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

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