Why should gay teachers keep their home lives secret?
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.