An open letter to my 6th grade gym teacher which I mailed today. I believe as gays and lesbians we should go back and confront those who harmed us for being different in our childhood when we can and when it is safe to do. This letter is one way to do it. To not do this is to either carry the shame and trauma around from what others gave us or to take it out on others. I know that it is from experiences like my own–one of which is described in this open letter–that can contribute to those who stay in the closet and/or enter reparative therapy.
I read the _______ News today and saw the article about you. You were my gym teacher in sixth grade in 1975-76 when I was 12-years-old. I have actually never forgotten you.
The memory of you which stands out for me is of my walking into gym class late with my best friend and having the students burst into hysterical laughter from something you said to them before we walked in. I discovered later you told the class that you anticipated that Max and I would walk in together and that we were probably “fags”. A number of my classmates told me what you said to them prior to our entrance and it became a running joke toward me for the rest of my junior high school years. I remember this like yesterday it was so traumatic for me.
You could not have humiliated me more than what you did to me publicly amongst my peers. In my judgment what you did to me was cruel, insensitive and immature. You were an adult male authority figure who should have been protecting me—not hurting me.
In fact, Mr. _____, I was and am a gay male. I was probably in love with my best friend back then but did not know it. I did not know what being in love was and I certainly would not have known or understood what it meant to be gay. I was a young impressionable boy of 12-years-old and gym class was an over stimulating place for me as I was being sexually aroused having hit puberty and then put in showers and locker rooms with the very gender which aroused me. I was also not athletic at all so gym was nothing more than a nightmare for me.
Imagine for a moment if you were to put a heterosexual boy in a female locker room and showers. I think if you imagine that you can understand the enormous struggle I was having.
The one thing I took note of in the article is that you are retired. I am relieved to know that young children are no longer under your care and will not suffer at your hands the same thing I did. It caused me so much pain during such an important and difficult time of my life.
It really was a rotten thing you did to me. You are either the same man today that you were then and will just laugh off this letter or you will have some remorse for something you did to another human being who did not deserve being picked on by a guy like you! You didn’t even pick on someone your own size.
The shame I felt from what you did to me was really meant for you to wear and I hereby give it back to you with this letter.
Joe Kort, MSW