Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Thirsty: Can you be TOO GAY to teach effectively?

Suffering Sappho!

I've noted over the months that several other CM readers are gay (Go dykes!), but I don't recall ever noticing anyone discuss what an issue it apparently is for the snowflakes to handle. I mean, O-M-G! *gasp* (with a snap!) there are real, live gay people in the world! And some of us are their teachers, supervisors and mentors! *gasp* (with a snap!)

In general, few of the flakes give a flying fuck (you know, the ones who don't need a scapegoat when/if they perform poorly), but over the years I have encountered a few winners. For instance, there was the dude who apparently had a real fun time making fun of me after I gave a guest lecture in his class. Ironically, that same semester his classmate gave a compelling, pathos-laden speech about how he transferred to our school to escape the gay bullying he experienced in a small town U across state. (I didn't have the heart to tell him he only took a step up in the security level with that move .)

But my absolute FAVORITES were the ones who performed poorly in a class I taught who decided to blame my OBVIOUS gayitude for their bad grades. You see, I am SSSOOO (add exaggerated "s") gay that I distracted them from doing well. Yes, my "flamboyantly gay" behavior FORCED them to ignore directions and written instructions, not read their books, not do their writing and reserch. One would think if I was such a flaming spectacle they would pay MORE attention. (Cuz, girrrrrrl, we all know the queers is funny, y'all!) Instead, they skipped class, arrived late, web-surfed, handed assignments in late, and all those other behaviors that are markers of student mediocrity. No, no -- It's the gay that did it! *snap in z formation*

So, here's a New Year's Thirsty:

What do my far-flung colleagues (homo, het, and all variations in-between) think of this? If you were the department chair, how would you handle the situation if you found out this happened to a colleague? How would you handle an openly homophobic student? I am upset by this; am I over-reacting? (To me, this is several orders worse than just falsely claiming I was a bad teacher, mostly because this isn't a critique of the teaching in any way, shape or form.)

45 comments:

  1. Evaluations are usually unsigned, which is a two-edged sword. On the one side, a superior is free to ignore any racist/sexist/x-ist comment entirely. On the other, with no name, you can't tell the student that they're being a fuckwad.

    As for an "openly homophobic" student, you handle them the same way you handle any other person guilty of prejudice. Announce that such comments have no place in a university atmosphere, and that if they continue you will take steps to have that student removed permanently.

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  2. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with teaching. Why not teach your subject and resist the impulse to be so "fabulous" all the time?

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  3. TOO gay? Are you kidding? You can't be gay enough. There's nothing more important in teaching than letting your students know which way you swing. Make it a part of every day. I know I show them how my bread is buttered on the first day of class, and I NEVER let them forget it. I am, after all, the central figure in class.

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  4. @Kirk: Go f**k yourself.

    @Stella: Unsigned evals are the tools of Satan. If the little buggers want to bad mouth me, they better damned well put their names on it.

    @Original Post: In a way, I'm glad I'm not dealing with the issue (I'm a straight-enough-for-government work kind of guy). I don't know how well I'd handle it. The urge to rip the little snowflakes' heads off over that kind of nonsense would be, I think, too much for me to resist. On the other hand, I openly acknowledge my involvement with the local LGBT student groups, and no one has said a word about that.

    Bottom line, their job is to pay attention and learn the material. I guess I have the same response to this as to cell phones and laptops. I don't wrestle with students over this, I just tell them that if they don't pay attention, they will likely flunk, and the nature of the distraction be damned. Now, I know that's not REALLY what they're complaining about, but that's the only marginally useful response I have.

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  5. In my experience, students assume that many intelligent women are lesbians, whether they are or not. I've a friend who regularly gets accused of furthering her "gay agenda," a point her and her husband find both confounding and amusing.

    Because homophobia is as much about assuming "proper" gender roles as it is about sexual identity. My students are clueless about how/when/why/what grown-ups have sex (often amusingly so). The same thankfully rare ones who have a problem with mildly effeminate men will have a problem with a smart chick in square glasses knowing more than them. So such professors must be dykes. I pity these students' future unorgasmic wives.

    I've never had to deal with this directly though as my cuteness doesn't fit in with their ideas of what lesbians look like (even if I were one)

    I would hope, however, that any comments on student evaluations referring to sexual orientation would be thrown out by a tenure review committee.

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  6. @FF: Does being flamboyantly flaming somehow contribute to your pedagogy? If you're teaching engineering, then no. But even if you are teaching LGBT studies, is it worth putting yourself out there as a show-n-tell item? We all have to reel our true selves in sometimes, don't we? I would prefer to wear blue jeans and a "Fuck Bush" t-shirt to class and not comb my hair, but I tone it down and play the game.

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  7. Well oh my my, listen to all the homophobia here! It's the last fucking "acceptable" form of prejudice. What the hell is wrong with you people? What, are black faculty supposed to wear makeup because, say, being black has nothing to do with teaching engineering? I'm I supposed to bind up my tits?

    If I, a chick who likes dicks oh so much, was chair, and a student said this to me, I would report them to the ombudsperson. It's prejudice, pure and simple. If you were black, the same student would say that you hate white students. I've had plento o' snowflakes over the years assume that I'm a pussy muncher (in fact, on that other website it says that I hate women, particularly attractive ones). Yeah, if I liked girls I would definitely go for the ugly ones.

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  8. I make sure my students know I'm a hetero male. I take about how much I like funbags, and how good they are to nuzzle. I make lots of references to why heterosexuality has been an important lens for me to view Sociology through. I go on at length about it, and act all hetero-y, because that's my right. And I have several lumberjacky shirts and a mustache.

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  9. I think that kind of behavior from a student would warrant a stern talking-to and a warning that prejudice does not belong in a college atmosphere, and continuing in such behavior will get you removed.

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  10. @Harpy

    I think actually biases against overweight people is the last acceptable form of prejudice. I will out myself as a 300 pounder who has heard such vile and casual remarks from students and colleagues, that I can almost not stand to go to school.

    Yet, I do. They all forgive me, of course, since they imagine I'll die by 50 anyway.

    Smug fucking thin bastards.

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  11. Amen, Hellish. Unless the rest of you take off your fucking wedding rings and never, ever, no matter what, refer to your spouse in public, put pictures of your spouse in your office, or bring him/her to department gatherings, shut up. And yeah, tell your black colleagues to white up, your ESL colleagues to lose the accent, your disabled colleagues to put away the wheelchair/cane/whatever, your female colleagues to breast-bind, and so on, because whatever student prejudice they encounter is their own fault for letting their difference show.

    I can't believe the rage I feel about some of these comments.

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  12. @Hellish Harpy: Yes, I "bind up my tits." That's the reality. I cover up my tattoos. I wear a shirt when it's hot and humid. I curse far less in class than I do with my friends. I am polite to the angry, incompetent snowflakes. I didn't say I liked it, but it is the reality.

    This reminds me of the discussion we had recently about job interviewee dress. If you do anything to stand out, you take a risk.

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  13. Is this really how we're going to end the year?

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  14. @Richard Pringle: You are the wind beneath my wings. But your writing here is atrocious. "A-" for content; "C+" for grammar/spelling/capitalization.

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  15. @ELS: Hell, yes! I'm just getting started on the bourbon. Happy New Year, Everybody! From here on out, I'll be a drunk idiot.

    Bubbasquatch out!
    Lemon out!
    Gay Republicans out!
    Out out out!!!

    Good night.

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  16. This thread and the disgusting slave icon below are eye-openers to the oblivious white-dude crap that rules this blog.

    Bubba et. al., let me just remind you that most universities have non-discrimination clauses, and that freedom of speech and expression are especially to be cherished in a university setting. You all seem to think it's the fault of the victim if someone who genuinely *is* different, and who does not have control over the reactions of other people to this different (guess what, dressing "straight" does not save even some straight people from homophobia), experiences negative evaluations of their job performance because of it. It is not OK. If those evaluations are not thrown out for the purposes of tenure and promotion, the university is practicing discrimination and deserves to have its ass sued. And the fact that Kirk, Just as Fabulous, Bubba, and Richard Pringle are my colleagues makes me nauseated.

    Will, I'm sorry. I hope your university is not using student taunts against you and that your colleagues are not involved in making your miserable because of your weight, and that if it's otherwise you have a good lawyer.

    I'm outta here.

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  17. Oops, not quite. Between "your" and "miserable," insert "life."

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  18. I thought this blog had the "feminine vibe." How can it be that AND be all "white dude"-y?

    Just saying.

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  19. I'm not sure why anyone would let any part of his or her personal life shine through in their teaching such that the class would ever even know which way you lean.

    I have always kept things neutral. Nevertheless, twice, I've overhead students trying to guess outside my office while waiting for me--Is she gay? Over 30? Under 30? Married? And rather than set the record straight, I just ignored their immature nonsense. Nothing in my personal life is any of their goddam business, and nothing in your personal life is any of their goddam business either. If being gay is any issue at all, it's an opportunity for students to learn to mind their own fucking business more so than to learn that OMG! Homosexuals can get advanced degrees.

    For what it's worth, I'm female, straight, look younger than my age, unmarried (and living in Canada, so I can actually marry whoever the fuck I want). But the bottom line for me is I don't think that any of the above should really ever matter in the classroom.

    But to answer your question, an overtly homophobic student should just be dismissed as such. If he's that much of an asshole, he doesn't deserve to be heard. BUT if you feel threatened, you can take it to your chair and the ombuds office.

    And if it's turning up in your evals that your gayittude is an impediment to their learning, consult with the chair...if you have the kind of chair that entertains that sort of bullshit, then you should write a response to put in your file. If your chair is a normal human being, s/he'll dismiss it, and you can too.

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  20. @Will, dude, I'm sorry for the bullshit you've had to endure. It's total crap, and I can't imagine what makes people think it's acceptable. My colleagues only hate me and talk about me "behind" my back because I dared to have children, which, as you know, is absolutely unacceptable for female academics.

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  21. Yesterday, whilst on a train in route to the city, I saw a teenager behave condescendingly toward a black conductor. The kid spoke to him in theatrically-loud slang and gesticulated in a mockingly "black" fashion. He was trying to impress his girlfriend and kept looking back at her with a smirk. I was embarrassed for him and I was saddened for the transit employee who had to put up with his antics. I think he was probably a suburban white kid and that this was a rare encounter with an African-American. Facing a new experience, he failed and mortified himself. He just doesn't know it yet. He will in ten years when he thinks back and cringes at what a nasty ass he was.
    You're probably one of the first gay authority figures your students have met. They don't know how to deal and so they're making asses of themselves...they just don't know it yet.

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  22. I will say right out that I am a total fag hag, so for me telling a fabulous man to somehow hide his fabulousity to fit in makes me terribly, terribly sad. I see it so much here in the south--the "don't ask don't tell" shit. The "if you're gay we don't want to know" business (one friend's parents actually told him that). No one will bug you if you simply restrain every Judy Garland loving bone in your body and pretend you have no sexual desire and no "gay" interests at all.

    Sooooooo sad, so sad. Hiding tattoos is one thing. Hiding your entire personality is another. When you are fabulous, you must be fabulous. You owe it to the fucking world.

    For all you faboo CM-ers, have some fun for this middle-aged fag hag tonight! I love all of you.

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  23. For those who responded seriously (or whose jokes were actually funny):

    T&P is irrelevant for me because I adjunct, which raises another issue. I work in a right-to-work state and there are rumors flying that my fellow queers are getting "not rehired" at some schools after some vague "complaints" get raised. I was recently "not rehired" (it's not "fired" because the contact ended, right?) and am wondering what others may think if they discovered this happened at their schools.

    (I am not suggesting I was "not rehired" because of the gay complaint, but any complaint is apparently valid at some schools.)

    Oh, and a shout-out to Wisconsin Will. My students apparently realize it's rude to comment on my fattiness (possibly because so many of them are also puffy), but I somehow suspect that if I was a stereotypical gay man who dressed *FABULOUSLY* and had a really trendy 'do (and biceps to die for), the comments might have been both worse AND better. (Some students "thought {I'd} be cool" before encountering my grading standards; I am apparently not a happy gay).

    Also, I do not tell anyone but close friends and potential romantic interests that I practice the love that dare not speak its name. Some people are surprised when I tell them and some claim they knew all along (*Never* a student). As some have hinted at above, these students are jumping to conclusions and seeing gay where none exists (except in their own prurient minds).

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  24. Signed evaluations? Do such things exist? Students on my campus are told clearly not to put their names or any other identifiying info on the eval. sheets.

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  25. Holy Moly! It's the Gaypocalpyse on New Years' Eve!

    Now I'm really beginning to reget the "feminine vibe" quip....I should have said something about skeet shooting or the legacy of "Dolemite" instead.

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  26. Strelnikov, if you're finding yourself buried under a pile of fags, it's not a Gaypocalypse. You're at an orgy, dear, so use a condom!

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  27. I'm really frustrated at the anti-gay rhetoric.

    My gay profs were my first evidence that gay people existed. I was always told they were an invention of the liberal media. And when I met a gay prof, and joined a gay/straight alliance, I finally dealt with my own not straight leanings.

    I do think that homophobia is a final frontier of sorts. I'm also familiar with Fat!so? and the body loving movement, and the things strangers say to overweight strangers is shocking. But people have tried to change being gay to no avail. I'm not going to suggest people can decide to lose weight, because I know health and weight is a fucking complicated thing. But it is not the same as homophobia.

    America seems to have sorted its homophobia shit out. And homophobes are losing. If you feel there is something icky about being gay, you are in the minority. And soon these thoughts will be as grotesque as saying that black folk have it real easy in America and ought to be shipped back to Africa or blown up.

    (racist reference courtesy of my former boss, who thought the African continent ought to be nuked. Thanks, Jake! Stay classy, duder)

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  28. At my school I believe a fellow student who said anything against the orientation of a professor or tried to use it as an excuse for their pitiable grade would likely be laughed at by students and (hopefully) all but ignored by the administration as having a valid complaint.

    My school, X University, is very equal rights minded and on staff there are several openly (and obviously) gay members and at least one transgender professor. As a student I think it's despicable to try and use such a thing as an excuse for a poor grade and I don't think you are overacting at all Flaming. There are still people even at my University who are homophobic and like to blame them for everything wrong in the world. Some of them to the extent of the Westboro Baptist Church members though without the signs.

    If I was in a class in which there was a problem homophobic student I think it would be best if they were removed from the class for being a distraction. Their mindset is the problem after all and not anything your doing. Good luck Flamboyantly Flaming.

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  29. I think you should call students on homophobia just the way you call them on any other stupid-ass bullshit they spout in class. A couple semesters ago, I had a student who said he thought women shouldn't be in positions of authority over men. Really? Then how do you deal with being in a class with a female prof? "Think it through, dumbass" should be your mantra, no matter what the stupidity. Also, getting them to repeat their moronic prejudiced positions over and over while the class critiques them is a good one.

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  30. I'm in the arts, where all men are assumed to be gay regardless of whether or not they actually are. I am, but I'm not a particularly "fabulous" person in the way I act, especially for somebody who conducts orchestras and choral ensembles. Large gestures are part of the body language, and I can really wear whatever I want. If the conversation turns to home life, I feel perfectly fine referring to my "partner" as such or by name. None of my students have ever batted an eyelash, and the people at my church job have been surprisingly supportive. Again, they don't have all that much of a choice since the joke about how many straight organists it takes to change a lightbulb is true. (The answer, by the way, is "both of them.")

    When I was in college, I had a professor who was a self-identified "angry lesbian." She disliked me, but I don't think that the lesbian part of her identity had anything to do with it. I think that she was an angry person who took it out on people that didn't fit her personal view of what a student should be, which is one who sits quietly until addressed, regurgitates material perfectly on tests, and in general does as he/she is told and no more.

    If I had gotten a bad grade, I suppose I could have played the "this lesbian hates me because I'm a gay male" card, but even in my flakiest moment, would I EVER have thought that somebody would take that seriously for a SECOND?

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  31. I have to agree with WW about the fatphobics and how it's way more acceptable. I used to be over 400lbs and being as short as I am, I was rather short and round. I lost about half of my body weight in the last few years and I can unequivocally say that that my "fat comments" have devreased and actual numbers on those vile evaluations have increased. I do nothing differently. I am still short and rather round, just not as round. I once had a comment from a FUTURE TEACHER that stated I was too fat to teach and that my fatness was distracting and he couldn't learn from me (small class...I knew the handwriting). Someone makes a homophobic comment, you usually have someone stand up and say something to the offender. How many times have you had someone say something after a "fat" comment? Is there anything in the policies about protection for size? More than likely there is not anything. Well, there is for sexual orientation.

    Now, don't get me wrong about that any "phobia" has a place in the evals, but if you're going to discuss the phobia, please include them all...

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  32. To the CM grammar and spelling watchdogs: I'm still tired and hungover, so my apologies for typos, split infinitives etc.

    I'm not so sure every single student engaging in such conduct is homophobic - sometimes they're just displaying snowflake behaviour, albiet in a particularly slimeball-ish way. They'll grasp at every single last straw to save themselves rather than take responsibility for their own academic performance. The my-prof-is-gay-so-my-grade-is-not-my-fault gambit, why not? Worth a shot if you're otherwise staring at an F with no hope in sight, especially if you're in a locale or campus where you think you've got a half-decent chance of catching the attention of a clueless or homophobic admin official. Cretins.

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  33. ...let me just remind you that most universities have non-discrimination clauses, and that freedom of speech and expression are especially to be cherished in a university setting.

    There's the rub. There is no escaping the tension between those competing interests.

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  34. To answer your main question: No, I don't think you can be too gay to teach effectively.

    I'm not gay, but I have been a department chair. If a student were to come to me and complain that you are gay, I would tell the student that Professor Flaming is a valued teacher in my department, and his personal life is his own darn business and none of yours. Meeting new people with whom you're unfamiliar should be part of a college education, and crass prejudice has no place here, partly because it's against the law: if you give Professor Flaming or me or anyone else any more nonsense about this, we'll take this up with the Dean of Students.

    Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in our state. I never had to defend a faculty member from it, but I did get a complaint from a jerky male student about a woman faculty member, only because she was a woman. Discrimination on the basis of sex is also illegal in our state, and I gave him a similar admonition. It worked: the complaint ended there. (Good thing too, since I don't have a high regard for our Dean of Students, but he is the official at our university to whom chairs are supposed to take complaints of student misconduct.)

    As far as anonymous student evaluations go: don't let them bother you. In only poorly run departments do they matter. (That statement itself could foster a lively discussion.)

    Seriously, FF, and WW and BitchyProffie, I'm sorry you have to put up with this nonsense. Remember that some students will invent any excuse to blame their teacher for a bad grade. Keep teaching well. Maybe they'll learn, one might hope more than what the class explicitly covered.

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  35. No-one should ever be discriminated against for "flaunting" his or her homosexuality. Often, simply not trying to remain in the closet is seen as flaunting it. Straight people flaunt their sexuality ALL THE TIME simply by not hiding their marriages and relationships. I'm not sure why many straight people, including some on this site, find this so colossally difficult to understand. The double standard to which some are holding gay people on this site is beneath the skills of logic and intelligence we proffies supposedly have and value. Some of what's being said here is making my blood boil.

    That said, I find myself being more closeted with my students than I am with anyone else because I don't want to deal with their salacious speculations and insinuations about me. I fear it would cause them to take me less seriously and/or sexually harass me, the latter happening from time to time anyway. It's not right that I feel the need to do this.

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  36. >>Straight people flaunt their sexuality ALL THE TIME simply by not hiding their marriages and relationships.<<

    Thank you so much, issyvoo. A normal, innocuous sentence like "My husband and I went out for dinner last night" seems to take on a whole new dimension if the speaker is male. I use the word "partner" instead of "husband" because we aren't married, but it's a technicality. How are you supposed to refer to your spouse? Oh right, if you're gay, you're not supposed to at all.

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  37. Is anyone else fascinated by the discrimination-measuring contest that has emerged as a sub-theme in the comments?

    "I've been discriminated against in this particular way."

    "Shut up! *MY* discrimination is worse than yours!"

    "You don't know discrimination until you've experienced what I have!"

    "If you're going to discuss discrimination, discuss every, single kind that any human being has EVER experienced!"

    No wonder people never talk about this stuff. I almost regret bringing it up. Almost.

    My sincere hope is that people channel their unease into some thought-provoking posts in the coming weeks. I can dream, right?

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  38. @issyvoo and coolcalmconductor-I don't think straight people are FLAUNTING their relationships and sexuality with those kinds of comments and behaviors. I don't bat an eye when a male states he went to dinner with his husband (even though they legally can't be that). I ask him how dinner was and if they had a good time. My former department chair is a lesbian. She wears a ring and is married to her wife. She refers to their relationship as any other married person would. I refer to any "boyfriend" as significant other or partner when speaking in class, but I rarely EVER bring up my personal life in general. If I am talking about an ex, I say "EX"...nothing more. If you're gay or straight (or whatever), just be human. The more you take the "shock" power out of the words, the easier it will be. People shouldn't hide who they are, esepcially when they are protected by the policies. Go ahead, fart rainbows and throw glitter as you boogie to disco music with a sparkling mirror ball overhead...that would be kinda cool and I would join you! :)

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  39. @bitchyproffie -- the whole point about privilege is that the person speaking is completely oblivious to the fact that they have special privileges. You might be gender neutral in your statements, but most straight people are not. Straight privilege gives straight people the right to refer to their spouses without any sense of guilt or shame or the idea that perhaps mentioning their love life might not be "acceptable talk" in mixed company.

    All straight people need to be aware that LGBTQ people have to struggling on a daily basis with keeping their private life "private" -- eg, SECRET. No talking about same-sex relationships. But straight people can talk it, flaunt it, brag about it.

    Unpack your privilege backpack:

    http://www.cs.earlham.edu/~hyrax/personal/files/student_res/straightprivilege.htm

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  41. These students are obviously just looking for an excuse for their shoddy work, but I'm surprised that discriminatory remarks are given any serious review on evaluations. I'm a student, and my school has a formal policy against bias. I can't imagine the chairs would give much heed to discriminatory remarks that are inherently in violation of the academic code, although I can't say for sure. Like most urban schools, we have a fair number of gay professors, and even more gay students, so it's probably easier than if we were in some isolated region where a gay professor would be freakishly rare.

    As far as 'reining it in,' - it's not a simple matter of leaving the rainbow flag tee-shirt at home. Not all gay men dress dress in campy fab attire, and not all lesbians wear khakis and combat boots. A surprising number of gay people are indistinguishable in appearance from the straights. The idea that gay people are immediately identifiable because they are so swishy or butch or fab or whatever is rather dated. As is the notion that all lesbians are angry or all gay men love Broadway show tunes.

    There's a difference telling your students intimate sexual details that illustrate your gayness beyond all doubt, and dropping ordinary, everyday remarks about your spouse, your commute, your house, your career, etc. When a professor had to cancel his office hours, he told our class it was because he had to meet his wife to sign papers to buy a house. I recall another telling us that she only uses her "Dr." title when dining out with her husband because they'd get better tables than if he reserved in his name. Another professor used the example of his wife shopping for a skirt to launch a discussion of why prices are so cheap at WalMart. None of them are warm, fuzzy types - they're all rather standoffish - and these remarks are only a tiny percentage of all their dialogue, but that is the very sort of innoucous remarks that gay professors have to 'rein in' so as not to appear as if they are 'flaunting' their sexuality.

    Even for those who aren't gay, it seems being suspected of being gay is an issue. That is sad - even a whiff of doubt of heterosexuality is enough to cause alarm. It does make me feel lucky to live in a big city, because many people believe I'm a closeted lesbian, since I practice martial arts, am a tomboy, and chronically single. It's never bothered me, because I live in a gay-friendly city, so I know that there wouldn't be much difference even if I was a lesbian. What a shame that homophobia is still so widespread than even a rumour of suspected gayness is a concern.

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