EXCLUSIVE: Tomas Fletcher: `I Am Not Homosexual, but My Sexual Orientation Has Absolutely no Bearing on My Ability to Teach`
Tomas Fletcher, one of the teachers arrived in Georgia is the scope of the program “Teach and Learn with Georgia” speaks about the details of the scandal.
After a long term negotiations with Fletcher OnlineNews.ge took an interview from him.
British teacher speaks about his feelings concerning the scandal raised around him in the Georgian media.
In the interview you will find out what is his reaction concerning the accusations towards him. Also why does not he like Georgian humor and what parallels he draws between Georgian and British media.
In the above mentioned interview apart from the scandal Fletcher speaks about the positive sides of the program in the scope of which he is in Zugdidi and works as a teachers in one of the Schools. He also speaks about Georgian hospitability, the reaction and support of the family he is living with and his feelings.
OnlineNews.ge: First of all thank you for giving an interview. I want to start my interview with the question concerning the outrage in Georgian media. What will be your reaction towards these accusations?
Tomas Fletcher: I want to say that all the accusations are false. I am not homosexual, but my sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on my ability to teach so I do not understand why the accusation was made. Along with that, throughout the story there were lies told to try and stir up a reaction in the Georgian public who had nothing else to go on but the word of these journalists. They insinuated that photos of me performing sexual acts were taken in Georgia with my friends. it is important to note that when the journalists stole them from my Facebook account they will have also noted that the website tells you when the photos were uploaded. They were taken from many years ago, long before the TLG program even existed and certainly before I arrived in Georgia. This is of course central to the story, but they chose to overlook this minor detail as it didn’t provide enough scandal for their purposes.
OnlineNews.ge: What is depicted on the photo in reality?
Tomas Fletcher: photos of me sitting on the shoulders of a statue in Newcastle seem a lot more suggestive when you pretend that the photo is a person rather than in inanimate object. As for photos of my friend pretending to lick my cheek, that is nothing more than stupidity rather than homosexuality. When I arrived in Georgia I noticed that the men are extremely close. They will kiss on the cheek as a greeting rather than the simple handshake that I am accustomed to at home. However, the difference is that I recognized this to be part of a different culture and didn’t accuse every man I saw kissing another to be a homosexual.
OnlineNews.ge: The interest of the society towards the program and its participant teachers is really big. Before arriving to Georgia did you imagine such big interest towards you?
Tomas Fletcher: I received a message from a Georgian woman who was outraged that I had not accepted her friend request on facebook as I was a “public figure and she had the right to follow my wall posts”. I found this very unusual as I do not consider myself to be a public figure at all, I am simply a volunteer who wanted to test himself by helping in a developing country that I knew little about but was excited to discover. Although I understand that we will inevitably draw a certain amount of attention as foreigners, I didn’t expect that to extend beyond curiosity.
OnlineNews.ge: What was the most surprising fact for you in this scandal?
Tomas Fletcher: I think the most surprising fact was the fact that there was even a scandal to begin with. I was guilty of nothing more than not having the privacy settings high enough on my facebook. It was written that I was showing these photos to my students, If my name was known, anyone could search for my profile on the website and look through it. Nor am I in the habit of printing them off and putting them in my pocket for quiet periods during the class.
OnlineNews.ge: Did the school and the family you are living with support you during this incident?
Tomas Fletcher: Those around me have been absolutely wonderful, they have been the shining example of the Georgian hospitality that I have heard about and indeed experienced in all of my time here. Once the incident started, my family and all of my teachers were unreserved in there assurances that they knew my character and knew that the stories were all false. I have also been informed of the support of the parents of the children I teach who chose to base their opinion on me on my ability as a teacher rather than accusation by the media. It makes me extremely proud to have their support and I feel compelled even more to do as much as I can to help their children learn.
OnlineNews.ge: As for the program “Teach and Learn with Georgia”, what has drawn your attention to this program most of all and what was the reason for you coming here?
Tomas Fletcher: The most notable thing about the program is how far reaching and progressive it is. There are many countries that would simply load the capital with resources and neglect the rest of the country. However, groups were actually placed in the west of Georgia to begin with, gradually working across and filling as many schools as they could logistically manage along the way. I have many new friends placed in small villages in which many people have never seen a foreigner, let alone learn English directly from a native speaker. I believe this experience to be invaluable to learning any language and therefore it can only present more opportunity to children who were severely limited in their chances through no fault of their own.
My own reasons for coming here are varied and changing. One of the main reasons was a desire to experience a new culture, before coming to Georgia my only knowledge of the country was gained from meeting Temuri Ketsbaia as a boy. He used to live next door to my best friend when he played for Newcastle United, the team I support. I am a very curious person that has always been interested in travel and was eager to discover more about the culture.
OnlineNews.ge: 1 You teach in Zugdidi, the city that was damaged the most during the armed conflict in 1990s and nowadays borders the occupied territory. What is your impression on the city and its people?
Tomas Fletcher: It is a marvelous city. Many people here always ask if I think it is too small, but that is one of the main attractions for me. Capitals and large cities tend to lose their sense of community as the population grows and becomes more distant. In Zugdidi you can meet anybody in the street and they will somehow be connected to your family and be eager to welcome you. The experiences of the city only serve to intensify these feeling of community as everybody looks to support each other in times of need.
OnlineNews.ge: How intense is the interest towards English language among schoolchildren and what difficulties can you name in this field?
Tomas Fletcher: Generally I have been blessed to be placed in a school were their attitude of the students is exemplary and they’re eager to learn. I teach 3 separate classes in the first grade. Like all subjects, some students find it more difficult than others. My students show enthusiasm and eagerness to learn that makes teaching them one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever encountered.
OnlineNews.ge You are living with a Georgian host family. Generally foreigners like Georgian cuisine. What is your favorite dish?
Tomas Fletcher: Since coming here I have experienced many wonderful foods that I had absolutely no knowledge of before my arrival. Many of those I am afraid I do not remember the name of, but of those I do remember I enjoy Lobio, Satsivi, Chakapuli and of course Matsoni. I am also a fan of anything served with Adjika!
OnlineNews.ge Megrelians look like Europeans. What is your opinion about this and have you already got personal sympathy towards any Georgian girl?
Tomas Fletcher: I have found many Georgian girls to be extremely attractive; I am always amazed with how slim they are and their ability to remain so while surrounded with so much tempting food.
At 22 I don’t feel old enough to settle down permanently, that may seem unusual in a Georgian culture but in my own it is normal to get married in your late 20s or early 30s.
Who knows what will happen in the future but for now I am happy to concentrate on enjoying my time and making as many new friends as possible then seeing what the future brings.