You can find my musings on my past a lesbian here.
I’ve been teaching primary school on and off for years while working on a teaching licence at university. (I’m graduating next Friday and finally getting my own class in August!) During this time I’ve worked at over five different schools in three different towns, anything from kindergarten to seventh grade and anything from just an afternoon to several consecutive weeks.
The difference in myself is striking. From being 22 and nervous to 26 and ready to take on this job full-time. I’m still much younger than the majority of my coworkers, but I’m comfortable in the classroom in front of the children. It’s been years since I locked myself in the bathroom to cry my eyes out after a bad math lesson. But I digress.
This is about being a lesbian and being out at work. Because that is something else that has changed over the years.
I’m lucky enough to live and work in Sweden. This is an open, modern country, in many ways and that includes LGBT rights. I have never, yes, that’s never, met any negativity of any sort in the workplace. I’ve met it in other places, of course, but never at a school where I’ve worked.
When I started working I tried so hard to keep it a secret. Scarred from past experiences I suppose.
I worked second grade and the questions rained over me.
“Miss! Do you have a boyfriend?” “Miss Kathy, Kathy, do you have a husband?” “Who do you live with?” Children ask a lot of questions. Always. That’s what they do.
Silly me, filled with dread. Not because I was necessarily nervous about the childrens’ reactions, but the reactions from other adults.
Was it inappropriate? To casually answer “I don’t have a boyfriend, I have a girlfriend”?
I eventually asked another teacher and she seemed surprised that I was even worried about something so silly and trivial. Straight people usually don’t understand the worry, the fear. I was still relieved over her answer.
So, palms sweaty and with my heart in my throat, I did it. My voice casual but crying inside my head. I was so sure that someone would tell their parents and that something bad would happen.
Well, it’s been four years and nothing bad has happened yet. I’ve even met another lesbian teacher. I’m not as naive to think that I’ll never meet any negativity, but I’m not scared anymore.
I never announce it, but if I get the question, I can just answer: “I don’t have a husband, I have a wife.”
And children, depending on the age, can give any sort of reaction.
“Oh it’s like Anja Pärson.” (Swedish celebrity skier)
“Is that allowed?”
“What’s her name?”
“Why do you have a wife?”
“Do you kiss?”
“How are you going to have a baby?”
Yesterday I got the question “but which one of you is the man?” Which I thought was so adorable, because the litte girl didn’t mean it the way an adult would mean it.
For most children it’s a non-issue. They are still learning how the world looks and works and they accomodate new information, just like when they learn that air has mass (we had a physics lab last week). They get curious, they ask questions (in the case of my current school, A LOT of questions) but most of the time it’s okay.
Am I scared when I come out to people? Yeah I am. I’ve had some bad experiences and I’m not as confident or bold as I was when I was 18. I’m more reserved, more careful. Which is not always a bad thing.
I wish it was a non-issue in society too. I’m proud of being a lesbian. How could I not be when there are so many wonderful women that share that word with me? Including my wife who is everything. I wish it was just a descriptor, like that I’m short or a brunette. I wish lesbian didn’t make me “the other”. But it doesn’t matter. It is what it is and I’m more than lucky to be living here and I know it.