Scot, in his own words: “I came out to myself long before I came out to anyone else. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel a sense of “otherness” because of who I was attracted to, but it took me a very long time to be honest with myself and those around me. The first gay person I remember meeting was my high school girlfriend’s mom, and I was afraid to meet her because she might instantly know I was gay. Conversely, I was also excited because I had never before, to my knowledge, met another gay person. I remember that she seemed so normal and comfortable in her own skin, and I also remember wanting that feeling more than anything in the whole world.
The growth of a visible gay culture made it easier to accept my “gayness.” A year before I came out to my friends and family, Ellen Degeneres came out, and there suddenly seemed to be gay people everywhere! It was like a queer Renaissance! By the time I went away to college, TV shows like Will & Grace were popular and the media was finally giving sympathetic attention to hate crimes committed against gay people such as Matthew Shepherd. When I eventually stepped out of the closet in 1998, I became obsessed with gay culture, wanting to learn and consume as much as I could. I joined as many LGBT groups as I could (including one called The Swarm of Dykes) took every single LGBT-focused course that Ohio University offered, and wrote several letters to the school newspaper advocating for gay rights.
The biggest challenge I faced when coming out was gaining the love and acceptance of my mom and my brother. They both had a very typical reaction – shocked, angry, and confused. It took a long time for them to come around, but there’s no awkwardness about it anymore in my family. My sisters, who are 14 years younger than me, grew up knowing I was gay, and both have been involved in Gay-Straight Alliances in high school and college.
Along the way, I’ve also struggled with learning how to build that most significant relationship: the one I have with myself. I’d love the opportunity to travel back in time and warn myself that, unless I focus first on fostering a healthy level of love and respect inwardly, I’m going to go through a lot of heartbreak (and that I’m also going to cause some). I’d tell myself to love me no matter what.
Over time, being gay has become less political to me, and more about how I live my everyday life. I don’t necessarily need to shout that I’m gay from the top of any roofs (although I wouldn’t mind doing that), but I believe that I can influence change on a more personal level. I became a teacher for a very grandiose reason: to change the world. I believe that I do that by teaching my students about our interconnectedness as humans and the importance of valuing the differences of others, instead of fearing them.
My personal belief system can be boiled down to my fascination with the character of Superman and his higher sense of purpose. He may be god-like and nearly invincible, but he inspires me because of his commitment to protect and fight for those who can’t defend themselves. To some people, he represents that which is unattainable, always floating high above the earth and looking down at us, but they’re missing the point. To me, he represents something more grounded and simple: our capacity to love and care for one another unconditionally. This will always be my hope for humanity, and it will always be the reason that I continue to teach my students to oppose those who seek to oppress others or who take advantage of those who cannot defend themselves.”