ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Tolerance in the Classroom - Those Faggies

Updated on November 21, 2016

I am gay.

Those three words are probably enough to get many potential readers to switch immediately to less political, less awkward, or less gay reading.

Those three words can conjure potent emotions in people of all different beliefs and affiliations.

Those three words, spoken by me, resulted once in a couple of students sprinting out of my classroom.

Why would I share personal information like that in a classroom – especially a classroom in Baltimore City?

Was I reprimanded for being inappropriate?

What caused me to take such a stupid risk?

I, like many new teachers to Baltimore City schools, was shocked at the unexpected and casually-accepted student homophobia.

It was 2006, and many of us newbies had become accustomed to the temporary near-utopia that is the college culture. Our teacher training never addressed how to handle children who referred derogatorily to each other as “faggies.”

Administration let me know right away that no, there was not a cultural sensitivity trainer on the premises.

Most of us quickly assumed the world-weary guise of the experienced teachers: the slowly-shaking head. The bigotry seemed anachronistic and sad, but what could we really do about it? Baltimore wasn’t built in a day. These ignorant children were simply products of their environment, and that environment had a deeply-ingrained disdain for homosexuality.

I am gay.

In the midst of my world-weary, slow-head-shaking resignation, my brain struggled with a nagging thought: If a faggie exists in the classroom, does s/he make a sound?

Homosexuals wouldn’t exist in America if hatred of gays was all it took to ensure heterosexuality. That meant that there had to be gay students in my class. That meant that those gay students lived in a culture that considered them inferior and wrong. My slow-head-shaking did absolutely nothing to prevent some of my students from feeling like second-class citizens in my classroom, but what else could I do?

I am gay.

My favorite fictional character, Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, explains to his daughter that, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Not too difficult to understand things from the perspective of the homophobic of the school; they had the wholehearted blessing of the cultural majority as backup.

I had to think about wearing the skin of that silent minority.

Wow…terrifying. It’s like being a sheep in wolf’s clothing - possible devouring by the pack with one slip of a lisp.

I taught an 11th grade class – how many had been subjected to hatred their entire school lives? How many didn’t make it that far, understandably? Hopefully the survivors were lucky enough not to be scarlet-lettered as effeminate boys or masculine girls.

I am gay.

So if it was possible that even one of my students is gay, how could I justify him/her facing that hatred alone? I like to think that I’d be willing to take a bullet to protect my students. Did I have the courage to attract bullets of metaphorical caliber?

I am gay.

That doesn’t mean I introduced myself to the class that way. Those three words have greater impact when delivered to people who are invested in me and my character. Building respectful relationships with students is job one. I revealed only the more innocuous personal details in the beginning.

I enjoy video games and cupcakes, too!

Mutual respect for all should be a common classroom theme from the first day’s classroom rules and procedures.

Eventually, at least some weeks into the school year, a couple of students broached the subject of homosexuality with something along the lines of “I couldn’t be in a class with faggies.” Other students laughed or nodded or otherwise expressed support of the popular opinion. Some students had no reaction at all. That’s when I told them…

I am gay.

I assured them that being part of my classroom meant sharing it with a so-called “faggie.” If they had a problem with faggies, then they had a problem with me. That meant making a decision on being part of the classroom.

The two who broached the subject bolted from the class semi-jokingly.

The rest rushed through the metaphorical floodgates with questions and comments.

Why are you telling us this inappropriate personal information? Have you ever considered your other teachers’ marriages and children to be inappropriate information? Are you offended by them wearing a wedding ring? Do you confront them about the pictures of their children on their desks? I don’t believe that I should have to hide that I share my life with people I love any more than they should.

What you do is gross, though! How do you know… Are the details of your heterosexual teachers fair game for you? Neither are the details of my sexual life.

I don’t believe that you’re gay. Prove it. How can that ever be proved true or false? You think being married to the opposite sex and producing smiling children is proof of heterosexuality? You think gay people don’t fake relationships with the opposite sex just to fit in? There is no such proof.

To their credit, many of the students opened up and questioned the hatred and ignorance. Many related anecdotes about gay family members and friends. I love my gay auntie...your best friend may be gay...I think my fourth grade teacher...

I am gay.

I choose not to subscribe to the double standard that requires me to keep my gayness quiet while my straight peers are celebrated for their “acceptable” families.

I will not stay quiet and submissive as my peers, my fellow human beings, are labeled as inferiors.

If you have a problem with gays, then you have a problem with me.

If you have a problem with bisexuals, then you have a problem with me.

If you have a problem with kindness, equality, compassion, and respect, then you have a problem with this class.

If you have a problem with my students trying to live their lives without the constant hounding of bigotry and hatred, then you have a problem.

I am gay.

I am a teacher. I am privileged enough to have had a college education. I have the power to do more than defeatist head shaking. My fellow teachers have similar privilege and similar power.

Maybe we can, as a union, be gay?

I’m not saying that gay is a choice, because it’s-not-and-even-if-it-were-so-what, but I am saying that we can balance the scale that currently weighs heavily in favor of one sexuality over all others.

Can we imagine the perspective shift if hating gays meant hating every single teacher in the school?

We could share the burden of hatred and bigotry. We could help obliterate that line in the sand - our shared homosexuality could eventually erase all memory of such a line.

I know that I will stand with my most oppressed students and I will, despite my wife’s objections, proclaim proudly:

I am gay!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      6 years ago from LA

      What if love was... a given ... something we could never, ever doubt... What if acceptance was universal...

      what if..?

      Or can this type of love and acceptance exist only in Utopia.

      I hope not.

    • Greg Horlacher profile imageAUTHOR

      Greg Horlacher 

      6 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      Thanks, Keith. Hearing from you that I have written something well is a great compliment. If any Hubbers who happen to read this want to read the fantastic, humorous and well-written chronicle of the lives of two hilarious boys and their wonderful parents, then go to

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Greg, I'm sure if you and I ever had a heart to heart conversation on homosexuality, differences would emerge in our views. However, you would find no disagreement from me with a single word of this article. On top of that, it is exceptionally well written. Well done. I hope it is well read.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      6 years ago from Texas

      You totally have a new fan. I'm all about teaching perspective. It is so important. I'm truly enjoying your Tolerance in the Classroom series.

    • Greg Horlacher profile imageAUTHOR

      Greg Horlacher 

      6 years ago from Grand Prairie, TX

      Thanks, Beverly! I'd just rather see the day when one's sexuality is as noncontroversial as one's right/left handedness.

    • Beverly Stevens profile image

      Beverly Stevens 

      6 years ago from College Station

      Nice article! I hope your students think long and hard about the tolerance you taught them. Good job!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)