Today I heard a boy telling another boy that it’s weird if he likes boys. The second boy responded, “No, I like girls.” I heard him insist a couple times — he didn’t sound stressed, he just repeated it.
I went up to them and asked, “Did you just say it’s weird if he likes boys?”
The first boy said that it was a religious belief: if a person is gay, it’s bad. The other boy chimed in, “Even for us, too.”
I nodded, said “Okay,” and walked away.
I had no idea what to say.
It’s a touchy subject for a teacher when a student has beliefs that conflict with your own. As a teacher, we need to be very inclusive and respectful of all beliefs, but I feel so conflicted about this particular one. It’s not my place to tell him his beliefs are “wrong,” because the problem with beliefs is that they’re very personal and there isn’t always a “right” or “wrong.”
But this is about human rights.
What if that boy’s family is teaching him that being gay is wrong, and he really is struggling with his sexual identity?
Did I do the right thing by just walking away?
I didn’t ask what religion they practice, but I don’t think it matters.
I’m just such an open supporter of LGBTQ people and their rights, I don’t know what to do.
I mean, if these kids believe it’s a sin, or as the first student said, “if you’re gay it’s bad,” then that’s their belief. I disagree, but I respect that.
However, they’re telling each other, “That’s weird if you like boys,” and that makes me uncomfortable. That’s the beginning of the isolation that gay kids feel, the discrimination they face. That’s what I saw. And I don’t know these kids — I wouldn’t have known that the student he was talking to shared the same beliefs.
I feel so wrong having not even discussed the issue.
Was it enough that I questioned in the first place? Was it clear that I disagreed, and that was enough to make other students feel safe?
What do you think I should do next time?