Yesterday a bright, smiling, young teen (let’s call her M) came into the Teen Room for the first time. She was super excited about the space and the programs we offer, but was especially jazzed about the Gryffindor sweatshirt I was wearing, thus proving her excellent taste in life.
I, of course, was quick to say that I am actually a Ravenclaw, but alas most stores do not carry Ravenclaw merch.
So after fangirling about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Doctor Who and the fact that she now had someone to fangirl with (that would be me), M sort of out of the blue says,
“So what do you think about this Supreme Court Ruling on gay marriage?”
And I had to change gears, in a split second, from just casually chatting about fandoms to making a decision about whether or not to mention that I’m a lesbian in my answer to her question.
Now, I’m super out to all my coworkers, and I’ve mentioned an ex girlfriend to one of my teens in the context of a conversation where she was looking for relationship advice and I had gone through something similar with an ex girlfriend. But otherwise, when it comes to conversations with my teens, my sexual orientation hasn’t come up.
And usually I don’t think about it much.
But in that moment, I felt myself tally the little information I knew about her, this girl I’d just met. One of the few things I’d learned in the 20 minutes we’d been talking was that she was homeschooled. Now I know not everyone is homeschooled for religious reasons, but many of them are, and all the homeschooled kids who had previously come into the Teen Room had been so for religious reasons. One girl who comes in, regularly asks me to help her find things like “books that prove creationism,” (sorry kid) or “arguments against global warming,” (again not so much). She’s sweet and I help her as best I can without telling her and her mother (who looks through every single fiction book the poor girl wants to check out) I think everything they believe is wrong. So with this experience in mind, and the knowledge that M is homeschooled and is pretty young and I had no idea why she was bringing it up, I said,
“I’m a big fan of the ruling. I think it is awesome.”
I didn’t add “I’m queer myself, so it’s a personal win, but also I just generally think it’s great.” Which is what I might have said if just one of a hundred tiny circumstances had been different.
So I just stated that I was happy about it and waited for her response.
Which was adorable.
“I know! I think its awesome! I mean, pardon my french but it’s about damn time. I am so happy. I think it’s great.”
And after that we moved on to more important topics like fanfiction.
Her: Have you ever heard of Fan Fic?
Me: Have I ever heard of Fan Fic? OH GIRL!
But later, on my way home I found myself trying to figure out how I felt about that split second decision to not come out right then.
Now, there are a lot of things I don’t tell my teens. When they ask about my weekend, I don’t tell them I did nothing but lounge around watching Netflix in my underwear. I don’t tell them if I’m casually dating someone. I don’t tell them when I’m super hungover because I had to many whiskey sours at trivia the night before. And I don’t tell them these things because it’s not professional or appropriate. And because it’s none of their damn business.
So maybe it’s okay that I didn’t come out to this teen that I had just met. Maybe me being gay is just another thing she didn’t need to know right then.
But on the other hand, one of the things I love about my job is that I’m not restricted by dumb ass school policy and I can be much more open with them than I would have been when I was teaching.
In general, my policy with personal issues is that if it comes up directly I will be open and honest about things.When asked directly if I drink alcohol, I said that I do, that drinking is okay in moderation, if you’re responsible about it and never ever drive. When asked if I thought high school relationships could last forever I said I’d seen it happen, but much more often I’d seen it definitely not happen, and that mine sure did not. When asked about the sticker on my laptop I confirmed that I am, indeed, a feminist and proud to be so.
So was this a question that had come up directly? Maybe, maybe not. It was certainly an opportunity, and one I declined.
So why did I decline it? Partly because still there is a voice in my head saying, “What if the teens learn you’re gay and then never want to come back?” or “What if their parents freak out and refuse to let them come back because you’re gay?” The answer, of course, is “their fucking loss.” And since I’m the librarian and they the patron it’s not like they have control over me. I’m not going to lose my job, and I am confident in my bosses all standing behind me if the shit ever hit the fan.
Plus I’m aware that, in general, my teens don’t have strong opinions about marriage equality. Last Friday when the ruling came down, a teen asked what I was reading so intently online. I told him about the supreme court’s ruling, and the handful of teens in the space all responded with variations of, “That wasn’t already a thing? That’s dumb. Who cares who other people marry.” So for the most part I’m not worried about a mass exodus of teens from my programs.
I suppose the key phrase being “for the most part.”
But in the midst of all the celebrating of this historic ruling I never thought I’d see, I guess it’s important to remember that we still have a long way to go. Because even after I legally gained the right to have a codependent marriage and a messy divorce like all the breeders in the country, I still have moments where I’m faced with a choice to be open about who I am, and my instinct is still, sometimes, to go, “Nope! Not here, not now.” It’s still a thing to disclose or not disclose, that can complicate relationships and cause drama and problems.
And in the words of my teens, that’s dumb.