We had an incident at school yesterday, but before I tell you about it, I want you to keep something in mind.  I teach at a rural school where the students are sheltered from the real world.  I wish they had more exposure to the real world: people of different races, LGBT people, etc.  However, they just aren’t, and they often keep there parents’ prejudices.  I’m not making excuses for them, and I don’t allow slurs against anyone.  I try to open their world to more exposure, but I also have to stay in the closet for a number of reasons: job security, family issues, etc.

With that said, two boys discovered some pretty indisputable evidence (by accident) that another boy in their class, who they thought was gay, was actually gay.  They brought it to my attention almost immediately. I could tell immediately that they wanted to start the rumor mill going.  I told the kids to keep quiet about it and then at the end of class, after everyone was gone, I had a little talk with them.  They were afraid that I would be mad and yell at them, but I talked very calmly to them.  I tried to explain some of the feelings and problems the other kid was probably going through.  I also told them that they did not need to start spreading rumors.  Rumors would only lead to bullying and this kid does not need that, nor does any kid.  They, like so many straight people, do not understand homosexuality. So I explained some of the problems with depression and suicide many gay kids suffer with because of bullying and so forth.  I told them not to make a big deal out of it, keep things quiet, and let him figure things out on his own.  These are not the kind of guys to go up to him, tell him it’s okay, and be supportive.  And let’s face it, many of us have been in a similar situation and would have been mortified if we knew someone knew and it would cause even further damage.  By telling them to just forget it and drop it, they might just do so.

It also helped that they talked to one of the coaches about it, and he said almost the exact same thing, down to explaining about suicides and bullying.  We have four coaches and only two of which the kids would talk to about something like this.  They went to the good one, not the asshole who would have done the opposite of what the good coach and I did.

I don’t know if I did the right thing or even the bravest thing with what I told the boys yesterday, but I could only think of what I would have wanted a teacher to do if I had been in the same situation: containment.  

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

11 responses to “Containment

  • silvereagle

    I believe you and the "good" coach did right. Time will tell.Now will they tell others or not, most likely they will, but with a different attitude than they might hve taken without your having talked with them.

  • Coop

    I think you did the right thing, Joe.

  • naturgesetz

    Well done! I think you handled it as well as possible, and it certainly reinforces your message that they got it from another adult as well.

  • Vilges Suola

    When they approached you, what exactly were their expectations? How dd they expect you to react? What did they want you to do?

  • Will

    Good work, Joe — you and the coach handled it beautifully. Now one just has to hope these two young men take your and his advice and behave accordingly.

  • Adam

    I add my thanks, too, Joe. Their actions will be what they will be, but your conversation with them may well have changed the outcome for the young man in question. The world learns how to respond one person, one conversation at a time.

  • Dean

    I think you handled it as well as anyone could. It seems to be so rare for an adult to have a real conversation with a teenager. Presenting the whole picture has probably given them a chance to make a well-informed course of action. Yesterday while substitute teaching 14 year-olds I managed to have a real conversation with 3 of the girls about family planning. I got through to them the idea of first becoming a mature individual who had tried to reach her potential before trying to jump in and start a family just to fulfill their parents' wish for grandchildren. It was rewarding to see the wheels turning in their heads.

  • Jay M.

    It's a difficult position to be put in. I've had to do similar things, and it never is easy, but you handled it well. I hope I did as well. I honestly think that if you could get to the other boy, the one that might be gay, and warn him (because I don't think this will stay secret), at least he'll know he has someone to come to if necessary.Peace <3Jay

  • Pier Roberto Giannelli

    Your response was as near perfect as anything in this world can be. Really kind and really admirable.

Thank you for commenting. I always want to know what you have to say. However, I have a few rules: 1. Always be kind and considerate to others. 2. Do not degrade other people's way of thinking. 3. I have the right to refuse or remove any comment I deem inappropriate. 4. If you comment on a post that was published over 14 days ago, it will not post immediately. Those comments are set for moderation. If it doesn't break the above rules, it will post.

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