THE BLOG

The Crying Shame of Denying LGBT Teachers Their Authenticity

31/10/2014 11:34 GMT | Updated 30/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Imagine

A new term, you're starting to feel that you have established yourself with parents and pupils. You remain instinctively cautious on entering unfamiliar contexts; a side effect of years of school-based bullying, resulting in lapses onto anxiety medication.

You lay awake last night, eyes fixed on a patch of ceiling as you struggled to quieten anxious voices; in the morning, with resolve and refusal to live the rest of your life in inauthenticity-you make your decision.

(Monday 8am)

'Enter' says your head-teacher.

You open her door, your trusted employer and mentor sits with a cup of tea. A pile of unsigned cheques sits alongside a framed photo (with the man you recognise as her husband from the Christmas Carol concert) and her two teenage children.

'Do sit down' she says with a smile; you plonk yourself down hard before your legs give way.

'Well' she says after taking a sip of Earl Grey, 'what can I do for you?'

Feeling the give-away flush on your neck you look her straight in the eye.

'I would very much like to come out at school'.

'I see' she say slowly and leans backwards slightly on her chair, oddly unsurprised.

'Why is that?' she enquires evenly.

'I want to serve as an authentic role model for the pupils. We know that in school two pupils have same sex parents and that around 10% of young people coming through our schools emerge as LGBT. I don't want to make a big issue of it, but I do feel that I'm ready and have the right to talk about my life and partner in the same way as everyone else in the school community.'

'I see' she says as you gather confidence in your point of view:

'I think that if we, as a school community can't support our LGBT staff to be authentic then how can we support LGBT pupils, parents or those with LGBT friends and family? I was always open before I became a teacher; I feel like I am lying to the children and letting them down by not being my true self; it is also against my beliefs to lie.'

You sit back in your chair as she begins to noticeably avoid your gaze.

'I'm glad you have come to see me, staff-room gossip what it is, I spoke to the governors about this, to pre-empt; should the situation arise'

You are impressed by her pro-active stance.

'Your private life is private, what you do in your bedroom and home is your business-not mine, not the parents and not the children's.

Feeling the lid threatening to lift on a lifetime of rejection, your gaze fixes on the family photo; her children are blond, just like yours.

'I don't understand; why is me being a lesbian 'private'? You don't discuss your sex life with the school and obviously neither would I-that would of course be inappropriate.'

Apparently uncomfortable, she begins to toy with the small wooden necklace around her neck.

'The governors and I agree we would not like you to 'come out'. We'd like you to know however, that your work on school carnival was exemplary. '

She checks her watch before announcing 'my next appointment must be here now'.

You thank her numbly and close the door behind you, heading dizzied to the toilet; a pupil passes with a 'good morning' but you say nothing.

You sit in shame in the cubicle, tracing faded scars on your thigh with your fifty year old forefinger. Memories of your colleagues leading 'interesting things I did with my family during our summer holidays' slideshows at the start of the Autumn Term taunt you; of your colleagues enjoying the Harvest Festival service with their husbands and wives, as pupils sat behind giggling and scrawling love-hearts on dusty pews. You recall role models of faith, race and disability speaking in recent whole school assemblies and a photo of a colleague's husband from the local paper, surrounded by year seven pupils, holding up an oversized cheque representing the funds he had raised for the school playground.

You're dragged back into the present by the school-bell.

Wipe your eyes, pull up your skirt and wash your face and hands.

Walking past the school office, a secretary pecks her boyfriend's cheek;

'Don't blame her for being late; I got us stuck in traffic'.

You head to your class-room and the day begins.

Imagine

In 2014 this experience and others like it still occur. Authenticity leads to improved outcomes and this in turn benefits all our pupils. As school leaders we should model inclusion, acceptance and human kindness; if we can't, then it is time we reflected on why we became educators in the first place.

If they wish to, I implore you; please support your LGBT teachers to be authentic.