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Gay Life/gay bashing behind someone's back


Hi Ben,

 I am an adult straight woman in my thirties.  I am a teacher, and have been taking some language courses at a major university for the past year.  I have been extremely fortunate to have had the same wonderful professor for the past 4 courses. He is gay.  He has become like a mentor to me, although he is roughly my age.
Basically, I have witnessed a couple of other mature students (age only) criticize him openly, and mock him - especially his mannerisms.  One of these two, is a woman who for some reason, has continued to approach me, baiting me with negativity about him, and almost waiting for me to join her mockery.  She knows I have had him for a year, and I don't know what she expects me to say.  I have stood up for him, saying he is a great professor - and she has continued to let the insults roll, always with a smile, like it's normal.  Well this class is almost over in  two weeks, and I did something on the spur of the moment which I don't know if is wise.  My prof and I have an excellent rapport, and during our last conversation I mentioned to him that are a couple of people in this class, who are not tolerant, and that he should keep his guard up.  I mentioned to him that they even accused him of imposing his lifestyle on us, after showing us a highly acclaimed film in class, which had some gay overtones to it.  I didn't mention names, but I feel as if I have accomplished nothing but having hurt his feelings.  He told me his is very glad I told him, especially regarding the film.
I didn't tell him all the nasty details of what I've heard uttered, but I did tell him how I was baited, but refused to bite.  Although I have no loyalty to these horrible people, I can't help feeling like a gossip.  Should I have said nothing, and do I need to apologize to him for possibly revealing tings tat may have hurt his feelings?  I could no longer take how different they were behind his back, and how people in one of the largest North American cities can speak like this.  I don't know why my conscience is convicting me , but it is.  your take on this??
Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Hi Victoria.

Firstly, to me it sounds as though this woman who keeps approaching you has some kind of issue with your relationship with your professor. She could be jealous of the rapport you have with him for whatever reason and she is trying to undermine your relationship by continually attempting to get you to join in with her insults. Sometimes I find that university, and education establishments in general, harbour a lot of competitive behaviour, regardless of age or maturity.

Last year I was doing a linguistics course as part of my English Language degree and in my regular tutorials, one particular woman and fellow student began to contradict almost everything I said. At first I simply thought of it as difference of opinions, but as the year went on it became clear that she had some kind of problem with me. Much later, I found out from another student that she had been insinuating that something sexual was going on between my female tutor and I because I'd emailed my tutor a few times regarding the course. She apparently didn't realise I'm gay. Although I had no competitive feelings toward her, she seemed to feel the need to constantly try to better me by asking me exam results and comparing them and this eventually resulted in her bitchy behaviour.

Not exactly the same as your situation, but my point is that this woman who is insulting your tutor may be engaging in bitchy behaviour because she feels she is in competition with you and she may feel that you are getting preferential treatment because of your good relationship with your professor. So in order to make herself feel better, she may be trying to disrupt your relationship with your professor by attempting to convince you to join in with her in insults.

It could also be that she simply has a problem with him being gay. Unfortunately, although we expect students at university to be educated and more open minded, there are still people in every area of life that are narrow minded regardless of their educational background and maturity. Although I'm not obviously gay in my mannerisms, I am openly gay and I've had my fair share of homophobic encounters - at work, university and otherwise. It's something that most, if not all, gay people encounter at some point in their lives. I live in one of the largest cities in the UK and it never fails to surprise me how often I encounter instances of homophobic behaviour, racism and general bigotry. A great deal of the time, I find that prejudices are formed as part of a lack of experience and understanding. Bigoted people generally have very stereotypical (a usually largely unfounded) views and have little experience with the type of people they seem to hate.

I'm almost certain that your professor, being an openly gay professor in his thirties who teaches at university, has had a few experiences with homophobic individuals in his lifetime. So, no, I find it unlikely that he will be particularly devastated to find out that a few narrow-minded students are making fun of him. He may find it hurtful, especially if he thought these students were decent people in the first place, but I doubt it will seriously upset him. Personally, if i was in his place, I'd be more offended by the insinuation of imposing my lifestyle on others. Frankly, it's pathetic that grown adults can feel that homosexuality is being "imposed" upon them by watching a film in an educational setting - it kind of shows you how idiotic their thought process is.

You're not a gossip, all you've done is show loyalty to your professor by letting him know that there are students that are being offensive toward him and that you've had nothing to do with this and are not interested in joining in with their behaviour. Considering how immature and bitchy this particular woman seems to be, it's probably best you clarified that you do not agree with her in case she attempts to insinuate to your professor that you do at some point.

I don't think it's necessary for you to apologise, as I don't think you've done anything wrong, but if you feel that you need to apologise then that's up to you.

Don't let narrow-minded nonsense from these supposedly mature students affect your rapport with your professor. Ultimately, bigoted people only succeed in ruining their own life experience by confining themselves in their own little world.

Hope this helps,

Gay Life

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I am a 30 year old gay man and have been out since I was 15 at high school. Although I am not religious, I attended Catholic schools and have experience dealing with pressures religion can place on a gay person. I have a wide variety of friends from all different backgrounds, races, sexualities, religions, etc. I have also had several relationships, am sexually experienced and have an understanding of relationship issues and dilemmas, sexual issues and experience of the gay scene. Although I have plenty of experience of the gay scene, I am not personally interested/involved in it anymore. Most of my current friends are actually straight males and I'm not particularly involved in any scene at all. Therefore, I can quite easily talk to guys about issues they would rather not associate with "gay" - confusion, bi-curious issues and just normal uncertainties men might have. I have no promblem discussing issues with anyone regardless of sexuality or gender, etc. (within reason of course).

Occupation - NHS Scotland (National Health Service Scotland) - part-time. Part-time study.

Currently studying BA Honours in English Language & Literature and have previously studied Psychology at university level. Four A's at Higher level Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy and English.

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