There’s no shortage of awful people in the world, and a gay drama teacher named Michael Neri experienced that awfulness firsthand recently when he received a homophobic message from the mom of one of his students.
Neri is 26 years old and a teacher at Talking Props Theater in Kidderminster. In a now-viral Facebook post, Neri shared a message from a woman who wanted to withdraw her children from theater classes because she found out Neri is gay. She wrote:
Pretty ballsy, right? It’s not every day you get a text message that so casually dismisses your entire existence as sinful and vile. Luckily, Neri was able to keep a level head and responded with an equally assertive and direct takedown. He wrote:
“I would be lying if I said I was disappointed to hear this. I pride my students on the respect and love they have for others and their passion for equality. You would only be infringing on our family.”
He went on to explain that his sexuality doesn’t affect his ability to teach any more than it would affect a doctor’s ability to treat a sick patient. “I’m sure your children’s health would come first should they need emergency treatment,” he said, “or would you need to check their doctor’s lifestyle prior to their life-saving operation?”
He then wished the woman luck in finding a new drama class and assured her she would not get a refund:
“I wish you luck in finding an appropriate stage school that meets your needs, however from experience I find that theater without gays is like cooking without spices (just my opinion). I hear StageCoach are enrolling but there [sic] teachers have been known to wear mixed fabrics which I’m sure you are aware is forbidden in the bible (Leviticus 19:19). Please feel free to come see our Musical ‘Happy Days,’ confetti will be used in the finale but please rest assure [sic] this is not an attempt to corrupt your Christian lifestyle. We just love glitter.
Unfortunately deposits are non refundable but don’t worry, your deposit has been donated to StoneWall, an LGBT charity. Regards, Michael”
Since the exchange was posted on Talking Props’ Facebook page, it’s been shared almost 700 times and dozens of people have left messages of support for Michael. He tells The Metro the support has been overwhelming but very welcome because, while he believes everyone is entitled to their opinion, a message like that is “still a hurtful thing to receive.” He adds that he’ll happily welcome the kids back, should their mom change her mind because he doesn’t “blame them for the way their mother thinks.”
Obviously this mom has the right to believe whatever she wants, but to restrict her children’s access to new experiences and learning environments because of her own bigotry is a real shame. Neri’s point about the doctor is excellent: lots of different kinds of people fill roles in any number of industries. Are we to assume this mom will shield her kids from all of them, lest they catch homosexuality like its some kind of virus?
It’s sad that those kids have to miss out on the opportunity to get an awesome theater education, but it’s even more sad that good people like Neri have to deal with this sort of discrimination on a daily basis. Kudos to him for a tremendously awesome response. Hopefully he won’t have to use it to respond to any more haters in the future.
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