Turns out, harassment in the workplace and being fired for being gay is legal in the state of Kentucky.
I feel like I should preface this by saying that I’m not a serious or political person. At all. I never write anything unless it’s funny (or rather, unless I think it’s funny, which applies to basically everything I say). Some of this might sound cliché, but I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I just don’t know how else to say what I need to say.
Mr. McCaffery was my first grade teacher. As a really weird kid with basically no creative outlet, you could say that I totally hit the jackpot. It was in his class that I first realized my love for reading and art.
That might sound ridiculous, being that I was about six at the time, but I can remember BEGGING my mom for the complete collection of Shel Silverstein’s poetry books that year for Christmas. This was due to the fact that Mr. McCaffery would reward our class for finishing our work on time, by reading poems out of these books to us. What kind of teacher rewards a class full of six year olds with poetry, you might ask? An AWESOME one.
I also have a distinct memory of Mr. McCaffery talking to our class about what to do in a situation where an adult hurts you. Unfortunately, this was something a lot of kids in my school faced, at the time.
As I got older, that day stuck with me more and more. I never heard another teacher address that issue, ever. But Mr. McCaffery did. That’s the kind of teacher that he was. He cared a lot about his kids, he loved his job, and it showed.
Mr. McCaffery also happens to have a llama farm, and yes, it IS as cool as it sounds. He took my first grade class on a field trip there, and I can honestly tell you that it was the highlight of my elementary school life. He also brought them to our school’s Fall Festival every year, and let all the kids ride them.
Last Saturday, when my mom and I read the story that was published by Buzzfeed about Mr. McCaffery, I think I cried for an hour.
Mr. McCaffery is currently out of work. He is on food stamps and has recently applied for additional government assistance. If something doesn’t change soon, he faces the possible threat of losing his farm, and the 300 animals who call it home.
Several years ago, Mr. McCaffery left my elementary school to start working at a daycare in Ashland, Kentucky. Last year, he was harassed at work and eventually fired for being gay. He took the case to court, and lost.
Although the judge recognized that he had been dealt with unfairly, there was nothing he could do, since it is not illegal to fire someone for being LGB T in the state of Kentucky. Let me say that again: HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE AND BEING FIRED BECAUSE OF ONE’S SEXUAL ORIENTATION IS PROTECTED BY KENTUCKY STATE LAW.
Maybe I’m just entirely too ignorant of the law, since I keep up with the Kardashians way more than real news and anything that’s actually important, but I had absolutely no idea that this could still happen.
Furthermore, that there are 38 state states in which it’s legally kosher to fire a person with a perfect record, if the reasoning is because said person identifies as LGBT.
This story has not even made our local news. I’ve called, I’ve emailed. No response. I’m so angry that this hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves yet. I’m so angry that this can still happen to someone who is absolutely incredible at what they do, but I think I’m even angrier that most of the people in positions of power aren’t angry, too.
Most of the people that live here (that I’ve spoken with) haven’t even heard about this yet. They have no idea.
On the flip side, I’m truly amazed at all the people who have donated to Mr. McCaffery’s farm, LLA-Nanny, or who have left their kind words of encouragement. As of this minute, they are halfway to their goal of $50,000. THIS is the reaction that should be happening a hundred times over, but hasn’t yet, because not enough people have had the opportunity to hear it.
I guess it doesn’t help the situation that where we live (the tri-state area that is Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia) is basically the town from Footloose, only without Kevin Bacon or any dance numbers. It’s a very conservative, very small place.
But the thing is, the elementary that I went to was a very small, very conservative place. It was a county school, where all the Christmas plays included a nativity scene and the PTA was more or less the mafia. And everyone LOVED Mr. McCaffery.
They loved that he was a nice guy. They loved that he was a talented, caring teacher. And that was all that mattered.
I think people find it easy to de-humanize someone they don’t know. If you ask the majority of the people in this area how they feel about homosexuality, there wouldn’t be a lot of enthusiastic feedback. If you asked them what they think about Kevin McCaffery, I guarantee that not one person who knows him could find one negative thing to say about him.
They don’t just see A Gay Man. They see him riding his prize-winning llamas every year in the Christmas parade. They see him at the grocery store, buying crates of food for his animals. They just see him. I think it would be a lot easier for people to relate to other people if everyone saw each other that way — just as people.
I’m hoping that everyone passes this story along. I want everyone to be aware that, not only is this injustice possible, it is happening. And if you feel in any way opposed to this cause, then please go watch “Philadelphia” and just TRY to root against Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and not feel like a total douchebag. Should you be successful in that venture, I hope you come back in another life as a homeless llama.
And, regardless of how you thought you felt up until now, I am asking that everyone reading this sees the man as well as the movement.
If you would like to donate to The LLA-Nanny Farm, please click here.
Originally appeared at xoJane
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