This week marks the opening of the school year in Israel, and Israeli middle-school teacher Dor Melichson from the Sharon area in the center of the country decided to open his first lesson with every class by coming out to his students: “Hi, my name is Dor and I have a boyfriend.”
“In every class there was a student who asked almost immediately ‘so does it mean that you’re…?’, and I complete the sentence immediately, ‘yes, it means that I’m a homo.’ I saw some giggling and some embarrassment, ” he told Mako Pride website this week, “but what it does really is that it turns the subject irrelevant after a few minutes.”
It looks like coming out to his students on the first day became Dor’s way to eliminate homophobia. A while ago he joined Hoshen (the education and information center of the LGBT community in Israel) as an instructor, and was taught professionally how to come out to his students. In addition to that, he began to give lectures about sexual orientation. “I wanted to experience the whole process and bring the tools I learned at Hoshen into my school and my students, in order to prevent negative reactions,” he tells the magazine.
The first time Michelson came out to his students was last year. “I told the principle of the school, who knew about my sexuality, that at some point I’d have to tell the pupils too,” he says. “Last year, following a question from one of the pupils, I realized that all the kids had already been talking about it, so I decided that the time had come. I updated the principle, and during a teacher-pupil time I told my pupils that I have a partner, that I live in Tel Aviv and that I’m gay.”
“The reactions were incredible,” he continues, “the kids thanked me for sharing with them and told me that they thought my confession was brave. The following day I received supportive phone calls from parents.”
But as Dor puts it, not everything is always wonderful. “Of course there’s homophobia here and there, otherwise [Hoshen] wouldn’t have to lecture about it and do the workshops that we do. Usually I feel the homophobia through questions that hide under a homophobic comment or opinion, but we do not confront them. We tell students that every question is ok, and try to openly create a conversation in order to neutralize this distance.”
Surprisingly, Melichson says in the interview that his focus is not on the LGBTQ students. “As an instructor of Hoshen, when I enter a class usually I talk to the majority of the straight people. My initial goal is to prevent homophobia and create acceptance. If there’s a student in the class who’s LGBT and feels that the lecture helped him, that’s wonderful.”
“I believe that LGBT teachers have a very important role in the education system nowadays. In addition to consolidation of opinions and educating the new generation, there’s something extra that stands on the line here,” Melichson tells Mako. “The majority of LGBT teachers I know have come out to their students. I believe that there are still LGBT teachers who afraid of the students’ reactions, but hopefully this article will help more and more teachers to come out.”