Last summer, I drew a line down the middle of a page and wrote “USA” on one side and “Spain” on the other. I listed the pros for each to decide whether to stay in Madrid, as if I was considering cheating on Spain with the United States. “Gay rights and acceptance” went on the Spain side. I never thought what happened last week would be happening to us, not in this country.
My girlfriend called me at work Wednesday. Something was wrong. Maybe her tax appointment that morning had gone sour for the fifth time. “I wish I had more time to tell you this,” she said. I had to rush downstairs in two minutes to teach 7-year-olds. “What happened? Tell me.”
We had been fired. For being gay.
Amie cried as she told me that Tino, our boss at an English summer camp, had called her and said he found out we were gay and because someone had a problem with our “lifestyle,” we could not work for his camp. He even agreed it was discrimination.
Amie is not usually the crier, but this time I was the one to say, “It’ll be OK. We’ll figure this out together.” I was shocked, hurt, angry.
That night, when she got home from her classes, her T-shirt full of dried tears, Amie cried again and I did too. But more than sad I felt motivated to fight for our rights.
Living in a place that is usually so non-judgmental can make you take acceptance for granted. After working for the same school for three years, which happens to be Catholic, Amie is out to most of her co-workers.
I, on the other hand, have always been cautious. Moving from school to school without knowing how conservative my coworkers could be, I feared that there would be one religion teacher who would have a problem with me. So I’ve kept my private life to myself, but secrecy can do damage.
If bosses have dozens of workers pass through their company and never notice a gay person or never have an out employee, they won’t build their tolerance and eventual acceptance of their fellow humans. When they do encounter one of us, they might think it’s as easy as firing the person to rid themselves of any potential gayness in their place of business.
Ironically, in our case, the job was at a mountain adventure camp. Statistically speaking, some Teva-toting lesbians were bound to be attracted to this job. If they think they’ve gotten rid of the homos, surely they’re wrong. Among hundreds of monitors and teenage campers, there are bound to be more.
Yes, we got burned this time, but instead of being quiet about my sexuality, I hope this will make me more out than ever. If we all are, we can bring more awareness that we exist, that it’s impossible to get rid of all of us, to silence us, and to force us to sit home unemployed with our teary-eyed partners.
Yvette M. Scorse is a writer and teacher living in Madrid, Spain. She will be moving to Washington, D.C., in August.