It’s 2013. Have we learned nothing? Must we still put up with intolerant bigots telling us whom we can and can’t love?
Earlier this week my social-media feeds erupted as left-leaning friends and acquaintances reacted to an interview in which author and teacher David Gilmour came out of the closet.
I teach modern short fiction to third and first-year students. So I teach mostly Russian and American authors. Not much on the Canadian front. But I can only teach stuff I love. I can’t teach stuff that I don’t, and I haven’t encountered any Canadian writers yet that I love enough to teach.
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
The reaction has been fierce, angry, and for the most part ad hominem. How dare Gilmour only love male authors!
As for me, I am shocked—shocked—to find that we’re still so intolerant. Gilmour has a literary same-sex attraction. Can’t we just live and let live? Must we mock and belittle him because he doesn’t love women? Because he doesn’t want to read women? Doesn’t Gilmour have the right to love whomever he chooses? Who are we to judge?
I think Gilmour’s confession was very brave. He should be applauded for staying true to himself. He’s risked much in admitting to the world that he loves to read other men and that he doesn’t care who knows about it. Can he help that he loves male authors? It’s wrong for everyone to ask him to change.
Some people on the left will claim that it’s a slippery slope. If we let Gilmour just teach what he loves, white males, then we might have to start letting other instructors teach what they love too. Someone might want to teach a literature class focused on women authors. Will we be able to allow that? Someone might want to teach a class on Asian literature. I say that these are things we might have to risk in order to embrace tolerance and acceptance. In the spirit of progress, let’s stop condemning Gilmour for his same-sex literary attraction. Let’s stop being bigots.