“You end up lying because there’s this fear at the back of your head – it’s not that my colleagues would in anyway be judgemental but it was in the back of my head, I was looking for a permanent job and I couldn’t take the risk parents might find out and complain.”
The Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO) says that thousands of LGBT teachers are compelled to conceal their sexuality owing to prejudice in schools.
Despite regulations that guarantee equal job opportunities for everybody, according to a study by the primary school teachers’ union, just 18% of LGBT teaching staff in the Republic and 12% in the North have acknowledged their sexual orientation in the classroom.
On this basis, it is estimated that some 4,000 primary school teachers on the island are hesitant to reveal their real identities in schools.
Homophobia “can never be allowed to hide behind a religious or cultural cloak,” said outgoing INTO president Joe McKeown at the union’s annual conference.
“In terms of this issue, I don’t care who currently owns the schools, the minister for education needs to make it clear, if you’re homophobic, you’re not allowed to run a school,” he added.
Nearly 90% of Irish schools are still run by Catholics, according to delegates, which causes problems for instructors whose beliefs do not fit with Catholic values.
One gay instructor told the conference that he lived in terror of his former Catholic school’s administration “find out who he really was.”
After admitting his sexuality at school, he said his part-time job as a teacher at the school abruptly stopped.
The teacher, who has since moved on to a new school, urged fellow delegates to encourage inclusion in schools and to assist reverse homophobia’s “learned behaviour” in schools by reminding their students that it is unacceptable.
“I am now an out and proud gay teacher and for staff, parents and most importantly, children in my school, I strive every day to be the LGBT+ teacher and role model I wish I had as I grew up,” he said.
Mr. Daly, a science teacher told Irish Time: “I was teaching in a faith based school and I still am but my fear was if I mentioned that I was gay, I would be kicked out and fired on the spot.”
Mr. Daly said the worry of losing his permanent job or promotion if he came out as gay pervaded every aspect of his life as a teacher, including routine chats about how he spent the weekend or where he went on vacation.
He credited then-Minister of State Aodhán Rordán with presenting the Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in 2015, which made it more difficult for any faith-based school to fire someone because of their sexual orientation, much to the relief of LGBT instructors.
“I know of colleagues, past and present, who are afraid to come out because of the bullying that might happen to them but since I came out openly after that change in legislation, colleagues have been hugely supportive and school management have been very positive.”
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