Thanksgiving Message: A Teacher Comes Out to His Students

11.22.2012

By Jerry Portwood

In an inspiring essay, a middle school teacher explains why he's thankful he told his students that he's gay

Many men and women are inspired to come out to family, friends, and loved ones during the holidays. And Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days to take that step. We read this essay and thought it was important to people to read and share.

On his personal blog, "The Wisdom of Zen," James Eich explains his personal search for enlightenment. But in a recent post dated Wednesday, November 21, 2012, he explains that he took a major step in his personal development, in part due to the documentary Bully.

"I did something momentous today. Something I’ve wanted to do since I first started teaching middle school ten years ago. I told a group of my students (20 sixth graders in my advisory group) that I am gay. I was ready and the time was right. Our entire middle school (6th through 8th grade) had watched a documentary called “Bully” about Jamie Nabozny, a gay man who was bullied for being gay, starting in the sixth grade and continuing throughout high school."

As he explains to the teenagers, "You may not think you know any gay people but there are kids in your class who are gay...but you will know gay people. They are everywhere. There are thousands and thousands of gay people in the world," he realizes he's talking about these “gay people” as if he isn’t one of them, so he decides it's his opportunity to come out. That's when he says: “You may not know this, but I’m gay.” He then describes to the kids how he was bullied in school when he was young and how, watching the movie about an 11-year-old who had the courage to come out, he decided to as well. Then things took an unexpected turn:

"I stopped. I had said what I wanted to say. I had said what I never thought I would say. I had said what I had practiced in my head so many times hoping for the right time and the courage. And then a girl clapped her hands. And then a boy. And then the whole class. They were all clapping for me. Clapping because I had been courageous with them and told them I was gay. I felt relieved and scared and exhilarated and proud all at the same time."

As Eich describes in the blog post, he decides to tell the administration and colleagues at his school, Inver Grove Heights Middle School, in Eagan, Minnesota. And he's surprised by their support and that the anti-bullying campaign is so effective so far.

He ends with this, which is an inspiring Thanksgiving message for all those who are thinking about such things today, Thanksgiving in the United States.

"On this Thanksgiving Eve, I certainly am thankful that I came out to my students. I am thankful that I work in a school environment that has created a culture and community where I can come out. I am thankful that I know I work with people who will support me and stand up for me. I am thankful that I am proud enough and courageous enough to come out in this capacity. It’s been a long road to get here. But life is a long road. A long wonderful road that I am thankful I am walking on in my own way."

Read the full story here.

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