I can vividly remember being 3 or 4 years old, and my father videotaping me. He was obsessed with our VHS camcorder back then.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This was the first time I remember ever being asked the question. It was not something I had ever thought of before. As kids of that age do, I just answered the first thing that came to mind.
“I want to be a teacher!”
This is a really early memory for me, and it has stuck around this long because, even then, it was sort of a weird moment for me.
First, I remember the response.
“A teacher?” he said. There was genuine shock in his voice. Not anger or disgust, just shock. I had said something that caught him off guard.
Soon after, I was taking a bath, and I had a little time to think about what had happened. As a child that young, you aren’t quite as rational as you are 25 years later, so it’s hard for me to piece together exactly how that early self-reflection went in my little head. But I know somewhere in there I realized that only girls were teachers, and that while I had been imagining myself as an adult woman when I said teacher, I knew that I could never say I wanted that job again. I was a boy, after all.
Whether for the realizations made above, or for the fact that my interests changed a thousand times over as I grew older, I never again said that I wanted to be a teacher. Not until I was in my early-mid 20s, and I realized how much I loved teaching after being given a Teaching Assistantship in my first graduate program. Now, it is my career.
The fact that I am one of few male teachers in my program is not lost on me. I never thought about picking a “feminine” job when choosing to teach. I also have no idea why more women are teachers than men. It’s just one of many interesting coincidences in my life.
Ironically, I fear that if I ever were to come out, and if I did decide to transition, then I would no longer find my beloved workplace as perfect as I do now. In fact, I fear I would have to leave there, were I to make those decisions.
I teach students from all over the world. It is one of the things that makes my job so rewarding: through my profession, I am able to welcome others into this country I love, and to share my culture with them, while they share theirs with me. In this current political environment of inflammatory speech against immigrants, immigration, and all things foreign, I am able to show that the American government and the American people are two different entities. It makes me very proud.
But many of the students I have had are also vehemently anti-LGBT, often due to their cultural or religious upbringing. The things I have heard some of my students say are…disappointing to say the least.
And so I can’t imagine those same students who come to sing Happy Birthday to me and bring me cake, those same students who hug me after their certificate ceremony, those same students who want to take selfies with me…I can’t imagine that those students would still want to be my friend.
The department I work in itself is very LGBT-friendly. It is, after all, a college campus, and if you believe conspiracy-theorist Facebook commentators, these are the same institutions which are indoctrinating our children with constant leftist propaganda. They even go so far as to offer LGBT resources to the students during orientation at the start of each semester. But would that same tolerance extend to me?
And even if everyone in the office, and all my students not only accepted me, but continued to treat me the same as they do now, how could I face any of them?
But then, I guess that is just a microcosm for my fears with anyone I’ve ever met.