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I’m Douglas Calhoun, I’m from Columbia, South Carolina. I was born and raised there with really exorbitantly liberal parents who shock me every day. My being queer was not the thing that made me stand out or that put me at risk. It was my being different, because I’m an odd bird. I’m not…I think I’m a little intense for some people. People were challenged; I was roughed up a few times but never badly and never for lack of. I mean, I learned a lot from being roughed up a little by my peers. I mean, it’s South Carolina. As awesome and as cool my immediate family was, I couldn’t help but live there.
Ms. Steele was my math teacher at St. Hill’s Academy and she was a dream. I admired her and she moved me and she was very kind. I remember early on that we had a real connection. I said in class that, I remember my mom told me, that football players took ballet classes for balance. And I corrected someone. They said, “Ballet is for fairies” probably. And I happened to be enrolled in ballet and I was very good at the time. And so I defended myself, I said, “Football players take ballet, too, my mom told me that.” And I saw Ms. Steele in the teacher’s lounge from far away repeat the story and kind of imitate me, like kind of act like a ballerina. And I was probably, I’m guessing, 13. I was devastated that someone I trusted and a grown-up? I mean, when I grown-up makes you feel comfortable and they betray your trust in front of you, in front of other grown-ups, it’s just…I was devastated.
So I went up to her and I couldn’t help but confront her so it was either that day or the next day I’m not sure, I went up to her–she was a heavier woman but by no means…she was just heavier, she was a big lady–and I said to her, “I know why you’re so nice. It’s because you’re so full of love.” And it was kind of backhanded but I was also defending myself, standing up for myself. And I know she didn’t mean it. I know she was just kind of role playing South Carolina homophobia, and I don’t even think she felt that way, in fact I think she liked me a lot but she certainly made a 13-year-old boy feel small that day. I feel for her now because I know she didn’t mean to do that and as an adult I think she felt terrible for making her student, a child, someone that could easily be her son, her gay son, feel terrible. She felt…you could tell…I think we both cried. I’m sure I cried, but I think we both cried.