SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2009 Personal Memory Ethnographies
The Unspoken Truth
I wanted to be a lawyer from as long I can remember. I joined every club in High school, was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, and volunteered countless hours of my free time with local police departments, and relief shelters. By the time I graduated High School, I hit what I call a “learners block”. I was tired, burned out, and questioning whether or not I would be happy with a career in law, and begun to contemplate other career options. In 2002, I enrolled in college, and into an EDU Cultural Diversity class, that took place every Monday night. I enjoyed the class, I learned a lot about cultures, stereotypes, prejudices, and the challenges students face, because of indifference. We had begun to study the importance of preparing yourself as a teacher in cultural awareness, in preparation for parent/teacher conferences, when my incident took place. The professor was throwing out possible scenarios, mostly past experiences as once being an Elementary teacher, allowing the class to discuss it openly. The idea of stay at home fathers resulted in numerous mean and hurtful comments from the class. Responses such as “Mr. Mom”, “No, respectable black man would stay at home while his wife works”, and “Does he cook and clean too,” changed the mood of the classroom. The class really begun to erupt with laughter when the professor proceeded to ask the class, “What would you do if your student walks into parent/teacher conferences with same sex parents.” My heart dropped to the pit of my stomach, and my body temperature probably raised ten degrees.
In 2000, my mother announced to us that she was gay. I disowned my mother, for quite some time had little to no contact with her. I was not only in utter shock, but embarrassed. I avoided conversations about my mother, and would never tell anyone the truth surrounding my parents’ divorce. Up to that incident I was very close with my mother, and although the reality hurt, I missed her dearly. My mother lost everything, and when I say everything I mean her family, and friends. We were rebuilding our relationship around the time the incident I chose to share with this class. I would have never guessed in a million years that the topic discussed in class was relevant to Education. My fellow peers, future “educators” began chanting “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. I was stunned, turned to stone and tried to mentally detach myself from the class, and then my Professor spoke “From my experience children with same sex parents, suffer with higher emotional, learning, and behavior problems then students coming from straight parents.”
Clearly, this incident stuck with me, but this is not new if I may say, because at one time I felt the same way as my classmates. This incident bothers me still to this day, because I just sat there. At one time I thought I could defend the silent, the victim, but I couldn’t even defend my own mother or myself. When the entire class spoke that being gay was wrong, not one person in that class stood up for G/L rights. Being gay is not wrong; it’s wrong to hit a child, it’s wrong to lie, it’s wrong to steal, but being gay is not wrong. I suffered at one time the same problem that many kids face from a parental divorce, but my family was still very civil, and supporting. I found it ironic that a lot of the derogatory comments came from classmates that were not white. I compare G/L prejudices to racial prejudices, on many grounds. A racist person does not attempt to get to know a person of color on a personal level before they become prejudiced. A racist person only sees the color of someone’s skin before they make a judgment, and the same thing applies to someone who has a different sexual orientation. My mother will not lie about her sexual orientation, but she isn’t open about it. My mother once said, “You can’t see the forest, with all the trees in the way”. My mother doesn’t want to be a label, or a statistic, as ethnic people don’t want to only be seen as the color of their skin, or by a religious affiliation.
I planned to change my name, because I believe hiding the truth of my mother is protecting her, but in reality I’m just trying to protect myself. I am not ashamed of my mother, she is different, but aren’t we all. I do not hate people that judge my mother; we shouldn’t hate someone, because they are prejudice, we should pity them. I knew that I was too emotionally involved to raise my hand that evening so I let things cool down, and just decided to leave the class. It was disgusting to listen to these “future” educators make discriminatory comments, especially in a Cultural Diversity class. We all have different opinions, cultures, and beliefs, but we need to learn how to still be respectful. The class was unaware that sitting next to me was a father, who worked two jobs to put his wife through nursing school. The fact that he stays home to pursue his degree to create a better life doesn’t make him any less than a man. The fact my mother is gay, didn’t change the way I feel about her. Like my mother, I do not openly share this part of my life with others, it may appear unspoken, but I’ll never deny the truth.
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