back to class ~ Outside the Margins with Brandon Witt

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Brandon Witt Outside the Margins

In my student teacher years, at the end of my masters (I was 27 or 28), one of the gay students discovered my facebook, or mysapce. . . .something, and found out I was gay. He commented on it. He said nothing inappropriate at all. He was just glad I was gay too.

My supervisor from the university and supervising teacher from the middle school were petrified, for me. So afraid of accusations and what might happen next. I only had a few weeks left in my final semester. My supervisor said that I was one of the most natural teachers he’d ever met and that I didn’t need any more instruction in this fashion, that it was only protocol at this point. (I was a good teacher, but not a natural. And not a teacher teacher. I’ve met them. They are a wonderful, priceless breed. And I am not one of them at all. And very much okay with that.) To protect me, they decided to simply say I had met my hours and requirements, so that nothing bad would happen. Honestly, the couple weeks left wouldn’t make a difference to my education or skill in the slightest, that much was true. I, at that time, having just come out of reparative therapy, was scared as well, so I was ready to book it. And, the thought being done with my masters ‘early’ worked for me as well.

I never changed my Facebook, though. After reparative therapy, I swore I’d never hide again. I haven’t.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak to a high school class about writing, about my process in publishing. I asked them if they knew what kind of books I wrote. They laughed and told me it was a queer lit class, with both LGBTQ and straight kids in the class.

I said yes.

Turns out, this was the same school Malala spoke at a few months ago. She picks one school in the US to talk to each year (so I’ve been told, I’ve not verified) and she chose this school. Part of the reason is the make-up of the school’s population. There are a huge number of immigrants and refugees as this school (again, so I’ve been told, I’ve not verified).

It was amazing to walk through. Outside of the streets of New York, I’ve never been in the middle of such intense diversity, both in skin tone and dress. It blew my mind to begin with to have a queer lit class, let alone in a school where so many of the religions represented are not okay with gayness.

I started off teaching with high school aged kids (I was 21, some of them were 18), but finished my last eight years with elementary students. So, it was quite an adjustment to be surrounded by such young adults again.

They asked a few questions about books and publishing and writing. Not many, honestly.

The wanted to know about my childhood. My family. Reparative therapy. The election. My boyfriend. How old I was when I got my first kiss (23). What my tattoos meant. About my corgis. About God. About religion. About damnation. About what my views on God is now.

I was expecting some questions about me. I was hoping for lots of questions about writing. I never dreamed in a millions years half of the fifty minute block would be a sharing of theology (one of my degrees). I was blown away by the passion and depth of these students’ thoughts on God. Because their statements and beliefs were not ones that were simply passed down upon them, but were matters in which they had individually thought about, battled with, and questioned.

It was surreal to talk about what I believe to these young people. And, honestly, I hesitated for a moment. As a teacher, it’s drilled into you that you don’t give your point of view. But, I wasn’t their teacher, even if I was an authority for 50 minutes. I did let them know that my view of how I see God is a construct that I came up with for myself. And, that it is most likely completely wrong, but the only possible way that I can accept that particular entity.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I would choose no other time to live. I’m so very thankful that I got to experience the dark day of the 80’s in the rural Ozarks and now get to see gay rights happening, be part of that fight, and live to see the other side of it. It’s beautiful.

While I was still getting my youth ministry degree, I got the top portion of my left ear pierced twice.

I was told I shouldn’t be allowed to work with children, that I would corrupt them. And that was earrings. Let alone the constant comparison to homosexuality and pedophilia.

I can’t imagine the scandal if someone like me had stood up in front of my class when I was in high school. Actually, I can imagine. Very clearly. Honestly, knowing what I know of that town, it still wouldn’t be pretty. Of course, neither would the gorgeous young girl wearing a hijab who passed me in the hallway as I walked to the classroom.

Today I stood in front of room of beautiful junior and senior women and men of seemingly limitless nationalities and backgrounds and spoke about my gay books, the history of my personal experiences and perceptions with being a gay American. I was nervous, and it was far from perfect. There were a few lulls where they were no questions and I had no clue what to say. In many ways, it was not even close to what I’d hoped it would be. In others, so much, much more. Maybe some things we discussed will stay with them, challenge them, offer them hope. Maybe. But, honestly, I was not a unicorn to them. (They were strange to me, beautifully so, and not the other way around.) I wasn’t fascinating or other or even overly interesting or scandalous. I was a gay who writes some books. Big fucking deal. Just a gay guy, who showed up to talk and got them out of homework for the night. I wasn’t revolutionary or unfamiliar in the slightest. Honestly, my existence bordered on boring, or at least common, to them.

And THAT is fucking awesome! And exactly how it should be.


~Brandon Witt

About Brandon Witt

Brandon Witt resides in Denver, Colorado. When not snuggled on the couch with his two Corgis, Dunkyn and Dolan, he is more than likely in front of his computer, nose inches from the screen, fingers pounding they keys. When he manages to tear himself away from his writing addiction, he passionately takes on the role of a special education teacher during the daylight hours.

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Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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3 thoughts on “back to class ~ Outside the Margins with Brandon Witt

  1. As I am from just east of Springfield, I am aware of the Ozarks you speak of. I despair of it ever being supportive of LGBTQ persons, Too many churches preaching hate.

  2. Wonderful post. I’m so glad we encounter these broadminded youngsters more often every single day. We need the young to fix the mess their elders are getting them into right now. Your post made me hopeful it will happen. 🙂

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