I don't often write diaries. I don't really consider myself to be that dynamic on paper (or screen, or what-have-you), but I really felt as though I couldn't keep this to myself, particularly in light of the continued struggle for gay rights that so many before me, and really before all of us, have undertaken.
Tonight, I was fired from a job I was supposed to begin in 7 weeks. Pretty much my dream job. And it is because I am openly gay.
This past year, I have worked in tax and budget policy here in lovely Denver, Colorado. The work was fun, particularly for someone liberal who likes a challenge. You try telling a bunch of ranchers that we need to raise their taxes! I decided earlier this year, though, that I really want to teach, and teach abroad. Long story short, a former mentor of mine set me up with a search program that put me in contact with dozens of schools. This February, I was offered jobs by several of them - schools in Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Egypt.
In the end, I chose to teach debate in Korea. Seoul, to be exact, at a particular international school (name withheld for the moment). I was ecstatic. I debated in college, and have taught international and second-language learners debate over the past two summers in Connecticut. I simply couldn't wait to begin, and was scheduled to depart on August 1st.
Then, two days ago, I received an email from the Director and Founder of the school. He simply asked me to call him so that we could chat. I was very excited: I would finally find out what day I was leaving and which courses I would be teaching.
But no. The Director (again, name withheld at the moment) told me that one of his faculty members had discovered that I wrote a pro-gay article for a website, and had mentioned gay rights events on my Twitter feed.
So he asked me, point blank: "Are you a gay?"
I was not only taken aback, I didn't quite know what to say. So I responded the only way I knew how.
"Yes, I'm gay."
Now, for a bit of context, I knew that Korea wasn't the most queer-friendly location. I don't wear my sexuality on my sleeve, but I most definitely don't shy away from it. Lying about the fact that I'm gay is like lying about my name; it's intrinsic to who I am, my identity. I am so much more than a gay man, but that doesn't mean that I am not also proud to be queer.
The Director promptly told me he had to speak with his principals and teachers about "this revelation." I knew exactly what he meant. Korea doesn't have anti-discrimination laws (thanks to a ploy by the ruling party in Parliament in 2007 to gut a bill that would have provided protections to the LGBT community).
I received an email as I slept, telling me to figure out "what I knew about my identity" and "how I would deal with teachers who knew." I had thought about these questions often, and yet sat and thought about them again. If anything, they strengthened my resolve to go. A school with 1,000 students, no matter where it is in the world, undoubtedly has a number of queer students figuring out their sexual orientation while being told by those around them that it is a sin, and that they themselves would be worthless if they happened to realize they were gay.
The Director and I spoke again tonight, as planned. I was told that someone of my "identity, politics, and religious persuasion (I'm an Episcopalian, and I can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone on biblical history, revisionism, and interpretational theology) wasn't welcomed at their school. Just like that. 7 weeks until I leave. I quit my job, sold my apartment, car and belongings, and had spent hundreds on Korean lessons, only to be told that not only could I not come teach, I was not entitled to recourse with my contract. Korean law (or so they said, any help legal folks???) allows them to void the contract willy-nilly. I was offered $3,000 and told that this was the best I could hope for.
Now I want to feel sorry for myself. And I do. I could feel sorry for this bigoted Director and his faculty. A little bit of me does (and a little of me wants to tell him to go fuck himself). But I know that I could have made life easier for my gay and lesbian students, who could see someone around them who wasn't ashamed of his sexuality nor afraid to confront those around him.
I won't be teaching in Korea next year. I won't be going because I'm gay.
We all talk a lot about discrimination, particularly amongst gays and lesbians and those of us who are transgender. We lament the lack of equal marriage in 96% of the United States. Sometimes, we forget how fucked up the rest of the world remains. We forget the gay Iraqis, who are killed for who they are, or the gay Russians, who are beaten, or the gay Koreans, who kill themselves rather than "shame their families." Even when we pay attention to these atrocities, both seen and unseen, are we really paying attention?
Tomorrow, I will be coming out to the rest of my family, those who don't yet know (I'm 22, and came out at 19 to my friends). To those Korean teachers, I was literally a nameless, faceless faggot. And because of my Director's closed-mindedness, they won't get to know someone who's not only gay, but an ardent Steelers fan, who climbs mountains and drinks whiskey from the bottle, (and yes, maybe, just maybe, occasionally has sex with men). They won't get to know me, but my grandparents finally will.
Thanks for listening to the ramble. A bit disjointed, but hopefully we all can think about those outside the US, who instead of fighting for marriage rights are fighting for the right to live, or the right to hold hands in public, or the right to work the profession they want, openly and without shame.
We shouldn't let up the fight here, both politically and interpersonally. But let's not forget the rest of the globe. God Bless.
Update: I sincerely want to thank everyone who has commented and offered their condolences, assistance and stories. These have really meant a lot to me as I've been figuring out what to do next.
To complicate matters, this morning the Director of the school emailed me to offer me the job again, telling me that "the decision is up to you" yet reiterating that I would not be welcomed there. I not only doubt the sincerity of the message and its author, but continue to believe that I cannot be put into that sort of situation after being told that I'm unwelcome and will essentially be a pariah amongst my peers and fellow faculty. I believe he may be attempting to get me to "quit" and put the onus on myself for this decision so that no legal action can be possible.
I am speaking with an attorney today, for everyone who asked, and I will keep the community abreast of what happens there and in my coming out/future plans. Your kind words have been most welcome, and I wish you all the very best.