There we sat, side by side on the stone bench, watching the ‘A’ division softball matches as the sun went down. The breeze was blowing and it wasn’t too hot. And there we were, me and my softball teacher-in-charge, talking about the things that mattered that was closest to our hearts and was our common passion. Softball.
This teacher to me was special. Our relationship was so different from the other teachers that I have in JC. Other teachers were more distant and more of an authorative figure (or a dispenser of education and whom I saw as nothing but a vessel of knowledge from which I could harvest). They were never human to me. In the sense that I couldn’t feel like a person of equal worth in their presence. JC teachers weren’t like university professors whereby students are generally closer to them and are on first-name basis.
We were also quite similar in person, both being ex-captains. Plus, we had to work together to manage the team and thus I felt close to her. Compared to other teachers in JC, I sincerely respected this teacher a lot.
For me personally, I will only come out to those people who are unlikely to accept my homosexuality…if and only if they mattered to me and were important in my life. To me, an act of coming out can be an act of love, because it shows that I cared enough to want to share this secretive part of my life with you. This deeply personal story that could have been conveniently kept under wraps. But no, I do not wish to lie to the people I love. I want them to know me in my entirety. Homosexuality included.
I once thought to myself, that if I actually made the crazy insane and socially suicidal act of coming out to a teacher. There would only be one person. One person that was worth the risk. I trust that the person had seen more of me than any other teacher and knew me for the ‘lublub’ I was, and we had gone beyond the boundaries of most student-teacher interaction in JC. But I never really dared to tell her for I feared the possible repercussions that might occur.
Teachers who have found out about a student’s homosexuality have given them a lot of trouble and harassment before. Ignorant teachers might ‘guide’ students to reparative therapy programmes such as Choices. Homophobic teachers could be even worse. And generally, unless the teacher was GLBT him or herself, it would be very hard to discern how gay-friendly that particular teacher might be. Especially so, since homosexuality is such a taboo topic and was not discussed at all in school.
But as I sat next to her that day, with the full knowledge that I had already left school and this was one of my last meetings with her… it dawned upon me how much I really wanted her to know. Becos she means something to me. She had made a difference in my life and showed me for the first time ever that teachers can be your friends and your equal too. This thought crossed my mind. And I wondered about the many times that I had the chance to tell her but always held back because I was afraid. Then I realised that this was the perfect moment to do it. And it was probably my last shot at telling her the truth too…
“Can I ask you a question? I really hope you’ll be honest to me about it.”
She turned to face me. I had her full attention now.
“What do you think of homosexuality?”
“What? Come again?”
“What do you think of homosexuality?”
“You mean? Like… liking girls like that is it?”
“Yeah something like that. And also, you know, like how guys can like guys…”
There was this long stony silence. It felt long to me but in real world terms it was only a fraction of a second. But her momentary hesitation to think made me doubt my faith again. My faith and trust in her that she knew me too well to reject me now. And for the moment whereby the world and everything else seemed to be held in suspension, I started to break down slowly inside. Even though I had set myself up for disappointment. Even though I had already grown stronger from many episodes of coming out. Even though all these things… rejection from someone you love still hurts. It always does… no matter what they say about how stoic you can become from many rejections. Especially from someone that you want so much to accept you. . I wanted my softball teacher, the person I admired in team sport and saw as my equivalent, to accept this part of me.
“You know, I don’t condemn what you do. But I don’t agree with it either.” She finally spoke, and slowly, we started discussing the issue. She knew right from the start where this conversation was heading…
“I really hope you would find a man one day. You could change [in your preference] you know?”
“Yes true. And would you say that is also a possibility that I might stay this way?”
“Yes. That is true.”
And she said many other things that straight ‘hopeful’ people have said to me before. But the wonderful thing was that she didn’t press the issue of change and left it as that. We did not talk about right and wrong. Or morality. We talked about me. And also her experience last time about how she nearly got involved with a girl but decided against it. All these happened in little snippets of conversation… interspersed with watching the ongoing softball match quietly.
We talked. Slowly. Without really looking at each other. Then as we stood up to leave and go to her car, I faced her directly and felt the air change between us. Yes, a new piece of information has entered the picture. A new level of understanding that has gone past the student-teacher interaction. But it was a good change.
Later in the car, she told me that she had already suspected for a long time. I asked her why… and she said that because of my strong character, she didn’t think a guy could ’stand’ me. I could be very opiniated and and some guys didn’t like to be challenged like that. They couldn’t stand strong women. And in a lot of ways, that was how she was too and that was why she suspected the same of me. I asked her again, why she never questioned me about it. And she told me it was because she was afraid of the answer that she would hear…
We talked more and during our whole conversation, never once did she make me feel condemned or unwelcome. She did not reject me. And I was right in trusting her that way. Before we parted I thanked her for reacting so calmly to my revelation. She looked at me, slightly amused and surprised, as though there was never the possibility that she would react in hostility to me.
Coming out to parents is tough. But in many ways, it is a necessity in order to live your life easier. But coming out to teachers was a conscious choice I made on my own. It wasn’t necessary at all. I lose nothing from hiding from her. But after today, as we parted ways and I was left to my own thoughts…there was this new feeling of peace and somehow, vulnerability… because one more person knows. But more importantly, by coming out to my teacher, and in many ways, my confidante in sports, I have just brought our relationship to a new level. And made it all the richer.
This particular coming out was unlike the others. This time it was really special for it was one of my ‘firsts’. And I would do it again in a heartbeat… to the next teacher I find worthy enough to take that risk.