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Teacher of the Year

(69 posts)
Sat May 18, 2024, 11:52 AM May 18

"If you say you are gay in public you will be shot in the head." My bittersweet anniversary. [View all]

Yesterday was my 10th wedding anniversary. My wedding was very bitter. It was not very sweet.

In 2014 I was named the Oregon State Teacher of the Year.

With that came an order from my supervisor. She told me if I said I was gay in public I would be "shot in the head." She then told me I would be fired if I said it publicly. I was ordered to not speak any words in public without her permission. I was ordered not to write any words without written permission. I was not allowed to talk to any person she did not approve of. I was ordered to bring all mail from home for her to read my personal correspondences. I stopped writing on DU because of this. It was like living in the book 1984.

On May first of 2014 I received White House Honors. I had my portrait taken with President Obama. I was in a bit of a daze as I watched the other Teachers of the Year as they moved through the most important day of their lives. My day was different. If the press ran a picture of me and my soon-to -be-husband, I would probably be fired. If I said anything about being gay I would probably be fired. Actually, if I said anything, I would be fired because I did not have permission to speak.

After the ceremony we were introduced to the international press that covered the White House. We were asked if we wanted to say anything about our students. I watched as other teachers spoke so easily about their lives and work. I was lost in thoughts of the past. I thought of my best friend at 15, Mark. I thought of the last time I saw him, when he came out to me and then drove away on his motorcycle. He killed himself that weekend. I thought, "What if Mark had seen a gay teacher? What if by seeing that teacher he knew he was not alone?"

As I stood on the White House steps, it was Mark I was seeing, not the day in front of me. I stepped to the microphone and made, what was to be, my declaration of war with my school district. "As one of the first openly gay Teachers of the Year..." I began, and then I discussed how anti-gay laws are hurting LGBTQ youth and it needed to stop.

On the steps of the White House I fired my first shot but the the next month would be a battle.

On May 17, 2014, gay marriage became legal in Oregon. Against my district's orders, I wrote on Facebook, "I'm getting married today." We headed downtown to City Hall to get our license. The press was there waiting for us and they followed my husband and I through the entire day. At our ceremony there were more tv cameras than guests. We were promised a private room but the press pushed their way in and refused to leave. The venue told us we would either have to get married in front of the cameras or we would have to go somewhere else to get married.

My shy husband, traumatized by all the cameras, looked at me and said, "I have waited a long time to marry you." He made the decision and as we started our vows the cameras started rolling. We were married on live tv. The Oregonian ran 45 pictures on their website.

While my husband and I slept the photos went round the world. Headlines like "Oregon Teacher of the Year marries his long-term partner" bounced around the internet. Some people were enraged. Some of those people I worked for.

My vows violated my school district's orders. I spoke in public without their permission. I kissed my husband, at my wedding, on live tv. A kiss heard round the world. I would soon be fired. The death threats would come after. But for a day, 10 years ago, I was a newlywed with a ring on my finger. And despite the difficulties of the day, we rested easy knowing that there would be young LGBTQ people who would see the pictures and the videos and they would see a possible future for themselves. Gay people can be professionals. They can be teachers. They can be Teacher of the Year with a handsome husband on their arm.

I wish my friend Mark could have seen us. His life would have been...

Well, I was going to say more but that sums it up. His life would have been.

57 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
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Outstanding. Congratulations and thank you. underpants May 18 #1
How mean and cruel people can be. That school administration needs to be sued. 1WorldHope May 18 #2
I did not sue them, I fought them Teacher of the Year May 18 #3
I'm glad to hear that most of them were voted out! 1WorldHope May 18 #7
Thank you! Teacher of the Year May 19 #47
Good for you and your husband. Thank you. Biophilic May 18 #4
I encourage you to write the story of yours (and your other half too) and get it printed. Such bigotry and hatred SWBTATTReg May 18 #5
It was investigated by the state Teacher of the Year May 18 #8
O got curious and googled Bostick vs. Clayton County. ShazzieB May 18 #26
What a heartfelt, sad but beautiful story. Fla Dem May 18 #6
We've never even had a fight. Teacher of the Year May 18 #9
I am in awe of your courage and determination. MLAA May 18 #10
What I lack for in smarts, I make up in determination Teacher of the Year May 18 #19
Welcome to D.U. orangecrush May 18 #11
I'm an old-timer on here... but I stopped posting for most of a decade. Teacher of the Year May 18 #20
i think I recently read your post soldierant May 18 #34
Well thanks for your courage SomedayKindaLove May 18 #45
My brother came out, only after my dad passed away. ... aggiesal May 18 #12
Thank you for your testimony - TBF May 18 #13
Very lovely, thank you. Teacher of the Year May 18 #21
Thank you for your courage. multigraincracker May 18 #14
Stop with the closet attraction myth. NanaCat May 18 #41
I tell you...You are one brave person. It's people like you that actually make.. chouchou May 18 #15
Thank you for those kind words. I'm plenty bullheaded Teacher of the Year May 18 #28
I'm on your side. demigoddess May 18 #16
Should be treated equally LiberalFighter May 18 #17
It's the equality. They can't stand it. Whatthe_Firetruck May 18 #35
It's rooted in patriarchy YodaMom2 May 19 #55
Congratulations DeeDeeNY May 18 #18
Thank you for telling your story mountain grammy May 18 #22
I'd do anything for the Marks out there. Teacher of the Year May 18 #33
Your supervisor thought it was appropriate PoindexterOglethorpe May 18 #23
A few months before, in a meeting with all of my staff that I oversaw Teacher of the Year May 18 #40
Did you out her for trying to cover up her past NanaCat May 18 #42
High praise for your courage BaronChocula May 18 #24
You won the good fight. I'm in awe. quaint May 18 #25
I was really honored they included me. Teacher of the Year May 18 #37
I'm choked up by this post. Thank you for sharing. jmbar2 May 18 #27
Teaching is a sacred thing. A good teacher creates ripples in the lives of his or her students PatrickforB May 18 #29
These damn bigots are so cruel! They don't care at all about all the suffering they cause. Dave Bowman May 18 #30
Wow moose65 May 18 #31
That's sad, and beautiful. Thank you. NT Happy Hoosier May 18 #32
This is a story that needs to be told. Thank you for returning and sharing it here. N/t Iris May 18 #36
I know what I would want to say to that supervisor dai13sy May 18 #38
Thank you so much. My uncle (and godfather) was a gay teacher. TygrBright May 18 #39
🌈This Hekate May 19 #50
I see myself as standing on the shoulders of giants. Teacher of the Year May 19 #51
Happy anniversary! Wild blueberry May 18 #43
BRAVO Faux pas May 18 #44
Gay people can become Secretary of Transportation. Wednesdays May 18 #46
Thank you for this story and your courage FirstLight May 19 #48
I am so very glad you have returned to DU & are writing here again. I hope you are saving all your essays for a book. Hekate May 19 #49
I'vehad a couple of book offers Teacher of the Year May 19 #52
I do understand Hekate May 19 #56
Congratulations on you anniversary and your hard-fought victory dlk May 19 #53
Thanks so much for sharing your story. MrsCheaplaugh May 19 #54
"My shy husband, traumatized by all the cameras, looked at me and said, "I have waited a long time to marry you." calimary May 19 #57
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