Tuesday, October 23, 2007

happy coming out month!

I've been meaning to post about this for a week now, but I have literally been so angry at the whole situation that it just hasn't been possible.

In case you were unaware, October is international coming out month. Now, I don't really know why (and haven't really bothered to look into it too much either...) but regardless, coming out month. My GSA, being the crazy awesome group they are decided my school should celebrate coming out month. True, they didn't ask the school's permission, but who doesn't love a celebration? For the first of the month the decorated the hallways - rather sparsely, it is a huge school - with posters and set up our closet. The closet says "closets are for clothes" and everyday of the month another celebrity "comes out." Huge kudos to the kids in our building - our posters have remained up and our closet remains intact.

Imagine our surprise, when last week, one of our APs approaches my co-advisor with a few concerns. It appears he has had a few complaints from other staff members about the "offensive" posters the GSA has up. Not really wanting to get into this discussion, she politely asked him to our meeting, which just happened to be at noon that day. My co-advisor is a force to be reckoned with so I'm sure he figured that would be a much simpler way to attain his goal.

Our meeting was already underway by the time he decided to grace us with his presence. The girls quickly wrapped up whatever business we were tending to so that our very busy AP could get back to whatever it is APs do. It all went downhill after he stood up. You see, because after he stood up, he opened his mouth. As often happens, words came out. He opened with a long list of people he knew. This is never a good sign, the simultaneous assertion of importance and confirmation of "common allies." He was searching so deep for these common allies that he was bringing out the siblings of my co-advisor. I could barely contain myself from rolling my eyes.

He then launched into full on "it's not me but" mode. He stated that a couple teachers had sought him out to tell him that they found two of our posters offensive. That we needed to be respectful of people of different mind sets then ours. That some people who are not homophobic might take offense to the fact that we are saying there are homophobic people in our school. When he was done talking, there was silence. For a few seconds I was very concerned none of the students were going to be able to say anything, and I was already fuming angry at this man and his ridiculous claims. So I not so respectfully told him, and the room, that those people were ignorant and it was their choice to be mis-interpreting what our group was saying and doing.

Almost as soon as I opened my mouth, the hands started creeping up. It was almost as if they needed a little push, just an "it's okay, we are not going to let this man come in here and undo what we are doing." Never in my life have I been prouder of a group of students. They were polite, they were articulate, they were logical, they were all of the things we worry young people won't be. Our poor AP didn't see it coming. He was completely unprepared to be dealt with in this way. So he started digging himself a hole. A large hole. He gave these kids more ammunition then they ever could have hoped for. Some gems include
  • we don't want to encourage the "gay lifestyle"
  • he knows gay people
  • we don't put up posters about being Christian or Muslim (when really, we do, we have an ISCF)
  • well, I had to answer in an "old school" kind of way (when asked how he responded to the complainers)
On top of this, he keeps falling back on his argument that he's not telling them they need to do anything, he's not asking us to take down our posters, he really just wanted to come and let us know that he had had two complaints. It is becoming more and more obvious he has no reason to be at our meeting. The kids are far too polite to point this out. So me - now with permanent contract! - asks him flat out "So, Mr. AP, this is a building of 1500 people. We have over 100 staff members. You keep telling us that you have only had 2 people approach you with concerns, and that you aren't asking us to take down our posters. So what are you doing here?" He couldn't answer. There was time for a few last questions and remarks before lunch was over.

I was shaking I was so mad. This man is supposed to be a leader in our school. This man is supposed to set aside his personal beliefs and advocate for students. Instead, he is a bully. A passive aggressive bully. I cannot believe he honestly thought he would walk into that room and magically "deal" with the GSA and their rainbow posters, just in time for Parent-Teacher interviews I might add. It is his own fault, that he never even dreamed this story could have another ending. He has stirred something in these kids that was likely dormant in most of them. You see, until now, it was all fun. Sure, the issues were out there, and there was work to do in raising awareness in our school. But making positive space posters, holding a day of silence, having coffee with other GSAs, bake sales, marching in the pride parade, etc. it was all fun because most of these kids had never really seen what the ugly two faced beast of homophobia looks like in person. He made it personal. He made them see that there is a fight here, and instead of beating them down like he was hoping to, he wound them up.

I'm not sure he's realized his mistake quite yet. But he might by the end of the year when instead of carving themselves a little niche in the school the GSA has permeated the very fabric that it is made of.


Hemant J. Naidu said...

Awesome post.

Chris said...

Best blog post I've ever read. What did the posters say? You're awesome. So good. Wow.

bag marla said...

Yay! I love it!

Kilometres said...

I'm sorry I took so long to come back and check your blog (though I've been away for quite some time and would like to use that as an excuse). I am so freakin' excited about what this portends.

Let's hear it for calm and cool. Clear heads prevail again!

I'm all tingly right now.

I agree with Chris, can we see examples of the posters? I, for one, would like to spread this story around. (Too bad it's not October anymore...)

And a big huge thanks for being the ally we need Chelle!

Kilometres said...

Wow, okay seriously. This just totally made my week.

I needed to comment again because I'm so proud of those kids I'm a little teary. Keep us updated!

Let's hear it for youth!