Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Coming out in Niterói
We were in the middle of the first-10-minutes “how was your weekend” conversation part of the class. He was telling me about his trip out of town and then chirped “Can I trust you?” To which I shrugged and replied – “Who am I gonna tell?” (except maybe everyone who reads my blog. I was a therapist for years. I’ll let you in on a trade secret: confidentiality is a myth.)
Then he told me he was visiting his boyfriend. Cute! He was all smiles filling me in on his weekend adventure (plus a quick reference to the dreaded conversation he has yet to have with his father.) I had actually just been thinking that very morning that perhaps this guy (only 18 y.o.) was gay. Really. My gaydar works even across cultures.
In the case of my students (now they are all adults) they know pretty quickly that they are dealing with an out gay man. My office contains photos of Luiz and I, etc. plus I do not switch out pronouns when referring to my husband.
Most importantly, I think, I do not assume my students are straight. If we are talking about meeting new people or going to clubs, or whatever, I do not limit my speech to just the male-female paradigm. In doing so I make room for the LGBTs whom I may be talking with to be themselves with me. No shame. No judgment. In fact – affirmation.
So I assume my student felt like he could share his excitement about his weekend with me (perhaps I am one of very few people he can do that with) given the safety demonstrated in our relationship.
When I was teaching at FISK my gaydar went off around two of the teenage students there. Again, my speech was always inclusive and uncensored. Before long both of them (separately) came up to me after class and shared stories that were essentially intended to let me know they were gay. They used to beam when I spoke in ways that were clearly inclusive of their reality.
Anyway, yesterday was a warm reminder (here at the end of gay pride month) that our personal behavior has consequences, and often times those consequences are good.
[For the record, I have changed some details about my student to honor his/her request for privacy.]