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student in class if he thought their

teacher was gay. The second student,

a body builder, responded by asking

if it really mattered. What the first

student didn’t realize was that the

student he had asked happened to be

gay. “He’d just stereotyped us. The

big burly guy couldn’t possibly be

gay but the skinny guy at the front of

the room? He can be.”

In that more conservative climate,

Abernethy admits his sexuality

wasn’t something he discussed. “I

didn’t talk about my personal life

or my partner because I figured it

was none of their business and it

wasn’t what I was here to teach.”

He’s much more open about it now

simply because a student forced his

hand on the issue. After spending

months at the hospital with his

partner, who was battling cancer at

the time, Abernethy was routinely

running on about four hours of sleep

when a student voiced concern. He

quickly realized he couldn’t hide the

toll it was taking on him and that if

it was obvious to this student it was

noticeable to others. At that point

he figured the cat was out of the bag

and why not discuss it?

“It’s still not an integral part of my

class. I don’t walk in and say ‘Hi, I’m

your gay teacher.’ But if it comes up,

or if someone asks, I don’t skirt the

issue like I did before with the more

conservative student body that we

had.”

IU Southeast registrar Jay McTyier

acknowledges that. “As you get to

know people, you have to decide, am

I going to play the pronoun game?

Am I going to substitute she’s for

he’s, say girlfriend when I mean

boyfriend?” he said. “When it comes

to that point, I’ve never shied away

from using the correct pronoun

and knowing that in fact I would be

revealing myself by doing so.”

It’s because of IU Southeast’s

reputation for tolerance that

McTyier accepted a position with

the university. Arriving on campus,

he was pleasantly surprised that

his suspicions of a progressive

and accepting environment were

confirmed. The university currently

offers benefits for domestic partners

and forbids discrimination based

on sexual orientation. As far as

policy goes, McTyier believes the

university is doing everything they

can. “They are being responsive to

changes in national and state policy

as well as being true to their own

institutional guidelines.”

According to Abernethy, “The

University has always been

supportive of LGBTQIAA faculty

and staff.” Though Abernethy knows

of colleagues who are reluctant to

come out, he believes IU Southeast