Every time I walk into a new classroom I have to decide how “out” I am going to be. Does my sexuality even need to come up? For the most part, the answer to the question is no. My sexuality has no relevance to my ability to do math. But being out can make a difference. I hear all the time from passersby that they have never “met a gay person.” But I know they have. I sit in class with these people, and I never know how to break the news that they are just misinformed.
For teachers in America, being out is a much touchier subject, which is why I appreciate when a teacher is out. Georgia Southern University includes sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination clauses when it comes to hiring practices. This goes for faculty and student employees. Teachers and students are allowed and protected in their ability to be open about their sexuality and gender identity if they so wish. For a student, this can make all of the difference. College is a time of self-discovery and the more diversity that we can experience, the better. Gender and sexual minority students and teachers all benefit from the safety of these clauses. Having a teacher who is able to stand in front of the classroom and be open helps show students that there are gay people who exist outside of N.Y.C. and L.A. Gay people are more complex and diverse than what you might see on TV.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to public office, once said “Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard.” I personally think that coming out is a choice. No one is ever obligated to tell you or anyone else about their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am never under any obligation to tell you anything about my sexuality or gender identity. But we can benefit so much by being out, and we need to work as a society to make safe spaces for people to be out in. As a gay student, the idea of feeling comfortable being out in a classroom used to be a foreign concept. But I am seeing a better and safer place here at Georgia Southern and that is a change I can fully support.