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Sun, Jan 13th - 7:05AM

January 13th 2008 - The Sunday Edition
Letter from the Editor

I think about fashion surprisingly a lot. Almost every day in fact.

I get dressed to work at a high school 5 days per week for 10 months of the year and I've become rather conscious of my fashion sense and what I am wearing. After all, I don't look much older than my students. I'm a good 10 years senior most of them, but I still get asked for ID when I order alcohol in a restaurant.

As a teacher we are expected to look professional and to some extent not stand out in the crowd. Depending on the school there are degrees of acceptability.

A few years back I was working at the first high school I was contracted to. It was in a snobbish neighborhood of Richmond Hill north of Toronto. One weekend I decided to spike my hair and dye it green.

My students of course loved it and I got the usual comments and jokes from fellow teachers.

No less than two days later I was called to the administrative offices where several school trustees, the principal and several "very concerned looking" parents were waiting.

Apparently they had problems with my hair and were trying to find a way to get rid of me (or at least convince me to dye it back to normal). The parents thought I was "a potential bad influence" and that their children or other people's children might try to emulate me and become involved in crime somehow.

I pointed out that numerous students and teachers in the school already had all sorts of unusual hairstyles. Spikey green hair was not that unusual.

Still the parents were adamant that their children might become suicidal, violent or outright crazy if they were influenced somehow by some "goth chemistry teacher". (For the most part I tried to keep my gothic aspect looking very professional.)

The principal, thankfully, was on my side. As was the contracts thankfully.

And the law for that matter.

I said that if they fired me I would sue the school board for sexual discrimination. On what grounds? I'm bisexual. My hair is part of my sexuality.

Well now... maybe I shouldn't mentioned that. That was one moment I wonder if I should have hid in the closet.

Several of the parents in question suddenly did an about turn and back peddled on the issue. Others took a turn for the worse: They didn't want a "flaming green lesbian" teaching their kids...

I'm not going to go into the details, but needless to say I stayed until the end of my contract and then promptly found work at a more liberally minded school that caters to more artsy students. I won the battle, but I decided that I didn't want to go through a confrontation like that again so I decided to pick a battlefield where my fashion statements would be more welcome.

So when I'm getting ready to go work I'm not so much worried about looking professional these days. I'm trying to make more outrageous fashion statements.

Suzanne MacNevin
Editor of the Lilith eZine

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