English, Department of


Date of this Version

May 1995


Published in Private Voices, Public Lives: Women Speak on the Literary Life. Edited by Nancy Owen Nelson, Foreword by Jane Tompkins. University of North Texas Press (Denton, Texas, 1995).
Copyright © 1995 Barbara DiBernard.


Afterword: It has been four years since I first wrote this essay. I came out as a lesbian to a sophomore-level class for the first time the semester after I wrote it, in circumstances much like those detailed here, while we were discussing Zami. The very next semester, I came out to all my classes in a letter at the beginning of the semester. Initially, being out from the start was a real liberation for me; in addition, I felt that having my lesbianism as a given affected the classes positively in ways I couldn't begin to know about during the semester. However, in the years since, when I've been out to every class I've taught the first week of classes, my being out has complicated things far more than I anticipated. Unexpectedly, when we got to the Amy Lowell poems and my editing exercise, I felt more constrained than before. I began to worry that anything I said would be taken as "special pleading," that the students would perceive me as teaching this literature for personal reasons only. In subsequent semesters, these feelings have abated a bit, but I find the whole process of being out with my students much more complex than I originally expected it to be. Regardless, I know that writing this essay was a crucial part of my finally being able to be fully out in the classroom—a tribute to the power of writing and of visibility.