Monday, 30 January 2012

Coming out in the classroom

So, before I leave work and head home to finish my marking, I thought I'd make time to say what happened today.

In the Social Sustainability course I'm teaching I introduce dimensions of equality, specifically gender, ethnicity and race, disability and sexuality. My students had to choose one of these four topics and from this they had to read a journal article and comment on it in a class seminar, write a mini-essay and more substantively write-out an Equalities Impact Assessment based on this dimension of equality. Students could sign-up but spaces under the four categories were limited and sing-up was on a first-come-first served basis.

So, students started to sign-up. But no one signed-up for sexuality. I apologetically appealed to the class to sign up for the topic as the article was actually really interesting (it is, by the way). I persuaded two students. But it seemed from the actions of other students that they were actively avoiding choosing the topic. This all came to a head last Thursday when I had to forcibly put some students in this particular topic group.

On reflection over the weekend the whole thing seemed a bit of a stupid pickle. But I was hurt by the actions of the class. And I realised my apologetic attitude belied a continued discomfort myself in being honest and open about my sexuality (particularly in front of a very international and diverse audience). So, I started this morning's class by coming out as a gay man to my students and explaining how much their behaviour had hurt me and I did perceive it as homophobic. I was absolutely terrified and almost in tears. They were flippin' fantastic about it.

And also, I got one final, very good reflection, from a student. I ended up emphasising to them that there probably are not gender or sexuality issues for them to consider when doing their Equalities Impact Assessment, but I want them to demonstrate why there are not. If I had made this clearer in the first place then they would have felt less of a need to choose a dimension of equality they empathised directly with and would have welcomed the challenge of another topic.

No comments:

Post a Comment