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It takes an

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Biology teacher Michael Migliori was worried that the conservative Catholics of the tiny Micronesian island of Rota wouldn't accept that he is gay.

What was I thinking? Moving to a remote Micronesian island only months after coming out seemed like lunacy. But I needed to do it to advance my nascent career as a marine biologist and educator.

Rota is a small island in the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which are among the Pacific islands that came under U.S. protection during World War II. Rota's population was just under 3,300 in 2000, and its land area fills less than 33 square miles. In that small a place, it was certain everyone would shortly know everything about me. The people, who are strongly Roman Catholic, would talk behind my back.

It didn't take long for a particularly outgoing student to raise the question I dreaded most: "Mister, are you gay?" Since embracing my sexuality, I have answered that question with great confidence. But as a teacher, I found the question inappropriate for a student. I brushed it aside, saying it had nothing to do with the organic structure of the carbohydrates we were studying.

At previous teaching jobs, I've had inner-city students ask me if I liked big tits or if I was dating the crazy tattooed lady who taught English literature. Those questions struck me as brazen disregard for teacher authority. These were no mere inquiries but rather challenges, a way to expose a perceived vulnerability and have my students gain an advantage in the classroom.

Why should asking if I am gay be any different?

But as much as we try to be professional or private, sexuality is an important part of being human. I've had enough of hiding who I am, and perhaps my school is more accepting of differences than I expected. With a student body of just under 200, we have two transgender students who are well-incorporated into the social fabric of teenage island life.

So I'm no longer going to worry about being asked that dreadful question. At some point my boyfriend from Guam will come visit and we'll be spotted at the lone gas station or walking along the beach, and it won't take long for word to spread. Perhaps I will be able to give my inquisitive student something to talk about. And maybe I will be accepted into the island community.

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Michael Migliori