Opened Doors

Something interesting happened Wednesday night. Someone left a comment on a post I wrote in 2015 about the song “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams. The post had been inspired by a comment made by one of my readers the day before that the song reminded him of me. So naturally, I looked at the post from the day before; it was about the firing of English teacher and speech coach, Matt Eledge who had worked at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Eledge was fired because he is gay and was making plans to marry his partner. 

Little did I know then that 18 days later, I too would be fired from my teaching job. The official reason given was there had been “complaints” about me. No one would tell me who my accusers were or what their complaints were. I have always suspected part of the reason I was fired was because the headmaster and some others suspected I am gay. Later, I found out the headmaster had hired a new football coach. The school needed classes for him to “teach,” and they gave him mine. Supposedly he could teach history. 

Karma is a bitch and came back and bit the headmaster in the ass, though. That football coach was neither a coach nor a teacher. He never won a single game. Also, parents did complain to the headmaster and the school’s board, but not about my role as a teacher; instead, because I had been fired. Several board members also complained to the headmaster about his decision. Even parents I had disagreements with over their children’s behavior respected my teaching skills. Many parents of former students lamented I had been replaced with an awful and lazy teacher who only gave out worksheets and never taught their kids anything. Everyone I heard from said with me, their children had actually learned something. Some of those parents, students, and other teachers still tell me today how much they miss me and what an asset I had been to the school. The saddest part was the drama program I had worked so hard to establish. It died when I was fired.

Things turned out for the best though. I got a new job and moved to Vermont, and my salary is more than double what it had been as a teacher not to mention now having retirement, sick leave, vacation time, plus health, dental, and vision insurance. I never had benefits teaching in Alabama. Technically, we did have sick leave and vacation time, but we weren’t really allowed to use it. I am in a far better place today than I was five years ago.

And if you are wondering what happened to Matt Eledge, he was hired at another school and married his partner, Elliot. He made headlines again last year when his husband’s sister donated an egg for a surrogate, and Matt’s 61-year-old mother was the surrogate giving birth to her first granddaughter.

Religious bigots and homophobes may sometimes close doors on us, but new doors open. Often, we are better for it. I have a good career now. Vermont may not be my ideal location—in many ways it is more rural than where I was in Alabama. But, Montreal is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live; Boston is only two hours away; and I can easily hop on a train and visit my friend Susan in Manhattan. And there are other advantages, too. I can go to LGBTQ+ events and not worry. Winter Is a Drag Ball in February and Vermont Pride in September are wonderful events. I now know drag queens I consider friends. Often, I go to First Friday, a monthly LGBTQ+ event hosted by my friends. I am freer in Vermont than I ever could have been in Alabama. Now, I just need to find a man.

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

One response to “Opened Doors

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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