A gay teacher recounts his experiences

18th August 2000 at 01:00
In the wake of the Government's defeat over the repeal of Section 28, a gay teacher who wishes top remain anonymous recounts his experiences.

When I first started teaching, at the age of 25, being gay was never an "issue". In fact, as a Londoner I had been used to all sexualities from a young age - my parents had had gay friends, I had had gay friends at school and in my sixth form sexuality was often discussed, and bigots were soon put in their place.

Being a teacher involves addressing issues such as sexuality. Against the wishes of many colleagues (and that includes gay colleagues) I have always followed through my beliefs throughout my career.

My first post, in an East End comprehensive, brought my sexuality to the fore, not in the classroom but in the staffroom. Hackney children possessed no homophobia, whereas the pressure from colleagues to "come out" was unbearable.

Having notes in my pigeonhole inviting me to meetings of gay teachers was at first interesting (I went to a couple), then became boring. A "gay mafia" wanted me to admit myself to their agenda and I was having none of it.

My second post, in a "trendy" London comprehensive, was a source of great joy and professional development. I could teach my subject despite depressng political conditions, and have great chats with students about what it meant to be gay.

As someone who came through a London comprehensive, I had never thought of sexuality as something that could hinder my education. I went to a top university and began my career with a message along the lines of "if I can do it, anyone can". When Section 28 was born, I had untold support from students, but only whispered snide comments from colleagues.

You see, I am not a stereotypical gay man: I do not advertise the fact that I am gay, and this has caused great confusion to both straight and gay colleagues. I do not feel the need to wear trendy T-shirts and tight trousers, or cast bitchy comments with a flick of the wrist.

In the past few years, I have dealt with the accusations of "poof" and "queer" - all too often I have had parents involved who have taken Section 28 as a licence to say "I'm not having my child taught by a poof!" And all too often my smug married colleagues have shied away from involvement.

Goodbye teaching - supply work in the future at least means I can shut off at the end of the day and remember that once upon a time gay teachers could teach without all this pain.

The author taught in inner-city schools for 10 years


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