“I’m not gay Miss, honest”.

It’s often a bit of a give away isn’t it when someone hotly denies something and creates the affix, ‘Honest’. I reluctantly admit Ive done this myself when I’ve lied over something. I’m sure we’ve all found reason to lie at some point in our lives.

What I find so sad is when anyone feels they have to lie about something fundamental about themselves. I have experienced this first hand. As an RE teacher I have met many people who have asked me what I do and when I reply what profession I follow and the subject I teach, the question, ‘Do you believe in God then?’  has often been fired at me like some kind of accusation! Oh no, not an RE teacher who believes in God, how bloody outrageous is that! More shocking than a Maths teacher liking sums and maths stuff! And please don’t tell me History teachers are actually interested in past events! I’m not even going to think about Geography teachers!

So how have I responded? I’m ashamed that there have been times when I have denied my faith. It has hurt me inside to laugh it off and denounce; “No, I don’t believe in God but I find religions fascinating and I teach RE as an academic subject”. If challenged further I have defensively stated; “Are all English teachers best selling authors?”. Smugly I’ve thought, ha, great come back!

But it’s never been a great come back at all. It’s always left me feeling sad. Sad and lonely because being an RE teacher and a Christian doesn’t dictate how I teach. But I’ve been afraid of the cliche! I’ve not the courage of martyrs I have been taught about. I’ve not been fundamentally ‘me’. I haven’t let anyone down except myself.

In my defence, feeble as it is, I have in the past had to bat off a variety of what I’ve considered judgemental and ill thought through comments: “You’re an RE teacher? How come you drink then?” and “You teach RE? But you smoke”.  I have at times wanted to shout out, ‘Yes I’m an RE teacher, I’m a practising Christian too, I get pissed sometimes and I smoke because it makes me look big and clever, and I have children, oh my God, I had sex and guess what else? I swear sometimes because I’m not a bleedin’ nun”. But in the tradition of some silent orders of nuns, I sometimes take a vow of ‘keeping stum’.

 I felt for the young lad who was being picked on some years ago. His peers ruthlessly calling him ‘gay’. A superb student. A troubled student who chose to talk to me. Now it may sound odd and very unpolitically correct, but there are sometimes clear signs that a person is homosexual or lesbian. When you work in schools over years with what amounts to thousands of young folk, you see all sorts of traits developing and ultimately develop.

The day I dreaded came along and this tortured young man appeared outside my classroom in tears. “I’m not gay Miss, honest”.  The taunting had got a little too much that day! I wanted to hug him and tell him he was gay and it’s ok and it will be ok. But I couldn’t, professionalism and all that stuff!

So little information is provided for school children and too little advice on what teachers can do to help. I did however support this young man as best I could and was able to guide him to further knowledge and support. He was a year 11 lad and I couldn’t wait for him to leave and go to college where there would be new people for him to meet and much better youth facilities in relation to his sexuality. I assured him this would be the case and to get through his GCSEs.

Life did improve for him and I met him some time after he’d been at college. He bounded up to me with another young chap at his side. His six foot and beyond frame hugged me and he cried a little and whispered, “I’m not gay Miss, honest”. We both burst out laughing as he introduced me to his boyfriend.  How much pain could we have saved him from prior to this if we were a realistic society?

John Plessington is a Catholic martyr, hung drawn and quartered in Cheshire for the crime of being a Catholic priest!  In his final words before his brutal murder he declared; “…nothing was laid to my charge but my priesthood”.

Bullies do nothing except bully! This lad made it! But still we ‘lay charges’ against folk for being themselves!  I learnt from this young man. I don’t deny my faith or anything that is intrinsically ‘me’; my animals rights views, my birdwatching, my devotion to folk music, my sexuality, which is incidentally, a little odd for some homosexuals and lesbians! They can’t always understand why on earth I was born to be heterosexual! It works both ways folks, deal with it! Grown up ‘gays’ were young once. They need support not judgement.

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