Written by Janet Wang
Growing up in rural Ohio, band teacher Todd Summers was surrounded by a conservative community. Many people in his Midwestern town were religious and had strict views on sexuality. Because of this, Summers struggled with accepting his sexuality throughout most of his early life.
Summers first realized that he was gay in middle school. When high school came around, he was surrounded by friends and music—interests that distracted him from the desire to come out in a homophobic community. “In high school, I found my home in the band and in music and that was my comfort zone,” he said. “I was somewhat popular in high school but it was not unusual to be walking down the hall and have someone scream ‘faggot’ at not only me but other people too.”
These incidents further discouraged Summers. “[There was] that fear of, ‘What everyone is going to think? What is my family going to think? Am I going to lose any friends?’” he said. “The fear of the unknown was the hardest part.” Summers also did not have anyone to look up to after he realized he was gay. “There were no role models,” he said. “No teachers were out, no students were out. It was just a gigantic pushing into the closet of anyone who had feelings other than heterosexual feelings.”
This type of discrimination followed Summers after college to his job as a teacher. “I had a principal from a public school in rural Ohio say to me in his office behind
closed doors, ‘If people find out about your lifestyle, we will find a way to fire you,’” he said.
Once Summers enrolled in graduate school, however, he started coming out. “I started to embrace it, be open with everybody and not have a divide in my life of being out and being in the closet,” he said. “If anyone asked or said anything, I would speak to it.”
Summers especially became more open about being gay after he started to date his now-husband, whom he has been with for 19 years. “At that point, I started to realize that all the ridiculousness of being in the closet was silly and I wanted to live my life,” he said. “It was a transitional period for my friends and when we started to go out all together, I would just introduce him as my boyfriend.”
For Summers, being gay is just another part of his identity. “If someone asks, I answer and I talk about my husband,” he said. “I don’t hide anything and am happy to not be in the closet. I’m more of a teacher and musician. I don’t see [my sexuality] as defining who I am. It’s just one part of who I am.”