LGBT Youth Scotland and Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign to ensure that schools in Scotland are offering an LGBTI+ inclusive education and that LGBT young people are fully supported. With backing from all quarters of Scottish political and civic society, they have raised public awareness of the difficulties faced by LGBT young people within and outwith education.
SATE fully supports LGBT Youth Scotland’s and TIE’s aims and welcomes their contribution to the educational debate.
You can find out more about LGBT Youth Scotland here: https://www.lgbtyouth.org.uk/
You can find out more about TIE here: http://www.tiecampaign.co.uk/
In this piece, a SATE member reflects on her experiences as a bisexual teacher.
Last October, I came out as bi-sexual. My friends and family, while slightly surprised (I have a marriage, kids and a divorce to my name), were happy that I was happy. “Gosh, this is easy!” I thought. The right time, the right people, life is full of happy surprises.
Full of the joys of life, I also let the knowledge seep out via my Facebook page. My acquaintances near and far could share my news and react however they liked, if they reacted at all.
Unfortunately there was another reason I let it out on Facebook. The school in which I worked had a rumbling undercurrent (in the areas I dwelt, at least) of nasty comments from some peers, particularly against homo/bisexuality. My tactic worked a treat, however, and as soon as I was out on Facebook, the rumblings dried up and I could happily go about my business, albeit with my fingers in my ears and my eyes screwed shut, pretending everything was ok as long as I didn’t talk about my partner.
I observed at my school great compassion for children of difference – in other words, all children. GIRFEC focuses the mind on ensuring their well being, physical, mental and emotional. While some teachers raised an eyebrow over a boy’s glossed lip or a girl’s very cropped hair, they always taught to their best ability. Students weren’t always so nice to each other, but on the surface, the teaching staff showed a united front of support. ‘This will stop, you must speak out, we support you’, we would say.
As an LGBT+ teacher, I really wanted to be a role model for being true to yourself. I wanted to put posters up of LGBT+ movie stars, scientists, sports people alongside those of famous dyslexics already up and about. I wanted to initiate conversations in class about LGBT+ characters, about the use of pronouns in sticky situations, about being comfortable to be yourself.
But as an LGBT+ teacher (and I cuddle that label, LGBT+, because it represents me. I am not gay. I am not lesbian. I am not greedy. I am bi-sexual.) I was scared. I didn’t feel I could talk about being LGBT+, or why it took so long to come out, because it was an environment where to do so, I was putting myself on the firing line of sharp comments and cold shoulders.
There recently has been a survey about attitudes towards and experiences of LGBT+ teachers. (http://bit.ly/teacherstie) I took a rather dark pleasure in completing it as I wrote very honestly/anonymously about my experience. I wonder what they are going to do with the data? I’d like to think that there will be created a support group for LGBT+ teachers. The only support I could find was for pupils. I had no idea who to turn to – and my few LGBT+ friends said, ‘Just ignore it, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’ll make matters worse.’ (They were right, by the way.) Is that what we tell students? Our children?
As I write this, I am thinking, panicking slightly…..will I post this anonymously? And shame on me for thinking that. But I think schools need to look at themselves and ask, are my staff afraid to be themselves? Are they allowed to achieve their full potential? Is there a culture of conflict and opposition? Or of surface political correctness? Schools are filled with people and people are imperfect. But schools should also emulate an ideal – equality, compassion….EVERYBODY first.
I look back on my year with a mixture of pride at completing it, shame at being such a feart, embarrassment at my hack-handed efforts at times in dealing with it, but also some small satisfaction that despite my self-censorship, I was able to get through. I like having my first years (who tend to start with an autobiography) finish the year with a personal reflective essay. One student used their essay to come out as gay. Others wrote about learning disabilities or how they tackle personal struggles. I was genuinely myself with them, and so they felt they could be with me. And that is my real pleasure in teaching.
(and yes, decision made to post this anonymously. I simply don’t have the confidence that we as a profession are there yet.)