Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Being Put Back in the Closet

The Closet Guy

With all of my recent posts about coming out of the closet, you might wonder, why this blog is called The Closet Professor. It is simply because for years, I was out and proud. Circumstances, however, have changed, and this post is meant to explain that. I make every effort to be as honest as possible with you guys, and I am not in the business of misleading you. I felt that this post is particularly significant (maybe only for me, but there are others out there who can relate to my situation.

This is a post that I have been trying to compose for a few weeks now. It is certainly not an easy topic for me, but in the interest of being honest (as I 4595475100_48ece8d5e8_b strive to be as far as I can and keep my anonymity with you guys), I felt the need to tell this story and explain where I am currently in my life. After 8 years of being out and proud, with the attitude of “fuck ‘em” if they can’t accept that I am gay, I returned home to live with my parents for a year. My graduate funding had run out, the academic job market was in shambles, and I had a choice to make. I could either continue to work in the part time job I had, and get another job, leaving me little time to finish my dissertation, or I could move home with my parents, save some money, try to finish my dissertation, and hope to find a job the next year. If I was going to finish graduate school, my choice was clear. I had to move home.

Moving home was a very difficult decision because my parents had never come to accept my homosexuality. This was not likely to change, it was an unspoken agreement that I would end my gay “lifestyle,” and basically any social life that I had as long as I was living with them. Everything I did image would be watched and questioned by them. I would be living in a very rural area (the nearest town was an hour away). As tough of a decision as this was, I decided I could take anything for a year. It would only be a year. So, I began my year of solitude with my parents, with only short excursions to visit a friend of mine a few states away, where I could be as gay as I wanted to be, while they were hoping that I was moving away from a gay “lifestyle” and closer to a heterosexual relationship with the female friend that I was going to visit. In other words, my friend was my beard.

As I said, I thought I could take anything for a year. However, things did not go as planned, as they so rarely do. My dissertation did not progress as it image should have. There were problems with my dissertation committee. I had to restart with a new adviser. The job market did not improve, even with the President, economists, and all the other talking heads out there, proclaimed that the Great Recession was ending and the economy was improving. Higher education is the first hit by economic downfall, and the very last to recover. Politicians think that tuition can take up all of the slack of decreased budgets, but if no one can afford tuition as it is, how are they going to pay higher tuition? So I had to once again look for alternatives. I found a part-time teaching job at a local college. It got me out of the house, back to the classroom that I loved, and I had wonderful students. The adjunct class and a prescription for Prozac, markedly improved my mood. I decided to make the best of a bad situation.

I could not teach in public schools because none of my degrees were in education, so without returning to school for another masters degree or at least taking further education classes, image I could not get certified to teach in public schools. So my options began to be thus: find a job in a small private school, move to live with my friend a few states away and get any job I could find, find a position within my field but not in teaching, or remain with my parents if none of these options worked out. Moving with my friend was not a very good option. I love her, but living with her would have driven me crazy. She was fun to visit, but not to live with. I really did not want to remain under the watchful eye and scrutiny of my parents. So those two options were mostly out the window. Finding a job marginally related to my field was also not a viable option because there were not jobs to be had because of the economy. So I began, reluctantly, to look into teaching at a private school.

Most of these school are small conservative schools, with a Christian oriented curriculum, and a morality clause in their contracts. If I was hired by one of these school, discretion would be absolutely necessary. image By the way, these school rarely paid very much, about half of what I would have made at a full time position at a college. So I apply, and with my credentials, I get hired. At least, I am in a classroom again. I love teaching,and it is my passion. I just prefer to teach adults not teenagers. AD/HD and ADD is an epidemic in America. Those who teach and can deal with the stress that kids deal out to us everyday, are saints (I’m not referring to myself here, because they really try my patience most days). I tried to look on the bright side of things (as I always try to do. I strive to be an optimist.)

Then, just as I think things are going well, I have moved into my new house. I have a job, one doing what I love to do. Then I am informed, on the Friday before school starts, that my feminine behavior has been a subject of discussion. We were on another subject, dealing somewhat with the idea of me being liberal minded, when he says, "But this brings up another topic. We have at least two boys here with feminine tendencies. And since you do as image well, several of the boys are going to try you. One came up to me last night and made a comment about it. I told him that he can't be gay and be a Christian and teach here." I began to fume. I didn't show it. I just responded that I can handle these kids. They will learn that they can't push me around or show me any disrespect. I won't allow that kind of mess and I don't have the time or the patience to deal with this type of foolishness.

What I really wanted to say was this: "First of all, I can handle my own. I am more of a man than most of the men and boys at this school will ever be. I can also shoot a rifle better and more accurately than any one of them, they can just try me. It is none of your goddamn business what I do in my personal life, as long as I appear to be an upstanding citizen and I don't flaunt my "feminine tendencies." Moreover, I am in no way feminine. My voice may not be the deepest, but once any of these students make me mad, I will turn into their worst nightmare, not a drama queen."

lonely_closet_m65_b1_f6 So, as it stands, I am back in the closet. I have to finish graduate school, make myself more viable to faculty positions in higher education, and move the hell away from this hell hole. The three P’s will get me through this time in my life: Pray, Positive thinking, and Prozac (not to mention “M” for masturbation, “D” for discretion, “F” for fantasies, and “B” for all my blog buddies out there who help me stay connected to my true self—you guys make the closet not such a lonely place. THANK YOU!!! I LOVE ALL OF YOU GUYS!).

Thank you all for reading. Your comments, suggestions, and snide remarks are always welcomed. For now this will end my “Coming Out” post (I may have one more in me though), since technically I am no longer out in my public life at home. I will gladly answer most any questions you may have, and will do my best to fulfill any requests for future posts on this blog. If there is any advice I can give or information I can provide, I am more than willing to do my best.


For a follow-up to this post, please see: It’s Not All Bad…


fan of casey said...

Joe Blow: This is so sad, I don't know what to say. How do I send you a virtual hug? Hopefully the compromises you have to make now will pay off later on, actually I know they will cause once you finish your dissertation, new opportunities will be available to you. There will be a whole new world waiting for you but unfortunately that means leaving the past and your family behind. That will be difficult. Stay strong, you've made it this far, just a little more to go.

Joe said...

Fan of Casey, I did this post because I wanted to be honest with you guys. Yes, I did have my coming out, but one day soon, I hope that I can do it again and resume my life as it was. The dissertation has to get done, and it will, but for now, I am having to make the best of the situation I find myself. Sorry for the downer today, but I do still try to look on the bright side of things.

Mike said...

Hey man,

Sorry to hear you're back in the closet. I have a feeling I'll be in that boat especially in the next few months/year as I'm starting/finishing my student teaching and move into a K-12 school to work.

I don't have the most masculine voice- not by choice. I am not the most masculine, but not the most feminine. I do enjoy "guy things" as much as any other guy.

Best of luck- I know what your'e going through.

Joe said...

Mike, I just wanted to let you know that not all K-12 schools are as homophobic as mine. Some are very accepting and enjoy the diversity of faculty because they provide a more broad based education. So hopefully, you won't end up teaching at a school like mine.

If you ever want to talk about teaching or coming out or basically any topic on your mind, feel free to email me at Not only do I love getting to know my readers better, but I would also love the chance to connect with another gay teacher.

Best of luck with your student teaching, and I hope you find the perfect teaching job.

Uncutplus said...

Coming out is rarely an "all or none" process, but often happens in degrees. Those that are truly out to everyone are indeed fortunate, but I believe that is not the case for most us.

Throughout my professional career, I remained in the closet and acted very straight because it was in my best interest to do so. However, to a number of friends and some family members, I was out of the closet and free.

The degree with which one comes out has to remain a personal decision as long as there is gay bigotry in this society.

Joe said...

I agree with you totally, Uncutplus. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do, and that is what I am currently doing. I am working on a post about coming out in the workplace (at another job a few years ago).

Anonymous said...

Joe, This story made me so angry I don't know what to say. Wouldn't you love to see what would happen if some of these people who are so quick to deny you the freedom to be who you are, suddenly had to be in the closet for being straight? They would implode in 24 hours I have no doubt - and yet they expect you to live your whole life to suit their image of what you are "supposed to be" like, no matter how much it might kill you.

Of course you can always move to some city or state that is more "accepting," as many gay people do - but why should you have to leave your home in order to be who you are? Here's to the day when beautiful, rural America - and not just America's cities or a handful of progressive states - will welcome us home.

Joe said...

I would love to see what it would be like if the roles were reversed and straight people had to come out instead of gay people. It's one of those "what ifs?" that if I am not mistaken there have been a few novels written about.

I look forward to the day when all of America can be as progressive and accepting as our cities. It will happen one day, I feel sure, but just as racism still continues, so will homophobia. I attempt to teach my students each day to be more tolerant. I do what I can.

G said...

one of my habits/perspectives is to try and look at things from the most negative point of view and then pull positives out of them - it's not a redemptive kind of approach because i'll be damned if any of the crap we've gone through "needs" to have been experienced, but rather a tool of transformation - to trace back and see what possibilities might now be available
and so though i know you are in an incredibly unpleasant situation, I think also there is a profoundk nowledge that you are also not totally in the closet - your knowledge of your own self, of your needs and your desire to express something other than what these predetermined identities seems to be positioning you as - this all seeks to the work you have done already in coming out, in becoming. Neither is a process that ends - and so perhaps ths is not a closet but a another way of being where you are, working to rework, to re-envision who you are and who you want to become and how you want to live....
and in the darkness and loneliness, sometimes the thought that we are not starting from 0 again definitely can be enough to keep us going until the dawn and beyond

Joe said...

Thanks for the wonderful sentiments, Geoff. I do try to look on the bright side of things, and I know it is not all bad. My students love me, or at least they seem to. I'm not an easy teacher, but I think they like being challenged for a change. I also never asked the impossible from them, but expect their best and push them to do better.

Hopefully, this is a temporary situation for a year or two. I am fortunate that I know who I am. I may have to hide that to an extent from others, but if I teach understanding and acceptance and use my life as an example, I hope that it will rub off on those around me.

crotchdiver said...

I luv U 2 Joe. I'm alawys here if you need anything. Know know that.

Just imgine me as Lucy from peanuts with my little advice stand. LMAO

Joe said...

Thanks, crothdiver, that means a lot to me. Didn't Lucy only charge a nickle for her advice? Pretty cheap therapy your offering, LOL. But I know it will be worth every penny. It always is when in comes from you.

crotchdiver said...

It'll always be free to you.

djc314 said...

Wow, that is one heavy post. I can not add anything more than what your buddies above had said but keep this in mind---while you may not know it or see it----there are kids at htat school that are going through their own time of questioning who they are----and the way you handle things will be something that they will remember for the rest of their lives...just as you remember something from your high school have a chance to provide them the guidance that maybe you did not receive...keep your head up high and know you have fans rooting for you..

Joe said...

On a lighter note, DJC, my gaydar has pinged on a couple of them. I try to make sure that I have an accepting environment so that my students can go to school for what they are meant to, to learn. I will also be there for any of them who want to talk privately about any problems that they have.

I do hope that you got to read my follow-up to this post, "It’s Not All Bad…." Here is the link: