Today I had guest speakers to class. It was quite the affair. We had Leslie, Diya, Jack & Karen, Audrey, Mick and my wife Jess. They all told their "coming out stories," which are really interesting, but may have caused some "cognitive dissonance" for my students. Remember when you were sixteen and had never met a gay person and thought they were all evil? That's what I thought. Anyway, things have changed for me, and I hope things changed for the students.
Mick's call for legal rights for same-sex couples was moving, since he told a story of how his longtime partner Richard went through the slow process of dying over a few months (of pancreatic cancer). Luckily, they lived in gay-friendly Tucson, and the process didn't have to be any worse than it had to. Leslie's story about how she didn't realize she was bisexual until she was about thirty-three and how that explained all sorts of confusions in the past was powerful. Audrey's story about how she knew she wanted to be a woman at the age of only five gave a human face to transsexuals, and her anecdote about how she was kicked out of her conservative Christian Pentecostal family at age thirteen onto the streets, and how she has only talked to her family five times since then--that's amazing. Jack and Karen, the most ironic activists for the gay community, are doubly effective speakers, because of their natural normalcy, which lends normalcy to the GLBTQ community. And Jess loves to sentimentalize, and does so effectively, with stories about how the sister that she loved so much said to her when she came out, "If you don't love me anymore, that's okay."
So that's amazing stuff. I knew I had one kid, a smart one, who appears to have came to college after years of Christian homeschooling. He seemed a little uncomfortable, but part of my pedagogy is based on dissonance. People need to be physically present together and have valid disagreements to get somewhere and actually learn critical thinking. I would question whether critical thinking can even happen without having one's values challenged in the least.
Apparently one student wrote on the feedback survey Jess had handed out, "This is bullshit. I'm a Catholic" and so on. Good. I can refer them to my teaching advisor, who is lesbian and always comes out to her classes, or the director of the Writing Program, who would no doubt support my choice of guests given that their stories directly relate to the material I've been presenting and the assignment that is due next week.