Ask Trevor

We have transitioned Ask Trevor into a broader, more effective resource for LGBTQ young people and their allies.

Please check out our new FAQ page here: http://TrevorSupportCenter.org

Homophobic Teacher Enabling Students

Question:

My government teacher goes on rants about how immoral gay rights are, and how same sec marriage is an abomination. I don’t know what to do, because He is getting the students riled up about this issue, and trying to get everyone on his side on the issue. He also is very religious and had questions about stories in the bible. I have not read the bible so I could not answer it. I feel like having a teacher with such strong views will hurt my GPA, because he dislikes me and focuses on every mistake i make in class, even if he asks us to guess at something that he has yet to teach us.

Letter submitted by:

Answer:

That sounds unfair.  We don’t usually get much of a choice as to which teachers we get.  You probably wouldn’t have chosen this one.  This teacher seems to have pre-judged you as someone he disapproves of, and for reasons that you know you can’t help.  That always hurts.  And, for you, its complicated by the fact that you feel that your GPA is at risk here.  Free speech is one thing, but a class room doesn’t sound like the right place for a teacher to take one side and advocate for views.  It would be different if the teacher was playing devil’s advocate to try to help students form their own views, but it sounds like this teacher has his views and wants his students to have them, too.  Public school or private school, it seems that a government teacher should teach the issues, not which sides to take on them.

 

But fear not.  Your school has resources for situations like this.  You should start by speaking to your school’s guidance counselor.  That’s an important first step.  Many schools have faced issues like this, and this surely will not be the first time your guidance counselor has heard about problems involving students who feel like their teachers are treating them unfairly.

 

Your guidance counselor can help students determine whether they’re being oversensitive or, as it seems in your case, whether there is a real problem with a teacher.  Whether black, white, male, female, gay, straight, etc., no teacher should ever be pre-judging students.  And even if the teacher says that you’re just being oversensitive here, teachers, as the adults here, should be aware of causing students like you to feel that they’re being pre-judged, even if the teacher is confident that he’s being fair.  The perception of being pre-judged, particularly in a classroom, feels exactly the same as actually being pre-judged.

 

If you’re concerned that speaking to your guidance counselor could make things worse, you could request that your guidance counselor just give you advice and without speaking to the teacher about it.  Perhaps the guidance counselor will actually have heard of this scenario (with this teacher) before, and could even offer advice as to how other students have dealt with it in the past.  You never know.  If you’d prefer for the guidance counselor to actually speak with the teacher, tell the guidance counselor that, requesting that your name be kept anonymous.

 

Now, guidance counselors don’t always go to teachers to talk to them about concerns like these.  After receiving just one complaint from you, for example, the guidance counselor might not believe that this is a real enough problem to take action on.  And that makes sense.  If a problem is widespread, the solution will require more actual action to address it.

 

The problem with your teacher sounds widespread, though your guidance counselor might need some help realizing that so he or she can decide to take more action.  Thus, another recommendation would be to get other students to make the same complaint.  They could even join you as a group in making the complaint, such as by signing their names to a letter you write describing this issue, much in the way that you described this issue to us.  The more students complaining to the guidance counselor about this, the more necessary it will become for the guidance counselor to speak with the teacher directly about the perceived (or even actual) discrimination going on in the classroom.

 

If that doesn’t work, you could get other adults you trust involved.  A parent or even a friend’s parent (you’d be surprised) could complain to the guidance counselor, too.  That tends to be effective.  If the guidance counselor proves to be unwilling or unable to help, you should get the school’s vice principal or principal involved, telling them about your problem with both the teacher and the guidance counselor.  Another option is to tell another one of your school’s teachers about the issue — someone you can trust — or even an after-school activity coordinator or coach.

 

In the end, your teacher’s views are unlikely to change.  One more thing to keep in the back of your mind.  Although people sometimes say bad things about gay people, and even though the constant barrage of it all can really add up and stress us out, the truth is that these people are only human, and they’ve been taught by society and their upbringings to be homophobic in the way that they are.  But things are improving, even in Texas, and your future’s looking up.  Homophobic upbringings are no longer justifying peoples’ continued discrimination.  Society is changing, whether or not your teacher changes with it.

 

Definitely keep us updated on AskTrevor.  We love hearing from you.  You can even tell us about specific stories or events to get some feedback as to how things go.  I trust that you already know about LifeLine and TrevorChat.  If you ever feel like you’re being pressured to explain yourself so much that you just can’t take it anymore, message us on TrevorChat or call us at 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.  We’ll talk you through it.

 

Good luck on gov class, and keep doing your best to make sure there’s no excuse for not giving you a good grade.  Now get back to your homework.

 

Trevor Staff