Or at least that’s what a student said I was.
The student wasn’t too happy with an answer I gave to a request and then in the next few minutes used her creative energies to pull a picture of me off the school’s web directory into a MS Word(r) document and write in a 24-point bold script “He is so Gay!” Mind you, the students were working on an annotated bibliography about an important jouralism person or publication during the classtime–At least that is what I had intended the time to be used for.
So, what did I do? Mostly what I normally do: ignored it. She was upset because I didn’t grant permission for her request and funneled her ire into Microsoft Word (and I can deal with that). I have that effect on some of my students: I make them mad sometimes and I’m okay with that. Question is: should I have been upset at being called “so Gay” or even that the student was using a “derrogatory term” to channel her passive agreesive anger?
Again, I chose not to respond. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. What I usually do in these situations is pretend to ignore the behavior, the comment, the DDJD LookSneerCurse. But what I then will do is use proximity: I lean or walk in the student’s general direction. I might walk right by their desk. But most of all, I will make sure that the student knows that I acknowledge their presence by my presence and that’s about it.
Besides, I think she was having a bad day anyway.
Now on the “so Gay” part. I grew up in Northern California during the 70s and 80s and I have generally, for the first part of my teaching career, been trying to remind the students and youth (and perhaps adults) in Northern Indiana that to call someone “Gay” borders on being homophobic. And, as a sidenote, it really is the worst thing to call another male student (as if to be gay is to be one on the Highway to Hell).
And so, I would have a talk with my classes as it came up (as someone loudly would namecall another student “gay”) and remind my students of what exactly they were saying. And generally, like most teacher lectures on proper EmilyPost “be nice to one another” lessons go, it fell on CharlieBrown AdultTalking “wa wa waa, wa wa waa.” You get the picture and you hear the tone. The problem, though, is that I wasn’t any better than my students were: I and my friends, did the same things and made fun the gay community also.
As I mentioned before, I grew up in Northern California and our family moved to the Russian River community during my 8th grade year and then back for grades 10-12. We lived near the community of Guerneville and we had fun saying some things about the folk that would come up during the weekends and the summer. See, Guerneville, as I remember hearing, was a fairly “clean town” and “many of the business were owned by people who were gay” (mind you, we lived about 60 miles north of San Francisco and to many of my students that means I lived by the gayest community the world). And so– and I learned this from a high schooler whom we thought was cool (probably because we was stoned most of the time…no kidding)– we would yell out the window some name or title when our car went by two men holding hands along the sidewalk or road.
I’m not proud of it; I’m just saying that I did it.
Along with that, my church buddies would come out and visit me and one particularly funny kid in our group thought Guerneville should have a tagline underneath the city limits sign: Guerneville: Where the women are women and the men are to. And we laughed and thought we all were quite witty (remember, to be funny as an adolescent wins more points than being good-looking and being a decent athlete).
So, when I denied the student’s request to go to her locker so she could retrieve her electronic listening device, I wasn’t really shocked that she used a term, though I don’t think was too witty, to project her distaste for my declining her request.
Before you remind me of my duty as a classroom teacher of a public school, think for a moment and remember that we all are guilty of name-calling. It is human and yes, it is ugly, but it is very human to do so.
Though one of my former newspaper students, who happens to be African-American (see how careful I worded that), calls me her “wigger.” She’ll say “Hey, are you my ‘wigger'” and I’ll remind her that she realizes that I can’t say the same thing back to her and she’ll say “I know.”
Now that’s witty.