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Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison


I was the first out queer student in the 100-year history of McCallie School, a private all-boys religious high school in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the likes of Pat Robertson have attended. Well, there was one other in the 1990s, but word got back to his parents, and he was shipped off to "straight camp."

Being in that environment offered a number of challenges to me and the other closeted queer students because there is an overarching atmosphere of homophobia. In the past there have been decrees by old headmasters that homosexuality would be considered an officially taboo topic, not to be discussed anywhere in the school because it might plant the idea in the minds of the young and impressionable. A faculty member was once fired because his campus roommate found his stash of gay porn.

I was out for my last two years there--the end of a six-year stay at the school. I was harassed and called "faggot," but I kept gunning for change, including at the end of this past school year, with the delivery of my senior "chapel talk," which dealt with the nature of homosexuality and the acceptance of gay people at the school. It was a long process to get them to actually allow the talk. For an entire year they resisted, and it even went before the board of trustees.

The chapel talk is a part of the three days a week when the entire high school comes together in prayer and to hear from speakers from within and outside the community. In our senior year each of us has the opportunity to give our own presentations on essentially any topic we choose. I chose to hold the school accountable to its mission to promote diversity and support minorities, and I was successful.

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