Welcome to class, I’m Alana and I’m Queer.
I wouldn’t say I “hid” my queerness. It was more like l let them decide and didn’t argue.
I write this sentence and pause. I need to give it some extra thought. See, I don’t think passing privilege is much of a privilege so much as it’s a conditional advantage. It means a person has to hide or go along to get along in order to get on those ladder rungs before they decay. Before they disintegrate. Before climbing becomes much more impossible.
The thing about a society based on privilege is we all become complicit in some way.
I only ever talked about my husband in class or with my colleagues. I never talked about my girlfriend. In much the same way I thought my politics was off-limits. I was telling myself my students didn’t need to know about queerness, about other types of marriages or relationships.
But another thing was also happening. I was telling myself I wasn’t queer enough.
There’s no P for pansexual in QUILTBAG. I didn’t think queer was for me.
I’ve never been harassed for kissing my girl. I didn’t think queer was for me.
No one told me I couldn’t hold her hand. I didn’t think queer was for me.
Then some things happened. Someone called my department head and threatened to out me. They threatened to call human resources and my boss. They threatened to call my parents.
What’s the media advice here? Get out in front of the story and write the narrative yourself? So I told a few people. I didn’t make any big announcement.
I still didn’t think queer was for me.
PULSE happened. I felt so much sadness, so much grief. I was embarrassed at the ways I had attempted to further my own privilege by not acknowledging my queerness. I gave inner attention to how much I could stand up for my queer students by simply existing as a queer scholar.
I wrote a big thing and posted it on the Book of Faces. I started really talking to my son about queerness. I started dealing with the erasure I felt because I was in a marriage that looks hetero.
Then I started stating it in class. Hi, I’m Alana and here are some things about me: You’ll be able to tell my politics by the second week, I have some kids, I study racial formation , I’ve experienced poverty, domestic violence, sexual violence, and I’m queer.
It felt liberating, but more than liberating myself I hoped that my students felt that no matter their identities they felt safe acknowledging them in my class. That one space they could count on that would be okay for them to be queer, to be Black, to be Latinx, to be undocumented, to be non-monogamous, to be poor, to be a single parent, to have a disability, to be a woman, to be an immigrant, to have suffered abuse, to have intersections of these.