Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Hero

I spent the day yesterday at Tod’s school talking to his team’s students about the local oratorical contest addressing art and culture. The question posed by the group sponsoring the contest asked a pretty long-haired question, so Tod’s team asked me to come in and get all college like on their kids. We put together a pretty interesting and funny presentation, and I headed off to talk to the kids for the day. I didn’t identify myself with my last name, since it’s the same as Tod’s; rather, I was just Professor Tom. The day went well and I had a pretty good time talking with the kids about art and the stuff they see each day around town here in Jackson. The kids were respectful and seemed to like what we were talking about (especially Tim Hawkinson’s art).

But after school, the drama began. A young woman who was very attentive and involved in my first group came up to Tod after class and said:

"I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I have been hearing from a lot of people that you are Gay".

Tod’s reply… "So?"

And her response… she looked at him and walked away.

It amazes me the amount of chutzpah some of these kids have. I wouldn’t have dreamt of asking any of my teachers anything like that when I was in school. I accidentally found my 5th grade teacher smoking behind the dining hall when we were at camp one year (I was taking out our cabin’s trash). I thought I was dead, that I had unwillingly crossed some line that would have me expelled or worse yet, talked to by the Principal. But apparently it’s open season now. I came in one afternoon to pick up Anna while Tod did Market Day and a young boy came up to me and said: "how is she related to you?" while pointing at Anna. I didn’t know what to say so I just looked at him and moved on.

But apparently you can just give them some of their own medicine and they crumble. Tod’s response of “So?” said very little in quantity, but it spoke volumes in terms of message:


Class dismissed.


  1. Interesting story. As a former student of yours I can say that very often in my high school art classes the topic of your sexuality was brought up by individuals wanting to know it, dissect it, and probably for some - exploit it if they could. It was always such a surreal thing to me, because inevitably I would be asked my opinion on the topic. My answer was always the same - "why does it matter to you?" - and not once did anyone give me an actual response. Instead they'd generally turn to the person next to me and ask for their take on the question, or continue the conversation with their captive audience and ignore me.

    It's been 10 years since I graduated and I feel like I've witnessed and been increasingly aware of the growing disregard for people's right's to privacy and their own personal affairs by the inhabitants of my generation and those generations that followed. It's unsettling - and I fear that it is only going to get worse with time. And what bothers me most is that for a majority of people, they have nothing to hide - but it appears that according to these new generations coming up in the world - they have nothing that is allowed to just be their own, something personal. Nothing is sacred, everything has to be poked at, dissected, and put on show for approval.

    On a side note: What does Tod teach? You mentioned his "teams students" and I wondered what that meant.

    -Amber W.

  2. Tod teaches social studies, but his school uses a team-teaching model.

    Its amazing the assumptions and presumptions that people have and make with complete strangers. Alan and I were at our grocery store in Chelsea (Polly's Country Market, yee haw!) once and the checkout girl asked us "So are you guys like brothers or something?". Apparently all of us gays look alike.

    Another time the cashier told me that it was so nice I was buying flowers for my wife. I said that my husband liked the flowers. She turned a little pale and I just looked her in the eye as if to say "well you asked!"

    People ain't got no class.

  3. Yes - kids today are pretty fearless. I like to think I raised mine to be open and respectful... I like to *think*.

    I don't have any stories like this - altho there is a group of people who actually believe I have been to prison. They don't know WHY tho because, I have been told - they are afraid to ask.

    One lady once asked, "Have you ever been to jail or prison?" Out of the BLUE.

    "Ummm.... why do you ask?"

    "I knew it!"

    I left it at that.
    It must be all the tatts. Maybe it's the mustache. I dunno. ;-)

  4. Amber, I always knew that there was the undercurrent of questioning, but I learned to ignore it.
    C'mon, could I be a bigger stereotype? Gay Art Teacher?