I think I’m out now – The aftermath of coming out in a national newspaper.

Eileen Out

This article originally appeared on Not A Second Class Teacher blog

It seems like a lifetime ago now, when I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality, I turned to the internet for support. It was a desperate and almost fruitless search to find any trace of personal accounts from other Irish LGBT teachers. Were any LGBT teachers out in work? What happened when they came out? How did they handle questions about their private lives? What did Irish LGBT teachers even look like? What if I really was the only gay (teacher) in the village?

Finding the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group gave me my first opportunity to answer some of these questions. And unsurprisingly, it turned out that LGBT teachers weren’t half as mysterious as I’d imagined. They were just teachers who happened to be gay. This sounds pretty obvious, but when the very mention of the word gay is met by silence in so many staffrooms, when it is presumed that you are straight, and even online searches for “gay teacher in Ireland” show sparse results, it sends out the message that there is no room for LGBT teachers in Irish Schools. I hoped that starting this blog might be another small step towards changing this misconception.

It took me three weeks to sum up the courage to publish the blog under my own name. By then I had decided that I would never again force myself back into the closet for any reason, even to stay in the career I love so much. So when I sat down to start the blog, I felt I had nothing to lose. What I hadn’t thought about was what I would gain.

When Grainne Faller from the Irish Times approached me to write an article based on the blog, I tried not to think about the consequences. It had been all well and good when only a handful of people had seen the blog, but my 96 year old granny reads the Irish Times and let’s just say, there’s a couple of things my family have neglected to tell her about my personal life these last few years.

Nevertheless, it was an opportunity for an LGBT teacher to write about their personal experiences in their own words. The very people Section 37.1 affects most are often left voiceless and faceless. For so many LGBT teachers, anonymity has been our employment protection because our equality laws have failed us. We have relied on others to speak for us, or our comments have remained anonymous, save a few brave individuals who were the inspiration for this blog.

Eileen Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/education-people-eileen-gamble-a-gay-teacher-on-coming-out-in-the-staffroom-1.1806611

Within two days of the article being published, I received over 500 calls, messages, tweets and emails from LGBT groups, teachers, teenagers, principals and even religious community leaders. The vast majority of messages were positive, supportive and caring. So many people wrote of the disbelief and anger they felt when they learned that Section 37.1 even exists in modern Ireland. Others wrote of their similar experiences of working in schools or other workplaces. People of all ages, both LGBT and straight, shared memories of how LGBT issues were treated in their schools. LGBT parents wrote about both positive and negative experiences of raising children attending religious-run schools. Parents came up to me in the school I was subbing in to shake my hand. Some even sat their children down and read them the article. It was a wonderful and overwhelming experience. But I also felt utterly heartbroken to learn that so many people in our communities still feel isolated or invisible because of who they are, who they love and their family structure. I just hoped that the positive messages I received were heard by everyone in these positions.

I was invited to talk with Ray D’Arcy on Today FM. The lovely Ray was extremely supportive and managed to charm all sorts of personal information out of me. But when it came to reading out emails from listeners, I held my breath. Would I be quick enough to defend myself live on air? I needn’t have worried. Other gay teachers phoned in to share their stories and parents emailed to give their support to gay teachers and gay parents. Finally, the silence was broken.

Ray Darcy

http://www.todayfm.com/player/listen_back/4/12069/04th_June_2014_-_The_Ray_D’Arcy_Show_Part_2

The INTO LGBT group were invited to the TV3 People’s Debate with Vincent Browne; “Is Ireland Homophobic?”. Vincent’s eyebrows were enough to terrify me to the very core. But it was an honour to sit alongside three other LGBT teachers; Anne Marie Lillis, Niall Callan and Dion Ó Caoimh who spoke with such dignity and eloquence. We had the opportunity to be in the presence of many of the incredible spokespeople for LGBT rights in Ireland today. Most notably, the young adults from BeLongTo Youth Services and TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) who spoke so movingly of their experiences of discrimination and the effects it has had on their lives. They are a glaring reminder that we are continuing to force the youth of this country to participate in a national education system that lacks the capacity to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in many of our schools.

Vincent browne Vincent Browne

During the next few weeks, other opportunities to do interviews came my way. I was so grateful for these opportunities to talk about life for LGBT teachers and student teachers across the country.  By then, there was only one type of interview that was of a major concern to me – a job interview. As Dublin Pride week arrived and many of my teaching colleagues counted down the last days of school, I couldn’t relax. Like so many teachers on temporary contracts, I knuckled down to write job application after job application. I started to feel a bit sick as the reality of coming out in a national newspaper began to sink in. It was nice to be referred to as a proud lesbian teacher but I was beginning to feel like an imposter. Could I still be called a teacher if I wasn’t actually teaching?

Eileen Newstalk

Newstalk’s Global Village with Dil Wickremasinghe

http://www.newstalk.ie/player/listen_back/21/10767/21st_June_2014_-_Global_Village_Part_2

I was giving my hairdresser/unofficial counsellor the update on all that had happened up until mid-August when the nice old lady sitting next to me bent over and tapped my on the arm.

Well did ya love? Did ya ever get a single job offer at all?” she pressed.

Even better”, I said, “I got three.”

Ah that’s grand for ya, isn’t it?

It is.” I replied.

And did you say you were a lesbian on your application?

No, there isn’t a box for it on the form.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

So I’ve chosen a one year temporary contract in a multidenominational school, an Educate Together National School, where Section 37.1 has no legal bearing on my employment equality rights. It’s the end of my third week. My head is melted and my throat is sore. I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. And when I go in next Monday and someone asks me how my weekend was, I will tell them; without editing pronouns, without avoiding certain questions and without replaying the conversation in my mind afterwards to make sure it was suitable. And then I’ll go back to my classroom and continue to do my job.

Eileen Door Sign

The last few months have taught me this; If you want to make any sort of contribution to the world around you, you do not need to be anything else but yourself. Of all the lessons I’m planning to teach my 5th Class this year, I’m making that one top of the list. If only our society made it that easy.

My reality is that I’m out now, very out! But the reality for most LGBT teachers and student teachers is that they are not out, and they feel that they can never be out in their school if they want a job or a promotion. And the number of teachers, gay or straight, who feel equipped to tackle homophobic bullying in our schools is miniscule. And this should not be the reality, for anyone, anywhere. No excuses.

Thank you to every single person who has supported this blog and especially to the other contributors so far; Cecelia, Niall and Ciara. And to other LGBT teachers who are wondering if their story is worth telling? Stop wondering and get typing/talking/sharing. Your voices and the voices of our many supporters remain the single most effective tool in combatting discrimination in our schools today.

UPDATEOn the 25th of September 2014, my dream temporary job became a dream PERMANENT job! Now that’s a happy ending 🙂

A 9-year-old gave this heartfelt letter to her teacher after he came out

A 9-year-old girl has written a heartfelt letter to her teacher, after he revealed he was gay during a lesson on homophobic bullying.

It reads: “Dear Mr R

“Even though you’re gay, I will always treat you the same way as I do now. I still think about you the same way as I used to. You’re a great teacher and these are just some of the word’s (sic) that I would describe you as: great, amazing, fantastic, brilliant, awesome and brave.

Read more at Pink News: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/12/15/a-9-year-old-girl-gave-this-hearfelt-letter-to-her-teacher-after-he-came-out-as-gay/

It feels good not hiding being gay | @kellkell85

Anna Kellner (@kellkell85)  is a Maths teacher at a high school in Scotland

Anna KellnerMy name is Anna, I have been working as a high school maths teacher for around four and a half years. I live a pretty standard life: I am married with a one year old son and I play hockey. People don’t usually expect me to be a maths teacher, it must be because of my two eyebrow piercings and numerous ear piercings.

I have always been out to my colleagues, in my first job I was planning my wedding so I couldn’t contain my excitement. I am no good at keeping secrets from friends and I have got on well with all the teachers I have worked with. My current school is the first one where I have been out to my pupils too, it also happens to be the first school where I have a permanent contract.

We found out my wife was pregnant in February 2013, I was overjoyed, I have always wanted to be a mum.  I found it harder  and harder to contain my excitement as we got closer to the due date. I had started hinting at classes that I would be off for two weeks soon but I didn’t tell them why.

Up until that point I had done the usual things: used gender neutral pronouns when talking about my wife and made jokes to avoid answering questions about my ‘husband’.

My son was born three weeks early so I ended up not being as prepared as I would have liked, my oldest class, who I’d already told, sent me a message on edmodo with their congratulations. I came back after two weeks ‘paternity’ leave and openly told my classes that I had been off for the birth of my son. Of course they knew I hadn’t given birth so they asked and I told them that my wife had. None of my classes made any comments about my being married to a woman, most pupils seemed happy for me for becoming a mother.

That was a year ago now and I am glad I am out at school, it feels good not hiding being gay, it should not be something to be ashamed of. It is easier not watching what I say and being able to talk about my son and wife openly.

I haven’t really mentioned what pupils said, mostly because nothing has changed in the way that we interact with each other. There was no big reveal followed by a stunned silence. I am glad that we have all carried on as if nothing has changed, because nothing has.

I don’t know if the phrase ‘that’s so gay’ is going out of fashion or kids just don’t use it around me, but I hope it’s the former. I am glad to live in a place where sexuality isn’t an issue and I look forward to the day when my wife and I will be able to convert our civil partnership into a marriage.

The Crying Shame of Denying LGBT Teachers Their Authenticity | @ShaunDellenty

Shaun Dellenty (@ShaunDellenty).

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.

Read more at Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/shaun-dellenty/lgbt-teachers_b_6077366.html

LGBT role models in the teaching profession | @Innervoices2011

A piece by Ed Watkins, Teacher at the West London Free School

ed watkinsNothing makes the rightness of Harvey Milk’s call to normalise ourselves through coming out more accurate than the huge change in attitudes towards our community in the USA and its close correlation with the increase in the number of people who know someone who is gay. Now that this trend is a part of life in the Western world it can be easy to forget how rare it is for this step to be taken in secondary school. The playground can still be a hostile environment for young gay people, particularly at Key Stage 3.

I started at the West London Free School when in opened in 2011 and from the off was encouraged by the supportive attitude of the other staff towards ensuring that the school is a safe, supportive place for young LGBT students. Having worked in a Catholic school where homosexuality didn’t even get a mention in the PSHE lessons on discrimination it was refreshing to experience unambiguous openness from governors, leadership and staff.

In Year 9 the school decided to start approaching sex and relationship education in depth and one de-timetabled day included an hour on sexuality. I was very pleased that the suggestion came from our Deputy Head. This was given over to me and in the run up to the day I gave some thought to what would happen if a pupil asked if I was gay. My worries centred around the possibility that it would impact on my ability to be a role model to boys who enjoy singing and get in the way of our successful attempts to achieve gender balance in our choirs and ensembles. Alongside this I entered the day assuming that the insecurity Year 9s feel about their burgeoning sexuality (straight or otherwise) would make the environment quite homophobic.

In reality I found that many of our Year 9s were remarkably open. Some were indeed uncomfortable about homosexuality and for them the day was a useful opportunity to discuss the topic rather than to simply be told they were wrong. In particular many of the students were receptive to the idea that, in changing room terms, same sex attraction means being attracted to some members of the same sex as opposed to all of them!

At the end of the day, as predicted, I was asked by a child whether I was gay:

‘Yes, but you knew that already didn’t you’

Seemed like the right answer. After a warm reception at the assembly that followed the pupils went off and, judging by the following email from a parent, shared their thoughts back at home:

Just a quick message to say a BIG WELL DONE for the way you handled today’s class. Obviously I asked how it went as we had an email about it. Tom said it went well and he said you were asked a personal question and told us what you said. Tom said he thinks it was very brave of you and in his not so eloquent words you are now WELL RATED !!! for being honest and that’s how all the kids felt.

Other communications from parents have been universally positive, including from those who are worried about their own children being able to grow up in a safe and understanding environment.

Following on from that day I’ve found it much easier to deal with any passing homophobic language as the pupils understand more clearly why it might not be ideal. It’s also easier to do so without making a big deal of it, the usual lecture on why it might be offensive is implicit in the reprimand. No pupil has acted in anyway differently and my worries about it having any effect on my teaching were unfounded, more a reflection of my own projections than anything else.

 

“The West London Free School is very lucky to have someone like Ed on its staff. His honesty and straightforwardness about his sexuality has had a really positive influence on the pupils.”

Toby Young, co-founder, West London Free School

To come out or not to come out? by @EducateCelebrat

Teachers: To come out or not to come out?

Elly Barnes, CEO and Founder of the UK’s Educate & Celebrate organization, says that the decision whether the come out or not remains a pressing concern for LGBT teachers today
Despite Section 28 being repealed in the United Kingdom 11 years ago, being ‘out’ is still an issue for many teachers today.

– See more at: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/teachers-come-out-or-not-come-out290914

Essex: head praises ‘greatly loved’ trans teacher

A transgender teacher has been praised for her courage and popularity by staff and pupils at a secondary school in Essex ahead of her transition this summer.

The unnamed teacher had formerly been living as a man and pupils were told this week that she would be returning in the autumn following transition to live as a woman.

Read more: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/07/06/essex-head-praises-greatly-loved-trans-teacher/

Rick Connors – it gets better Australia

Mr Connors, a teacher at Wanganui Park Secondary College in Shepparton, Australia shares his story and explains how his school will show support for all same-sex attracted, transgender and sexually diverse students. This video was shown in his school’s assembly as part of “It gets better Australia” week.

The hunt for LGBT equality in schools | @lgbt_lawyer in @SecEd_Education

What can schools do to meet their legal requirements and ensure staff are treated equally, irrespective of sexuality. Legal expert Paul Maddock (@lgbt_lawyer) advises.

The introduction of the Equality Act in 2010 was a landmark legal development designed to offer workers fair protection from discrimination. However, at a recent conference hosted by the NASUWT teachers’ union, research suggested that the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers have been subjected to discrimination during their careers because of their sexuality. – See more at: http://www.sec-ed.co.uk/best-practice/the-hunt-for-lgbt-equality-in-schools