29Sep/122

The Face of Gay 11 (Rob)

RECOVERED

The words humble, modest and one tough cookie come to mind about Rob. The first two have to do with his personality while the third has to do with his being a teacher. And it’s not that he’s difficult. Far from. But in order to do his job, he sets an expectation level for his students that they need to meet. I know this because I read Rob’s Facebook posts. I can also vouch for his personality because I’ve met him…twice.

He wondered why I approached him about submitting something for this and the truth is Rob is an educator. He’s someone who takes part in shaping the youth of today. He’s on the front line, somewhere I don’t have the nerve to be. Hell, I annoyed myself when I was a teenager, so I think it’s a testament that any adult chooses to be around them, let alone tries to get them to learn. Teachers have my respect and I admit that I’ve been curious about what a gay teacher might go through. I got my answer. And despite what Rob says, one does not need to be a mover and a shaker to make a difference in the world. In this case, he need only be himself.

The Face of Gay 11 (Rob)

Mr. In & Out

Hello, everyone. My name is Rob. I am neither a mover nor a shaker and was thus a little surprised when Kage asked me to write a little something for his The Face of Gay series. In all honesty, I hadn’t read any of the stories until after his request. So who the heck am I? Well…I am basically a quiet and openly Facebooking, Bejeweled Blitzing, Castle Age playing single gay Asian man who also happens to teach Spanish at a public high school in the Los Angeles area.

Let me start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I am originally from Laos and grew up in Hawaii. My high school years were spent in Fresno and my college years were lived out in Southern California. I consider myself a man who has been lucky in life but unlucky in love. Years of heartache have caused me to be indifferent about finding someone with whom to share my life and so I have been focusing primarily on work and self-improvement. I know, I know. All work and no play makes Robby a dull boy. If you want to hear the stories about my love life or are interested guess you’ll have to friend me because this entry isn’t about that 😉 It’s about my professional life.

At age 21, I had my very first gay kiss. Actually it was my very first romantic kiss of any kind. Since that moment the closet door swung open and I told myself that I’d never go back in. Like every newly out gay guy in college I wore my pride necklaces to class, sat at the tables during club rush for the gay student organization, facilitated a men’s coming out group and went out dancing on the weekends whenever I could. But alas…college didn’t last forever. Graduation day came and my career choice pushed me back into the closet…sort of.

My first teaching position was a year-long stint as long-term substitute teacher at a high school in Garden Grove, CA where I taught 3 Spanish classes and 2 Drama classes. All kinds of questions filled my head when I found out about the position. I wasn’t sure how I would be treated or whether I should be out with my students. I guess my being a male Drama teacher automatically made me gay in the eyes of my students. That suited me fine. I didn’t really have to come out. Some of my students even had a nickname for me, SAM….Single Asian Man. Some of my Spanish students even started to call me that instead of Mr. In. Shortly after the school year ended I found out from one of the students that I kept in contact with that a few students came out of the closet themselves. I’d like to think the comfort that I had felt in my own skin helped to facilitate that. Guess I’ll never know.

I have moved on since my long-term subbing days. I have been at the same high school in the San Gabriel Valley for the past 10 years and have built a sort of reputation, some unintended. Mind you that I am not exactly an effeminate man nor am I masculine. I am a bit straight-laced and a little soft around the collars AND single. So when I talk about the issues of gender in the Spanish language to my students some of them open up about their siblings or aunts and uncles who refer to themselves in such ways. Since I am open to such talk in class and because I am unmarried my colleagues and some students automatically make the assumption that I’m GAY, GAY, GAY! I recall one year, a straight male student serenaded me with his guitar in the hallway after school about how his life would be better if I would give him a higher grade. That was rather funny and embarrassing at the same time. No, I didn’t change his grade 😛

Another student, generally very likable but a bit on the lazy side, began calling me Mr. Out because he thought it was funny. My students generally call me Mr. In or Señor In. I actually liked it and I still use it occasionally when I introduce myself to new students each year.

Quite often I find that sometimes I don’t have to come out as gay. Sometimes the situation just presents itself. A few years ago while during his daily warm up activity a student quietly asked me if I was gay. I said yes. Apparently he and some classmates had told each other some gay jokes earlier. The next day he apologized and said that he didn’t expect me to answer, and much less with a yes, and that it was rude of him to even ask that question to a teacher. I told him that I didn’t find it rude but I was glad that he was comfortable enough to ask me that question.

For the most part I find that students tend be good kids even though they say things that they don’t mean when in the company of their peers. As a result, I find that there are times to be out to them and times when I have to keep my mouth shut. A couple of years ago, a student got frustrated and began talking about a friend of his and using words like “fag”. I ended up giving the kid detention and asked him to stay after class. He tried to argue his way out of the detention by saying that he knew the kid wasn’t gay and was letting out his frustration. I told him that the kid might not have minded, but I did. I told him that his friend might not have been gay, but that I was and there might have been other students in class who were and they should not have to hear such words. The kid went quiet and apologized. It’s been 2 years since that incident and the kid still stops by my classroom just to say hi.

So in a sense I am out of the closet at work even though I am not. I am just lucky to be working in a school where students and teachers generally feel safe and know that we are all there for the education of the students. I don’t have to yell out, “I’M HERE. I’M QUEER. GET USE TO IT!” They seem to already know and are already used to it.

The Previous 5 entries in the Face of Gay Series:

The Face of Gay 6 (Sue Brown)
The Face of Gay 7 (Danny)
The Face of Gay 8 (Anonymous As Scott)
The Face of Gay 9 (Katherine Trick)
The Face of Gay 10 (T.J.)

 

Original Responses
Dorien says:
September 29, 2012 at 8:55 am
I never cease to be amazed at how the world is changing. Rob’s entire experience would have been impossible in the 40s and 50s, when I grew up. It’s still not easy, but the thing is that it is POSSIBLE. Here’s hoping for more gay teachers who will be as comfortable in their jobs as he.

Reply
Tom says:
September 29, 2012 at 11:11 am
I sit here and think, this would never have happened when I was in high school in the ’70s.

We’ve come so far, and I love hearing stories like Rob’s.

Thank you!!!

Reply
Bobbie B says:
September 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm
I know it wouldn’t have happened here in the nineties.

Thank you Rob for your story!!!

=)

Reply
Rob says:
September 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm
You’re welcome! It is true that the times have changed and they continue to change. My story wouldn’t have been possible were it not for the movers and shakers of the early gay civil rights movement who helped to attach real faces to the term “gay”. Hopefully the movement towards full acceptance and equality will move gayly forward despite the current swing towards the right that we are experiencing at the moment.

Reply
Jeff P says:
September 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm
I can say that wouldn’t have been possible in the early 90′s when I went to school. I had a gay teacher that was always being picked on although he was not out to his students. It wasn’t till years later when I ran into him at a bar that I received conformation. Thank you Rob for helping mold young minds.

Reply
Patricia Logan says:
September 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm
Hi Rob. I went to Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, graduating in 1979. I had the coolest Spanish teacher in the world, Ms. Rumbaugh and we speculated a great deal about her sexuality. She wasn’t married, she’d grown up in Lima, Peru and she was in her forties. Back then, that was a recipe for “the gay” but her personality was like a magnet. She was one of the most popular teachers on campus.

Homophobia ran rampant in the 1970′s high school environment and those kids were picked on miserably. Had more teachers been willing to protect these kids and be open about their sexuality and offer a forum where these and straight kids could ask questions and share experiences, those kids would have benefitted greatly from the safety of the dialogue. Good for you Rob. Thanks for doing what you do. High school can make you or break you and it was tough to fit in even as a straight girl. Kids can be so mean.

Reply
Katherine T. says:
September 30, 2012 at 7:32 am
Kudos to you for doing a job most of us can’t (or won’t) do and doing it well. Your example to those students has changed their lives in some way, whether they realize it or not. I hope my children are lucky enough to have a teacher like you someday who sets an example of how to be a good person and that treating everyone kindly is part of being a good person, not only through actio, but through words, as well. Too many kids today don’t realize how hurtful and damaging their words can be to another fellow student. Many of them do and use that power of words to damage anothers soul ruthlessly just to make themselves feel better about themselves, and that is where the biggest problem lies.
Thank you for doing the job you love and for changing children’s lives for the better every day. You’re a gem. 🙂

________________________
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the novella Falling Awake (also to be re-published under his real name), and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.

2 Responses to “The Face of Gay 11 (Rob)”

  1. Jack Tobias says:

    Very nice read

    • Kristoffer says:

      Am glad you enjoyed it. I’ll be releasing two a week for the next several weeks until we’re all caught up. And, hopefully, if things go well, I may ask folks for new posts. I figure if Will & Grace and a couple of other things can have reboots, this can too. =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *