I was about to teach a class a month ago, third period, to Japanese junior high third graders (US high school freshmen). Everything was going fine, students talking or playing cards or whatever they do between classes, and then one of them turns to me and says, “OH, are you gay?!”
That was an awkward moment for me.
He was obviously joking, of course. He’s that kind of outspoken silly student, and teachers in Japan are never gay—in fact, no one is really gay here unless they’re on TV or in a metropolis. He could barely contain his laughter, so pleased with himself for being so subversive as to suggest that his teacher was, y’know. Like that.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head as if to say, “Oh, you. You and your crazy ways,” and at the time that seemed like a good compromise, the highest ground between outright lying and coming out. The more I look back on it, though, the less satisfied I am. The more I look back at it, the more I see fear and dishonesty and fractured integrity.
There are reasons for not coming out. There are zero anti-discrimination laws for nonheterosexuals here, and what few laws there are for workers in general don’t really apply to foreigners; there’s a good chance that if I’d been honest with my student I would have gotten fired (and consequently deported) because of it. Even if that hadn’t happened, It would have made the rest of the school year pretty uncomfortable. I judge this from the way my loud and mischievous student’s teacher apologized, mortified that his student had done something so insulting as question my heterosexuality, even jokingly.
These reasons do not, in my mind, excuse me for pretending to be straight. I’m not straight. If there’s anything I learned from BYU and Mormonism, it’s that pretending to be straight is a violence to my self. I was raised on stories of men being crucified or burned alive or thrown into lions’ dens rather than violate their truth. My ancestors walked across the Great Plains for their truth, and I’m not willing to suffer a few months of extremely polite awkwardness or, at worst, an early plane ride back to California?
To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this experience even after a month. I don’t know that I’d answer differently now, even though I’m pretty sure in my head that that would be the moral, honest thing to do. There are concerns of language and appropriateness and privacy that I haven’t been able to work out.
I do get some comfort from John, though, who lied about knowing Christ. Sometimes we’re just too weak to do the right thing.
This week, I’m going to decide whether or not I want to stay closeted here in Japan, and why.
I’m pleased to be writing for BtS. I think it's pretty awesome, and I think I’m pretty awesome, and I hope you'll think I'm pretty awesome too. I know you probably have a long list of other blogs to read, but if you have a moment, I'd like to know what you think of this. And this post.