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School starts, homophobia radar on

While I’ve spent the last couple of years teaching in local high schools, this September I have done something that reminds me a little of what the kids I teach have to go through on a regular basis. I enrolled in college and had my first day of school.

It's been three years since I graduated from high school myself and I felt nervous the night before and that led to unfortunate dreams about showing up at school in a shirt that I discover has an unfortunate stain on it; I assume that’s the slightly more grown-up version of the old show-up-in-underwear dream.

Having no parents within driving distance and a chronic case of gastrointestinal butterflies, I was accompanied to the front door of school by my slightly groggy, coffee-in-hand boyfriend. Had this been high school I probably would have been sweating profusely and shaking at the thought of being spotted walking hand-in-hand into the front doors of my new home away from home with another boy but something about being a little older, and little wiser and not that much taller helps a person’s confidence.

I remember my first day of high school walking in and cautiously going from wing of the school to wing finding where all my classes would be so I could dodge the crowds and get around properly. The same played out here as I found my classes early before the crowds began to gather. I smiled slightly at the massive lines at the registrar’s office and bookstore. I am eternally grateful for the foresight that told me to take care of everything a week before.

I remember meeting people with a sense of caution in high school making sure to keep my arms locked to my sides to avoid any flamboyant gestures and keeping the tone of my voice low to avoid detection my aural gaydars. A little older and wiser and not really taller I’m a little more out than I would have been in school but more from an apathy to what people might think than anything else.

Having a break from classes I took a little time to familiarize myself with the campus and tried to navigate my way to any sexuality-related resources. Despite generally knowing where to look in most cases my search turned up nothing. Perhaps I’ll have to keep an eye out for better advertized resources once the school year picks up. I wonder if some younger freshmen, women or otherwise spend time wandering about campus looking for something similar?

A huge aspect of starting somewhere new is chatting up the locals. No matter how many times I’m put in the situation of conversation with new people I always run a mental scan on them to see how much I’m allowed to say. Consider it a virus check for homophobia. I watch their tone of voice and language they use to see if I can reveal that I spent the day before school running around printing things off in a frantic panic while my boyfriend made me lunch. This situation played out a couple times over the summer while I took some job training courses when people asked me questions like “What did you do over the weekend?” or “Who are you picking up from the airport?”

It makes it a little more complicated when you’re in the class you’ll be in for a whole semester. These are the people who you will be dealing with for the next four months and caution is often the best way to go. However, being that it’s my normal day job to talk about sexuality in an open and honest way it is hard not to answer questions openly and honestly.

Thus far the reactions have been fair to good with no one pulling out the old pitchforks and having a good old chase around the block as of yet. In fact as I sat down to begin writing I heard another guy sitting a couple benches away talking quite calmly about a conversation he had with his boyfriend the night before.

Such is the first impression of my new school. Trading classrooms for lecture halls; whatever I may learn here the thing I will remember in the next couple months is that each of the students I’ll be teaching, when I manage to get out to schools in BC, will also have gone through the same experience of the first day and I will be able to say I know how they feel, even if I am a little older, a little wiser and generally not that much taller.
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