Growing up in a small, conservative community, I learned early on to keep my true self hidden. My sexuality was a secret I guarded fiercely, aware that in the close-knit circles of my hometown, it wouldn’t be accepted. This knowledge cast a shadow over my youth, but it also ignited a flame within me — a determination to find a path that led beyond the confines of narrow-mindedness. Education was my beacon, my compass guiding me through the fog of fear and judgment.
I clung to the belief that if I could excel in school, make it to college, and become a teacher, I could escape the suffocating atmosphere of my hometown. This goal was my lifeline, pulling me forward through years of silent struggle. And eventually, I made it. I was accepted into a teacher education program, a tangible step toward the life I yearned for — one where I could be true to myself without fear.
But the journey was far from straightforward. In one of my final field experience placements I was assigned a cooperating teacher, Mrs. H, who was known for her expertise in classroom management and innovative teaching methods but who, I soon discovered, harbored strong negative opinions about the LGBTQ community. She often made dismissive comments, cloaked in humor but cutting deep, about “people choosing to be gay.”