Teachers are asked more questions about themselves than many other employees. This is because of the concern from parents and the management to gauge the form of influence they have on children. But there is more to this when we deal with coming out.
An LGBTQ+ teacher explains why she doesn’t blame other teachers who do not come out at school.
It took Iesha Small 10 years in schools before she felt she could be open about her sexuality.
Here is why she explains:
Lesha Small has been a Math teacher for 10 years at a secondary school and she was out to the staff but not to the students yet.
“I wanted to be a great maths teacher – why did I have to face the burden of being a role model for LGBTQ students too?
“This felt safe for me. I was teaching in a faith school. My colleagues were respectful, but I had nagging doubts: would the school leadership support me in the face of any comments from parents or students? I didn’t want it tested.
As I became more comfortable with my sexuality in my private life – my family was mostly on my side – the same became true at work.
And eventually, once she was an assistant headteacher, I came out to a Year 9 class I knew well, correcting them when they assumed I had a “husband”. The kids hadn’t expected me to be gay and asked a bit about if I’d always known, but the lesson carried on as normal. “I thought it would be all around the school by the end of the day. But it wasn’t.”
She has been on a journey – through different schools and on a personal journey of my own acceptance.
Coming out has been hard many times:
I’ve suffered homophobic abuse in public for nothing more than sitting next to my partner on a train or walking our dogs together. Being out is not an event, it’s an ongoing process. It’s daunting but it gets easier. For me, the journey has been worth it for my own mental health and wellbeing. But I don’t blame anyone for taking their time.
Some advice to the LGBTQ+ teachers:
1. Coming out doesn’t have to be a big announcement in assembly or class. It can be casual and personal in the flow of conversation.
2. If you don’t feel supported or valued as a teacher who is also LGBTQ, move to another school – check out their websites to get a feel for how they are with gender issues.
3. Get the support of your headteacher or, if you are ahead, chair of governors before coming out to pupils.
4. Coming out is a series of steps – don’t worry if you can’t take them all at once.
5. Safety and health first. Look after yourself and don’t feel guilty if you aren’t ready to be a role model for others.
Here’s Tthe advice she gives to other LGBT+ teachers: “Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t ready to be a role model for others,” and “If you don’t feel supported or valued as a teacher who is also LGBTQ, move to another school.”
Also, schools should take initiative in educating students and staff about the LGBTQ. Its effects and ways to combat it in order to create safer, more welcoming school environments. A few of the important points include:
Teach students and staff to respect each other.
There are many ways to teach students the importance of respecting all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
2. Include positive representations of LGBTQ+ people, history, and events into the curriculum.
An LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum that provides positive representations of LGBT people, history and events helps to create a tone of acceptance of LGBT people and increase awareness of LGBTQ-related issues, resulting in a more supportive environment for LGBTQ students. Including LGBTQ+ History, adding lessons about diverse families and the use of LGBTQ+ inclusive Literature.
3. Engage other school staff about anti-LGBT bias and ways to create safer schools.
Creating safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression can be a difficult task. There is no reason to go it alone, help other educators become supportive allies for LGBT students. Here are some simple ways you can share your commitment to ensuring safe schools and your knowledge about the issues with other educators.
Lesha Small said “I felt able to come out at my interview because the school had a Stonewall schools champion logo on its website. These gestures may seem small but LGBTQ people notice them and they matter.”
Ultimately, the onus is on the schools to create an environment that is safe for both staff and students to be open and honest about their gender and sexuality.teachers working in more conservative communities feel particularly anxious about exposing their sexual orientation.
But even people with generally tolerant views toward homosexuality sometimes question the necessity of coming out, particularly in a school setting. Many also wonder if it is relevant to even talk about sexual orientation in the classroom.