arose, to challenge that oh-so-junior-high phrase "that's so gay," to mention my partner and use proper pronouns in the hopes that they would at least know I was a supportive person.

It became easier to convey my gayness once I had my son, as I talked about raising my son with another woman. Additionally, I acted as a liaison between the high school's GSA and the junior high, raising awareness of days like National Coming Out Day and the Day of Silence with the younger students. This made me the most visible gay teacher for these students, and I considered my role a serious responsibility.

It's a little different with college students. In an environment that has been more accepting of my family. And so it becomes almost a non-issue for me, and I forget to be so vigilant.

On the other hand, I'm sure I will out myself to my class en masse sometime soon. Not because it's the designated day, but because it's the right time.

1 comment:

sunshine scribe said...

I had a conversation about this with one of my closest friends recently. She said the same thing ... that she forgets who she has told and assumes everyone knows and is often taken aback when she outs herself to a surprised reaction.

I have such great respect for the honesty, openness and courage that you live your life and I am sure your college class will too.