Example in the Classroom

Junior high school teacher Chance Nalley invited the entire seventh grade class at Columbia Secondary School in Harlem, where he teaches math, to his commitment ceremony to another man. Two-thirds reportedly will be attending:

"…There have, however, been some questions. One student asked about
the legality of two men marrying. Mr. Nalley explained that New York
State does not, in fact, allow it, but that he was thinking of the
ceremony as a wedding celebration, if not a legal contract. When
another student asked why gay marriage was not legal in New York, Mr.
Nalley responded, 'I really don’t know.' … Four
seventh graders, approached at random on Friday, said they planned to
be there. Were they surprised to learn he was gay? 'He’s not gay,' said Japhet Guzman, 12. 'No,'
agreed a lanky 13-year-old who walked with a bit of a tough-guy
swagger, 'he’s not gay. He’s bisexual. Why don’t you ask him?' (Mr.
Nalley confirmed this.) Within hours of that diversity workshop last fall, the kids said, the whole school had heard the news about Mr. Nalley. 'I was really surprised,' recalled the 13-year old boy. 'It didn’t change anything about what we thought about him, though.' Raven Franklyn, another student, added, 'It showed he trusts us.' And they apparently trust him: Mr. Nalley said six students have come out to him this year…"

You may remember the first-grade field trip a group of kids in San Francisco took to see their teacher get married before Prop 8 was passed which 'Yes on 8' supporters quickly labeled "indoctrination." There's been little to no similar uproar here.

Most of the Seventh Grade Will Be at the Commitment Ceremony [nyt]


  1. Joseph says

    Why? Mr. Nalley’s invitations, like the ones by a San Francisco teacher last year, will only hurt our cause. The San Francisco woman who invited her class to her wedding caused so much damage to the “no on 8″ campaign. Is Mr. Nalley looking for personal publicity? Please don’t put our cause of marriage equality at risk for your 15 minutes of fame.

  2. qjersey says

    While a very nice story…the undercurrent of the students remark ‘he’s not gay. He’s bisexual’ is typical.

    He’s not a total ‘mo, he likes pussy too.
    Yes there are truly bisexual people, but there are far too many that take this label to avoid the full on gay stigma.

    I’m not bi bashing, but if you are about to enter a same sex marriage, why confuse the issue by stating that you are bisexual? What’s the point? you are about to declare your homosexual love!

  3. Ted says

    He may very well have said he was bi before he decided to get married. I don’t think that declaring bisexuality to a group of seventh graders necessarily softens the sting, if anything the guy put himself into a smaller minority group.

    And I don’t see this as publicity-seeking. In hindsight the move by the teacher in California backfired, but at the time she invited her students to the wedding no one really understood the depths to which the scumbag yes on 8 folks would stoop to preserve their right to control other people’s lives. When considering history, its important to remember the chronology of events as one action causes a reaction and so on.

    I see this teacher here in Harlem as being brave, and the only thing I could fault him for is not being prepared to answer the question as to why he cannot be legally married. He put the issue out there, he should have been in a position to see it through, given his apparent intention to educate the kids in his school on diversity.

  4. johnosahon says

    qjersey | Mar 23, 2009 8:16:34 AM

    what are you talking about? that’s what he told the kids, they were only stating facts. stop looking for what to fight about in the story and enjoy it.

    “‘he’s not gay. He’s bisexual. Why don’t you ask him?’ (Mr. Nalley confirmed this.) “

  5. Clay says

    While I applaud teachers at all levels for being out in the classroom and thus serving as positive role models, it’s not professional or appropriate to blur the teacher-student relationship at this level. This is not a personal relationship. Students aren’t friends, they’re students. It would be inappropriate for a straight teacher to blur that distinction too. I’m speaking as a college Teaching Assistant/Tutor. You just don’t bring your current students into your personal life. Can of worms, etc.

    That said I wish the guy luck, and I’d point out to QJERSEY that a guy marrying a man is making his homosexual love pretty plain. Why should he hide his bisexuality?

  6. nick says

    I agree with QJERSEY. I’ve met several guys recently who came out years ago to their parents as gay but have slept with women and seem to pride themselves on “confusing their family.” I think a tiny percentage of men may be bisexual, but most of these guys are just adding the bi in order to fit in (the kids responses are no different than what society thinks… it’s better to be partially gay than to be all gay). It reeks of internalized homophobia to me. I can’t speak for women, but men know what gender they are atttracted to inherently. Just because someone can cook pasta, doesn’t make them Italian.

  7. Rafael says

    Informing his students of his commitment would have been a better choice. But everything else Mr. Nalley did was right. He is making an issue a non issue or at least leaving the conflict for the conflicted. As a gay man I try to do the same, after all I know the truth lies on my side.

  8. giovanni says

    Wow, a true role model and cute too! His kids are lucky to have him as a teacher and his partner is lucky to, well, have him. I wish them all the happiness in the world. New York City rocks!

  9. gwyneth cornrow says

    1. Yes, Soulbrotha, there goes the theory that people of color are more homophobic than whites.
    2. Why are some gay guys so intolerant of any sexuality but their own? If he chooses to identify as bi, who cares? I thought equality meant just that. Perhaps this is what’s wrong with basing a movement for equality on a bankrupt institution like marriage. Why not just do away with marriage for everyone?
    3. Clay is dead right. Inviting your students to your wedding while they are still your students is unprofessional.

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    If they’ve made a choice of a partner, aren’t bisexual folks allowed to try long term commitments?

    Some of y’all should try drinking more booze. It may make you sweeter 100% gays.

  11. amsam says

    He is cute, but this makes me very uncomfortable. You shouldn’t invite your 12-year-old students to your wedding, whether it be same- or opposite-sex.

    And intellectually lazy gay men have always had a problem accepting that bisexuality even exists. It’s a shame.

  12. David in Houston says

    It’s nice to see kids so open-minded. So do kids think it’s better to be bisexual than gay? That would surprise me. Do kids that age REALLY understand what bisexuality means?

    However, as others have said, I think it’s unprofessional inviting your current students to your wedding… even if your heart is in the right place. Do straight teachers do this too?

  13. troschne says

    SOULBROTHA, have you actually BEEN to Harlem lately? It’s very much a melting pots of lots of different races, cultures, etc.. Methinks someone has a chip on his shoulder…

  14. soulbrotha says

    Yes TROSCHNE, I practically LIVE in Harlem. 2/3 of Harlem is still Black, dahling. They didn’t just disappear with “gentrification”. And FYI, this from the New York Times:

    “But Columbia Secondary, which operates in a partnership between the Department of Education and Columbia University, is a much smaller school, whose mission statement includes a commitment to diversity (more than half the students are black or Hispanic, 45 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches).”

    So the majority of the children are minorities. Therefore their acceptance of their teacher’s sexuality flies in the face of the stereotypes that have been pushed by many here in past threads, especially when Prop 8 passed. I think being angry at stereotypes is a valid “chip,” don’t you?

  15. Derrick from Philly says


    All right! (triple snap)

    My friends live in Ft. Green in Brooklyn. Whatever charm and flavor that neighborhood had 15 years ago is gone.

    Gentrification is not only bad for black, Latino, Asian, and poor white folks–it can be devastating to gay neighborhoods too.

  16. says

    I had no idea that an issue like this would actually be conflicting to me. I feel like Faye Dunaway in Chinatown.

    “She’s my sister”

    I think this is great!

    “She’s my daughter”

    I’m not sure that I would want my kids invited to ANY teacher’s wedding without my being asked my permission first.

    “She’s my sister”

    Wow, I can’t imagine what a positive impact this would have had on me as a 7th grader!

    “She’s my sister”

    Why does he need to sexualize this by bringing in the “bi” thing?

    “She’s my daughter”

    What a great real world discussion for kids on the verge of adulthood!

    “She’s my sister”

    Why is he going public with this?

    “She’s my daughter”

    Why shouldn’t he go public with it?


    Good luck guy, if I’m this conflicted, I can only imagine the firestorm that is probably coming your way as soon as someone figures out a way to get publicity out of attacking you.

    After all, publicity = “donations”

  17. says

    Let’s get this straight. California’s No on 8 failure had *nothing* to do with the teacher who had the awesome idea to invite her class to her wedding. It had EVERYTHING to do with the fact that No on 8 wasn’t prepared that the Yes campaign would scream “the kids, the kids!”

    Witness the difference between No on 8 and MassEquality: another successful California Yes ad was on that Newton, Ma dad who sued his school system because a teacher read a book about two princes marrying each other to the class. In Massachusetts, we did what should have beed one in California: mocked and made fun of that wingnut. In California, years after it happened, they were caught off guard and didn’t have the courage to actually strike back on the children meme until it was way too late. One gay family with children on a August/September ad probably would have done the trick — the No campaign needed to own the family values/children meme and made the case that this battle had everything to do with children… insofar as it had everything to do with the millions of kids in this country who have been raised by at least one gay parent.

    Thankfully, MassEquality’s political director and field manager are heading to California to fix their shit for them. The No campaign should be ashamed, but thankfully the MeQ people will probably be able to reverse this in next ballot cycle.

    To wrap this up, anyone who wants to lash out at this teacher for doing an incredibly courageous and HELPFUL thing… get your facts straight. If you let the right wing own the children meme, then you’re not helping our cause. Grow up and get your facts straight. Coming out is the single best thing we can do to win this battle — Mr. Nalley just won us hundreds of allies, and probably thousands by the end of his career.

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