I never dreamed of becoming a fairy princess. Most little girls do, I know, but I never did. I was always more interested in reading books, or getting “creative” with my dad’s art supplies, or riding my bike, or playing “Knight Rider”, “Cloak & Dagger”, or “A-Team” with my friends. When I got older, all that changed, as they often do. I started high school. I met a boy. He was dreamy. I was done for.
We started off as friends, but grew closer over time. We had a million and one things in common: TV shows, movies, music, politics, sense of humour…
Oh, and boys. We were both attracted to boys.
At first, finding out that we shared this particular interest was difficult for me to swallow. Not because I thought it was wrong for him to like boys, but because I just never thought that something like this would ever happen to me. Once I realized that it wasn’t happening “to me”, however, and that what he was going through was far worse than anything I could have imagined, I got over it. It wasn’t easy, but I got over it. And I’m glad I did, because that was – and still is – one of the best relationships I’ve ever had. Ever.
As I got even older, I met even more boys who liked boys, too. I’m not sure how that happened, because it’s not exactly like I went looking for them. I would just meet them through work, or through school, or through mutual friends. These boys are as near and dear to my heart as that first boy is, and the relationship I have with them is like no other. There’s a level of support, understanding, and unconditional love that most people never get to experience, no matter what type of relationship they’re in.
Mainstream society would refer to a woman like me as a “Fag Hag”. It should come as no surprise that I find that term deeply offensive, because of its blatant homophobia and misogyny. “Fairy Princess”*, on the other hand, is wonderfully subversive, because it cuts right through the heart of the patriarchy that enables the systemic oppression of queer people and women.
It should also come as no surprise that, as a Fairy Princess, I am absolutely heartsick about the six – that’s right, six – young gay men who have taken their lives over the past few weeks, due to anti-gay bullying at the hands of their peers:
As an educator, I’m outraged that this abuse – because it was abuse, not just “bullying” – took place at school. Teachers knew about it. Students knew about it. Administrators knew about it. Yet, they all let the situation escalate to a point that became literally unbearable for these young men. Being in education, I’m well aware of the myriad reasons why homophobic abuse goes unnoticed and unaddressed in schools: it forces people to examine the bigotry they’ve internalized, or defend the bigotry they’ve externalized; it creates tension between the school and (some) parents, who feel that discussions about homosexuality should be a private, family matter; it sets the stage for “Oppression Olympics”, wherein people claim that their religious rights trump the human rights of LGBT youth… in short, it creates conflict, and makes people uncomfortable.
I understand where these people are coming from. I don’t agree with their positions, but I can understand why they might hold them.
What I don’t understand, however, is how they – especially the ones who are educators – can allow themselves to sacrifice the health, well-being and, in fact, the very lives of the young people in their care, for the sake of maintaining their own personal (and/or professional) comfort. To me, that’s the opposite of what being an educator is about. Our job is to support our students. Period. It’s too late for Seth, Asher, Billy, Justin, Tyler and Raymond, but it is not too late for all the other queer and questioning youth who are in our care. Not only do we have the power to make their school lives enjoyable, enriching, and safe, but it’s our responsibility to do so.
Those who are unwilling, or unable, to accept this responsibility need to think about getting a different job. Period.
* I must give credit where credit is due: this term was coined by my friend B.’s “other” fairy princess, R.