I waited until my last semester at U of L to take my required science course. I took the lowest-level biology course I could find; I saw no need to stress myself out over a class I didn’t want to take. I had no plans of “working hard” or “trying”; my effort was not going to exceed my enthusiasm. My plan was pure memorization: in one ear for a test, out the other for the next. This brilliant idea had worked for me in logic (clearly), and it was going to work again.
Biology was a night class in a hot room; an hour and 15 minutes sans break. I always sat in the same row, in the same seat, next to the same people talking about youth group. The professor entertained all stupid questions, covering everything but what was to be on the test. She wasn’t a bad teacher; she just wanted to be there as much as I did.
On the day we covered the taxonomic classification of humans (kingdom, class, etc.), something amazing happened at genus. She filled in the space next to genus with a somewhat messy homo. From the back of the silent room, in the middle of my college biology class, I heard a Southern-sounding male voice yell: I know I’m not a HOMO! (Clearly.) His voice was so loud, the effect was similar to that of one talking across the table in a noisy restaurant that suddenly gets quiet.
And no one said anything. At all. Even the professor remained silent (it was so absurd it was kind of funny). I know as a teacher you have to pick your battles. I know if you react to everything you will eventually have no leverage, lose all power. I’m a teacher; I get that. The thing was, she had more of a response (because she actually offered one) to three girls talking while she was at the board. Not only did she tolerate the non-homo student, she ignored the entire incident.
My reaction was understated as well, but only because I was reacting to two facets at the same time. That is what I tell myself, at least. My reaction was a combination of a weird face and an audible noise that can only be translated as, “Are you kidding me?!” but that was it (save searching the room for a similar face). My instructor’s lack of response combined with the fact that she actually had a response to people talking over her essentially said: It’s inappropriate to talk while someone else is speaking, but when it comes to gay people (queers in general), the decision is up to you as to how you want to treat them — and however you choose, it’s completely valid.
I’d like to think the other students were just as horrified as I was, that they were all quietly seething with indignation, but I’ll never know.
What I’ve not been able to get over about the whole situation is the fact that my instructor’s behavior was tolerated. What if that totally straight guy had yelled that about a different minority group? Most would have not only said something then, we would have also gone to the administration later.
Ask any textbook or politican (cue music) and they will say that one of the major reasons America was created was because people wanted freedom of religion without penalty of law; they believed in basic rights for all. (Everyone knows the subtext: It is an American-given right for straight people to have basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The definition and distribution of the basic rights of gays, however, is a group decision.)
Isn’t it unfair that the same person who believes I’m going to hell gets to vote on whether I can marry and receive the benefits and protection of the law?
Why wasn’t my instructor reprimanded? Because no one said anything — including me.
I’m a little ashamed I tolerated her behavior. It clearly affected me. When it comes to voting in November, remember this: Currently, the rights of the KKK are protected by the law, but the rights of gay people are not.
I’m Kate Welsh, and I approve this message.