We’re in September. Into Autumn days when the Earth is jewelled, with silk inside the chestnut shells . Into term, into teaching. As my English colleagues lament the end of Induction week, I am well into the throes of teaching, in Scotland. First year teaching is stressful. Holding their anxiety whilst managing a barrier between me and them, my stress and theirs, is tiring. They are seventeen years-old. This is normal. Reassure them that this is normal.
Third year teaching I am finding much more fulfilling. Social justice. Social Psychology. Structural inequality over psychological deficit to explain society’s problems. We look at privilege. How to check your privilege. We use McIntosh’s checklist. Statements like, “I am never asked to speak for all the people of my group . . ”, “I have no difficulty finding neighbourhoods where people approve of our household”. When it comes to a number of characteristics, I am privileged. I am never asked to speak for all White folk. I will never be assumed guilty of a crime because of my race.
But another characteristic is proving more tricky. Not in this course, and not for these students, disappointed as I was that they didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for Grace Petrie’s ‘Black Tie‘ which is one of the best songs about the absurdity of the gender binary ever. Elsewhere in the university, I am stunned when a colleague at a meeting says that they don’t know what LGBT stands for. Folds their arms and looks out of the window. Disengages. We are planning to adopt a charter to embody the the values that we hold as a team towards the LGBT staff and student community in our care, their work as trainee teachers in the wider community. I have been asked to champion this.
Meanwhile, the Union has asked me to consider becoming their Equality and Diversity Rep. At one level, this makes a lot of sense. Disability, physical and otherwise, a woman, a lesbian. At another I am petrified at the prospect of advocating for my identity. Of doing so on behalf of others. I am wondering why this role isn’t already taken. And to consider it in the face of privilege that knocked me sideways a couple of weeks ago. It’s normal another colleague said. Unacceptable, but normal. And that gives me hope. My sense of happiness at finally being who I truly am, and with someone whom I truly love, gives me hope. There are people out there who see heterosexist privilege as unacceptably normal. And that means it needs to change, there is appetite for it to change. Some colleagues say that they support the charter. Even if I am not the most assertive button in the box, I am a button. I can be useful. I will be useful.