My first year of teaching was a rewarding one. I had parents who trusted me and a classroom of students who were readily eating out of my hand like I was some kind of rock star. Sometimes, I actually couldn't believe I was getting paid to do what I was doing every day.
But like any teacher will tell you, the winds change. Each year, there is a new dish added to the menu, which can totally alter the sugar and spice balance of your classroom. You can come home after school and be so disappointed with your day that you want to climb into bed and stay there for the next day or two. That was what my second year was like. The worst happened when one of my students reported to her mother that she thought I was gay. It was an honest assumption. When I get excited, my voice goes up a couple of octaves, and to this day, phone callers think they are talking to a woman when I answer the phone.
My principal confronted me after the girl's mom called to report this supposedly disturbing observation.
"Well, are you gay?" she asked. "But before you answer me, I want you to know that if your answer is 'yes' to my question, I will be forced to not renew your contract for next year."
I hesitated. I could lie and save my job, or I could be honest and noble and take the consequence. I decided to tell only part of the truth. My private life is just that: private. I told my principal that I wasn't dating anybody, male or female, which was true. What I didn't say was that I prefer to date boys, particularly hot ones with long hair. But she didn't press me for any more information. Of course, she knew my "T," but my response seemed to satisfy her. The girl was transferred to another classroom, and I never heard another word about my being gay.
Years later, I now find myself wondering whether what happened to me could happen again to someone else. I'm afraid to say that gay people are still not safe when it comes to employment discrimination. Instead, we are held captive by the whims of our employers. There are, of course, areas of employment that are particularly vulnerable, such as education, child care, and sports. Any area of employment dealing with children is off-limits to those of us who want to wear the rainbow proudly and tool around with that blue-and-yellow equality sign on our bumper.
So far, only certain federal employees are legally protected. Executive Order 13087, signed May 1998, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation within the executive branch of civilian employment. Efforts to protect LGBT workers in the private sector and to extend protection to all federal, state, and municipal workers have met with no success. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was first introduced in June 1994 and has been introduced in every congress since then, except the 109th. Variations of the bill have made it to the floor, and in 2007 the bill actually passed in the House. That bill, however, did not include "gender identity" under the safety net, which sparked the ire of some LGBT activists. Eventually, it failed in the Senate. Given the gridlock of the current congress, I doubt whether we will see any fruit falling from the trees in the years to come.
Although there are still no federal laws banning discrimination, about half the states have laws banning discrimination against LGBT folks. Virginia, where I reside, is not one of them. At present time, Virginia is being held captive by the likes of "Good Catholic Kenneth" Cuccinelli, "Transvag Bob" McDonnell, and Robert G. "Droopy Drawers" Marshall representing all branches of state government. Joining them in bed is Victoria "Corn" Cobb, the President of the Family Foundation of Virginia. Mrs. Cobb is a protégé of that paragon of compassion, Mr. James Dobson, the founder and former president of Focus on the Family.
One rationale given by this collection of Bedknobs and Broomstick Messiahs is that if sexual orientation were added to the list of protected classes, it would be impossible to prosecute all the child molesters and pedophiles lurking about. Utter nonsense, given that data tell us that those who commit these atrocious crimes are more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual, and who in their right mind would believe such poppycock, anyway?
Sad to say, the only time "Transvag Bob" took any kind of action to protect the LGBT people of Virginia was when the Commonwealth was courting Northrop Grumman in hopes that it would relocate from L.A. to Northern Virginia. Coming from a progressive state, the company's gay employees expected the same benefits and atmosphere they'd been accustomed to. To woo them, "Transvag Bob" pulled out the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S Constitution and issued an executive order stating that state employees should not be discriminated against based on their sexuality. Unfortunately for the LGBT people of Virginia, this directive had no teeth and only demonstrated the shallow nature of our governor, who seems to be motivated more by Daddy Warbucks than by the voice of his heart.
I don't believe LGBT folks are entirely safe in their jobs, especially public school employees. If I'm wrong about this, I will gladly donate my autographed copy of The Gay Agenda to the Church of Scientology. In the meantime, I will advise any and all LGBT folks to try to stand their ground until the wind changes again. We have a right to live anywhere we wish and work at any job we are competent to take on. It is in our nature to be both patient and courageous. Someday, we will prevail.