One of the most enjoyable parts of Out & Around has been connecting with other queer community. This week we post a story from Laura, cheapest a teacher in the East Bay who has been following our journey and wants to share her own. Laura, this thank you for contributing this story and for your service in our public school system.
Ms. H’s Club
I really should’ve known that my students didn’t care that I was gay when one day, purchase earlier this year, one of my students asked, “What’s the GSA?” and another blurted out, “That’s Mrs. H’s club!”
I couldn’t do anything but laugh — “my” club, like I was recruiting or something. I’m a late-bloomer… I didn’t come out until I was 34 and up until then, I kept a wedding picture with my now ex-husband on my school desk. I laughed nervously when students would tell me that they thought I was gay until I talked about “my husband.” I would joke with my now-wife and say that my students knew I was gay before I did and she would say, “No honey, they accepted that you were gay before you did!”
I’ve been a teacher for 17 years at the same school in Concord, California, just a few miles from the gay mecca of San Francisco. Coming out at work after 10 years there was a little, shall we say, uncomfortable for me. Many of my colleagues knew me at the beginning as the “single new teacher”, and they celebrated my wedding to my husband. But I didn’t talk about my divorce in 2007, nor did I discuss my new identity as a lesbian.
When my wife and I were married in the summer of 2008 (during those brief months it was legal here in California), I didn’t stand up with all of my other colleagues on the first day back to school when my principal asked all the newlyweds to stand. I’m not sure what I was afraid of. I suppose I was worried about what my students would think. How could I explain that last year I was married to a man and this year, I’m married to a woman?
I would tell my wife that I didn’t have to answer to anyone because it was my personal business and not something I needed to talk about. “But you talked about your husband, didn’t you?”, she would ask. Finally, I had to admit to myself that maybe I was a little ashamed.
But then a shift in me occurred, and I began to stand up for myself. During a faculty icebreaker game, everyone had to guess a mystery person based on a set of clues. One of the clues stated that this mystery person had a wife. A new colleague suggested that this person must be a man to have a wife, but I politely disagreed and said that I had a wife. But the new colleague then insisted that I was supposed to call her my“partner,” making me realize the need for education in our own faculty room.
I replaced old wedding pictures on my desk with new ones – pictures of my wife with our daughter. When students asked who they were, I answered honestly. One of my seniors asked a casual question about my wife in front of a sophomore. The sophomore thought the senior mixed up pronouns and asked for clarification about who she was talking about. When the senior said, “Mrs. H’s wife”, the sophomore, who had already been out for a couple of years , proclaimed, “Oh my god, you’re gay?? I love you even more now!”
I realized that I didn’t have to wave a giant rainbow flag and proclaim to my students that I was a lesbian, nor did I have to hide it and pretend. I don’t need a megaphone to be a gay activist. By simply living my truth in daily life, I realized I could just “be” and that was good enough.