After a teacher humiliates Nathan in front of the entire class, he finds a speech in an X-Men comic that inspires him to push back in his own way.
When Nathan Manske was a young teenager, he had the confidence to not care how he looked. He was, in his words, “a happy-go-lucky kid”. Oversized hand-me-down t-shirts, long hair, broken front tooth, thin, funny.
This lasted until his first day of freshman year, when a teacher asked him, during roll call, if he was male or female. He says:
And from that day I started to change and soon after I parted my hair in the middle. This is the 90s so that’s butching it up a little bit. So I started being a little more mindful of what I was wearing and how I was presenting. And what she did with that one completely inappropriate question changed me and shook me to my core. And I started policing what I said and what I did.
Those few words fundamentally changed him.
Months later, the class got an assignment to find a speech by a popular person and write an essay on it.
Nathan, a comic book fan from childhood, found a speech by Professor X, leader of the X-Men, about connections between people, regardless of their differences. He knew that this was the way that he could tell the teacher exactly what she needed to learn.
The thing about being gay and closeted, especially as a young teen, you don’t have any advisors to talk to. I didn’t have my parents or my brothers or any friends to talk my feelings about or talk about my feelings or help me or coach me in this. So walking up to turn my essay in to the desk, it was just me, with Professor X at my side, and I walked up and I put the essay on the desk, and we made eye contact just as we did the first day of school. And I didn’t say anything, I just dropped it off, but I thought, “You need to read this essay.” And I walked back and that was it. And it was the day I remember first ever being a brave gay man. And that young scared teenage boy is still to this day a big role model to me.
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