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Something small that made a big difference

I am a teacher. I've worked in all different places: pre-schools, primary schools, high schools; mainstream schools, behavioural schools, special education schools, cultural schools. As someone in a same-sex relationship, I've discovered that each place has reacted to me in different ways. I've been accepted and ostracised; I've felt safe and felt targeted. I've been told to keep my 'weakness' from damaging the school, and that it's ok to discuss relationships with children, as long as they're not same-sex relationships. I've found friends who love me and colleagues who hate me without knowing me. I've had bosses who embraced anti-homophobia campaigns and bosses who sought to have me removed. But none of this has had as much of an impact on me as what happenned last week.

 

I've been in a new position for a few weeks now. It's a lovely day-care centre, very big on inclusion and equality and I'm happy to be a part of it. As is my usual tactic when around people I'm unsure of, I used the term 'partner' whenever I needed to refer to my girlfriend. No one started referring to my 'boyfriend' or 'husband', which was a relief as I didn't have to correct them.

Then... I forgot my lunch. My lovely girlfriend offered to drop it off for me so I wouldn't go hungry, expecting that she could just hand it to someone at the front desk to pass along with me. When she arrived, saying that she was just there to drop off my lunch, she was greeted with a big smile from the boss. "Come on through, you can go in and say hello if you like!".  So in they came, to the room where I was surrounded toddlers and lego, accompanied by a bright "You have a visitor!", a sandwich, a cookie, and a bottle of water.

 

And then came the part that surprised me the most.

A while later, a work mate asked me plainly, "Was that your partner who bought your lunch?".

Doesn't seem like much, does it? But, in nearly 4 years of being together, it is the first time I have been asked that question. I have been asked if she is my sister, friend, cousin, or housemate. But never partner or girlfriend. And this question was asked just one would ask a straight girl, "Is that your boyfriend?".

 

It may not seem like much to someone else, but it made my day.

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Comment by Kimby on June 21, 2011 at 20:29
Hi Melina, thanks for the comment!
I suppose since it wasn't a 'legal' marriage it was ok for people to not acknowledge it? *sigh* Isn't it interesting that sometimes it's what ISN'T said or done that has the biggest impact on you?
Comment by Melina MIchelle Magdalena on June 21, 2011 at 20:16

Yay! that's a great story. Such small tokens of acceptance really do make a difference.

 

When my partner and I got "married" in January 2009 I went back to the school I had been teaching at for 2 years with a ring on my finger, a new address, new lots of things. At our usual back-to-school PD session nothing was said. Then at our first whole staff meeting there were a few "milestone" announcements. Nothing was said. I saw the Principal look at me at one point but he was the one who would have said something and he didn't.

A few months later my partner was pregnant and I announced it to the whole school. When our baby was born I put a photo of him in our All Staff email list along with his stats and how pleased we were. Since then my partner and our baby have visited the school several times. I am quite happy with the level of being out that I have there.

However, there have still been a couple of times where I have felt excluded, and although they were small incidents amongst a number of larger, happier things, they still impact upon me and how happy I am at my workplace.

So I can really relate to the impact of your workmate acknowledging that you might be in a same-sex relationship and that being perfectly OK.

 

Comment by Kimby on June 14, 2011 at 17:01
Thank you for your replies :)
The day after this, I had someone use 'he' when we were talking about my partner. When I replied, I used "she", and the collegue I was speaking with immediately switched to "she" as well, without making any issue out of it at all.
I also discovered that another staff member (who has been there a lot longer than me) is also in a same-sex relationship. So yes, I'm feeling very settled and accepted! :)
Comment by Andre Stoffels on June 14, 2011 at 12:33
What a delightful simple story epitomising what probably everyone in society wants to feel - to simply be accepted for who we are.  Seemingly such a small thing to give but a huge gift to receive. Such a shame that too many people in influential places don't seem to understand the message in this seemingly minor event.  I wonder if they could understand how you felt Kimby or how I feel inside just in reading this.  What a wonderful world it could be if only ........................
Comment by Rainbow Family Tree on June 14, 2011 at 11:24
That's a great story and made me smile Kimby! Maybe it's these small things that actually reflect social change... just as much as legal reform? It bodes really well for settling into your new work place, no?

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