5 questions with Evan Cook
Evan Cook, an openly gay French and German teacher at Townview Magnet Center in Oak Cliff, is faculty sponsor for one of the few chapters of the Gay-Straight Alliance in the Dallas Independent School District. The chapter was started in 2000.
Was there opposition to the club when it was initially proposed?
Since we are actually six high schools rolled into one, we have a Leadership Team made up of nine administrators that meets regularly and makes these decisions. There was some opposition, enough to keep them from giving a definitive yes or no answer for 2 1/2 months. I also encountered opposition from faculty members who are gay but in the closet.I guess they were afraid people who opposed it would really start going after gays.
How have things gone since then?
We have had some opposition here and there, and sometimes there’s a misunderstanding about which organizations can use the public address system and things like that. One time we had T-shirts printed and a group of students wanted to print anti-gay T-shirts in response. It fizzled because the kids who wanted to print the anti-gay T-shirts were not as devoted.
So describe a typical meeting of the the GSA chapter?
We meet for about 50 minutes every other Thursday after school. We usually have about 20 to 30 kids show up. Many times it’s the same kids, but it really does reflect the name Gay-Straight Alliance, because you get a lot of straight kids who are supportive or straight kids with gay parents. We’re very social. Some GSAs are very political. We deal with issues from time to time, but the kids more view it as a time to socialize and play games. It’s kind of like a big tea party.
How important are Gay-Straight Alliances?
I think GSAs are very important because it gives some visibility to gay people, and it validates gay people. I think it teaches the kids that even though we have differences between us in the gay community, we should work together. And it’s perfectly legitimate for kids to want to talk about sexual identity in an environment where there is a trusted adult who will keep things civil and clean. It’s important that gay students understand school is a safe place for them.
As an openly gay teacher, do you announce your sexual orientation on the first day of a new class?
No, you don’t have to do that. Students start to ask questions. That’s kind of a teenager trait. Like one day in the middle of discussion about course subject matter, a student will ask: “Are you married. You’re not? So why not?”And they start giggling. Or they’ll start in with the: “Mr. Cook, which part of town do you live in? Where do you go out? Do you go out to clubs?” I typically respond to those situations by simply turning around and saying, “Yes, I’m gay.” You can’t be a good teacher and a liar. I think my students appreciate that I am honest and frank.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the GLBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, contact staff writer John Wright at email@example.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 13, 2007
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