Thursday, May 3, 2012

Did they have that back then?

I had come a long way from my humble Catholic school beginnings to a university freshman. As is so often the case with freshmen, I was taking several "core" classes that were required before upper level "major" classes could be taken. One of them was world history. We began with ancient history, Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and all that jazz. As the semester went on, we worked our way to Alexander the Great. My professor, Dr. Wilson, who was a brilliant world history teacher, but whom later disappointed me with his acute interested in southern history, made mention that Alexander the Great was speculated to have been gay or bisexual.

A speculation I had long known of, I found it completely uncompelling. Would that it were the same for my classmates. Several small gasps filled the room followed by an awkward silence. Dr. Wilson looked up, with a brow raised, partially aware but partially puzzled that his statement was the source of discomfort. What seemed like an eternity of silence, but was likely the span of a few seconds, was finally broken by the confused question of a prospective frat boy.

"Did they have that back then?"

The class's reaction was split about 50/50 between inquisitiveness and incredulity. I'm sure you can guess which half I helped populate. Dr. Wilson couldn't help but giggle and say, "Yeah, it's not like being gay is a new thing."

The inquisitive half of the class was still silently astonished.

He continued, "I'm not sure what makes people think homosexuality is a new thing. It's been around since the beginning of time and has been referenced throughout history for at least as long as we've had some kind of recorded history."

The incredulous half of us grinned and Dr. Wilson went back to the lesson.

I was unaware how a person could make it through a minimum of 12 years of education, which is generally the case unless a child prodigy like Doogie Howser comes along, and not know that homosexuality is a perfectly normal, natural thing. Perhaps, the students that were perplexed had attended Christian schools, this was in the Bible belt after all. However, the vast majority of students had attended public schools.

While technically, I had attended a "Christian" school, one can no longer paint Catholic schools with the same brush as Christian schools. In Catholic school we learned about evolution, heliocentrism, the big bang, the birth and death of stars, the real ages of the planets. Of course, once we got to religion class, they tried to push, "Yeah well...God made all that stuff happen," but I'll take that over the alternative. We read books like Tom Sawyer (without the recently forced change of Nigger Jim's name, as it should be), Martian Chronicles, Ulysses, My Brother Sam is Dead, To Kill a Mockingbird, and several other books that have topped the Most Banned Books of All Time list. We got a real, quality education.

Of course, I do remember a time when I was very young and also learning about Alexander the Great and asking the same question. The only difference is, at the time, I was in 6th grade. How is it that I spent the majority of my educational life in a religiously affiliated school and I knew more about basic sexuality than kids who had been in public school the whole time? Am I the only one who finds that disturbing? Worse, this was years ago, before some states outlawed the mere mention of anything LGBT

At the risk of siding with the Catholic church on anything, I am, to this day, eternally grateful for the education I received through Catholic school. Thanks to the top notch education I received, when I decided to go to public high school, I breezed through, as most of it was a review for me. Likewise, I never had to be the target of the incredulous arrows my classmates' eyes shot at me while asking an extremely naive question like, "Did they have that back then?"

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