The Chronicle of Higher Ed: Teaching While Gay

I think this article and professor brings up very real tensions that LGBTQ teachers face. As the professor mentions, he works in a specific educational context which may be different than those of other teaching contexts. Within any teaching context, I think we all learn to adapt and find our own personal policy when it comes to confronting, discussing, compromising, and including these issues as part of our classroom, explicitly or implicitly, intentionally or simply by chance.

I will be teaching English at a university in Taiwan in the coming Fall. I will be teaching in an environment where upon interviewing me, I disclosed that I’m gay as part of an answer in the interview and the faculty still decided to hire me. Though being gay shouldn’t have to be an issue, the reality is that many openly gay teachers, especially in more conservative societies, probably would have to hide that personal part of themselves. I’m fortunate that because I disclosed my sexual orientation and still got hired, I know that there’s a general sense of acceptance and progressiveness at my workplace. I think this also says a lot about the department’s philosophy of academia and the role academia plays in furthering social progress.

If I were Jewish, would I create a safe environment for anti-Semitic opinions to be expressed when reading chapters from Primo Levi’s The Drowned and the Saved? If I were female, would I allow my students to belittle women during a discussion of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s writings? No. I would not tolerate misogynist, anti-Semitic, or racist talk in my classroom. Yet as a gay professor, I encourage my students to share their thoughts against homosexuality.

Why do I do this? There is no pressure from the college to encourage students to express opinions in opposition to homosexuality. In fact, its nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation. The college’s statement on human diversity recognizes and celebrates different groups based on “the principles of freedom and the quality of individuals as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.” Perhaps that is where my personal dilemma derives.

As the Supreme Court is weighing whether to permit legal recognition of same-sex relationships, I feel that, at this point in our history, gay people are not included in those core American principles. This year’s legal battles give credence to social and political opposition to homosexuality. Therefore, should not a student with an ideology opposed to homosexuality be allowed to express his or her opinion in the college classroom? That opinion may come from the student’s religious or cultural upbringing, which I must respect.

Read the full article: Teaching While Gay

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