Christine, Wondering

Random Musings of a Human Becoming

Friday, February 18, 2011

Faith, equality and deception

Yesterday I had my first ever English parents' night. 28 parent interviews at 5-minute intervals. It was a long night, but mostly positive, and with some insights and breakthroughs that have put me on rather a high.

However, the process got me thinking a lot about what one tells others about oneself. The parents told me (probably unconsciously) many little facts about themselves and their family life during the interviews. I shared the occasional relevant thing about myself as well, but I found myself constantly on guard about what I felt I should not reveal.

I'm "out" at work to the staff - they all know that I have a girlfriend, and so far as most of them know, I'm only into girls. No one has a problem with it, and although I get a little bit of excess curiosity from the older staff members, generally it passes without comment (or with only friendly comments). I have not talked about my faith at work, and I deliberately choose not to wear pentacles/trees of life etc around my neck. Lesbian they can probably deal with, lesbian witch might be too much.

But, I would never have hesitated to wear a cross or a St Christopher...

I am careful not to out myself to the parents, either as a lesbian or as a pagan. On my class ethnicities list, two sets of parents identified as 'no religion' and one as Hindu, and the remainder are equally divided between Christian and Muslim. About half of the Christian kids are from white English families and I suspect they are not devout (I'm trying to remember a quote from Pratchett and Gaiman's "Good Omens" - when they avoid going to church, CofE is the church to which they steadfastly avoid going). But regardless, they felt it important enough to enter on their childrens' enrolment records. I do know that one family is serious enough that their child is not allowed to be read anything involving witches, ghosts or anything "dark".

I have no idea how many of the class parents hold homophobic views... and just about everyone seems to be wary of, if not actively antipathetic towards, pagans. Legally, they're not allowed to mind that someone of an alternative religion or sexuality is teaching their children. Morally, they're allowed to think what they want as long as they keep it to themselves. But it's very, very murky ground. It only takes one parent making a fuss, and there are so many things that parents can fuss about when it comes to teachers. A parent objecting to my faith or sexuality would never have to mention either in order to make my job a living hell.

So I keep silent, and it feels dishonest. But what price honesty?

And yet, every day in class, when the children aren't around to listen, I talk cheerfully to my headscarfed, Muslim teaching assistant about my lesbian relationship. She knows all about E and has shown not one iota of disapproval or concern. What she thinks privately I have no idea, but she is comfortable with the idea enough to ask how E is and discuss my weekends with her and ask about her son. I was wary the first time I mentioned E to her, not knowing what the reaction might be, but feeling that as I work so closely with her it would be a strain to hold back. I'm glad I did tell her, as it's been a very healthy demonstration of the fact that mere faith does not define most people.

So I hide my true self from the parents of the kids in my class. They could all be like my TA - cool with it regardless of their own beliefs. But it only takes one who isn't.

I would never hesitate to wear a cross. I would never hesitate to mention a male partner.

Equality in the law is nearly there. Equality in the community is patchy. I just want to be my whole self.