Friday, June 10, 2005

I'm Sorry I Made Fun of Your Sexual Orientation

For the last week, I have been in residency at a West Side elementary school. My partner Mary and I are teaching improv to K-8 grades. These are some hard kids, mostly black and latino. Most come from some fucked up homes and many have learning disabilities. Ultimately, they are just children that were born into a tough situation.

Last Thursday, as the 7th and 8th gradeers left the library that we use as a makeshift studio, one of the 7th grade boys asked me if I was gay. I looked at him with a cold stare and answered, "yes." His eyes grew twice as large and he started laughing and pointing at me. Now, I find it dificult to allow a child to make me feel bad. They really don't have much power so I could care less what they think of me. I just brushed off as a curious and obnoxious pre-teen.

Tuesday, when we returned to the school, the boy asked me if I remembered what I had said last week. I lied, "no." He laughed and reminded me that I was gay. He whispered and giggled the whole class with his friends (I assumed about me). The next day, one of the teachers asked me if he was being a nuisance and would I like him removed. He was but I didn't want to kick him out.

We played an improv game in which the students hold an imaginary box. They describe the box and the contents of it. When I got around to "Gay Curious" he said that his box contained muscular action men and not girly men that had tea parties. If I could have only taken him to the gym so that he could he see all the gay muscle boys. Or even better, I could have directed him over to Rod so he can see beautiful beefy black men. I asked him to repeat what he said. He did. I could have snapped his little neck in two right then but I held my composure. One of the teachers swooped in and took him out.

I moved on with the other students and the box excercise. One of the girls described her box as a pretty blue. I asked her to be specific. I asked if it were periwinkle, cornblue, or Tiffany. None of the students knew what blue was so I explained that it was a high end jewelry and gift store. As I explained, one of the other boys made a comment like, "is that where you bought your shirt?" That was the last straw. It is one thing to question my manhood but I will not stand for anyone to criticize my outfit. I looked that boy in the eye and told him not make side comments about me. If he had anything to say, I continued, he needed to say it to my face. I told them that that went for all of them. I told them that cowards snigger in the dark and men and women do things in the open. There was a hush in the room. A couple of the girls, "ooh"ed but they all now knew that Mr. Lilly don't play.

At the end of the session, Gay Curious Boy came back to apologize (because he teacher made him). "I'm sorry Mr. Lilly," he said, "for making fun of your sexual orientation." Life is fucking hysterical.

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