I sit with Charlie after school, discussing the optimistic setting in David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy. Charlie has been wanting to read this book for a month. It disappeared from my classroom library, so he finally checked it out from the public library on his own accord.
"My mom doesn't like that I'm reading this book. She calls it 'the blue book,'" he says.
"Why not?" I say. "It's so sweet."
"Well, she's a Christian. And... you know... she has her beliefs."
There are things I want to say about being Christ-like, but I don't. Instead we talk about Infinite Darlene and how the ideal high school that accepts everybody is not set in the future, it's just an alternate reality because they are still using VCRs.
I don't know if Charlie is gay. I know he's struggled with friends and grades and adolescence just like all kids. I know he could be. I now know that he can't openly question his sexuality at home. I know he can, in the tiniest ways, broach his questions with me by discussing a book. He knows it is safe to be himself here.
This is why I teach.