Why should gay teachers keep their home lives secret?

20th June 2008 at 01:00
On one of the first lessons of the morning I am teaching Year 11 maths
Snippets of people's private lives are regularly brought into school, but some staff have to consider the consequences

On one of the first lessons of the morning I am teaching Year 11 maths. Peeking at the lesson brief I am disturbed from my supply teacher reverie to notice a host of small children beaming back at me. Not the raucous Year 11s, but a series of laminated family photos glued to the teacher's desk.

This is not the only place I have seen these candleless shrines to family life. Often I'll come across a series of framed photos or even the odd picture wedged surreptitiously into a class register. I am taken aback. It's not that I despise little ones - after all, I have siblings, nephews and nieces, aged from two to 14, whom I hold dear. But I cannot help wondering why I am having these snapshots of a family life that isn't mine thrust in my face, when I have to keep my own home life secret.

The fact that I'm gay would make it awkward if I revealed anything about my personal life (right now I am single). Yes, work and home life are two separate worlds. But the occasional child will always try and probe the private world of the teacher. Am I ready to unlock this Pandora's box of secrecy?

I'm not sure. Perhaps this insecurity is my undoing in not plucking up the courage to be honest when asked - but I can imagine the potential child gossip and the homophobic comments that I regularly hear thrown around the classroom. In a sense to me it would be like coming out a second time - knowing firmly what I am in my own mind, but having to face the possibility of being turned into something I'm not on the basis of how others might perceive my sexuality. Anyway, I just don't feel ready.

If these guys are allowed to bring their family life so explicitly into the classroom then the powers-that-be should put some effort into making the classroom a place where the non-heterosexual doesn't have to hide his or her life away in fear of mockery.

I hope eventually it will be possible for a female teacher to say: "Well actually I don't have a husband. I have a wife. We live together." Until then I retain the right to remain silent and unquestioned.

David Cox is a supply teacher in south Devon.

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