The title of this blog is a question I dreaded being asked as a 22 year old teacher at the beginning of my career. I was worried that being open about my sexuality would be frowned upon by other staff members or that being honest with students may lead to them not respecting me. I had thought about what I would say if the question arose; “I would rather not talk about my private life”, “I am not sure how this is relevant to the lesson” or simply “no”. Surely not “no”; that would be denying who I was, suggesting a sense of shame. At this stage in my career I gave very little thought to discussing my sexuality with students, it wasn’t on my radar. I lacked confidence, I needed to establish myself and I wanted nothing to jeopardise my credibility.
One day the dreaded question was asked: “Miss, I’ve heard a rumour you are gay”. I panicked, I didn’t think, words just came out of my mouth, “I don’t know where you heard that, it isn’t true”. Instantly I regretted it, it felt wrong. Why had I denied it? Who was I trying to protect? Myself? What was I so scared of? My response to this question has regularly played on my mind since. Seven years on, I still think of how I responded and I regret it wholeheartedly. Young people deserve honesty and they require role models who are proud of who they are. I do not advocate teachers sharing too much with students about their private lives as there have to be clear boundaries. However, my lie and denial did not send the correct message; it suggested a lack of pride in who I am.
In the four and a half years that I have been with my wife she has always been open regarding her relationship with me. Previously, she had only been in relationships with men and, in every circumstance, has tackled questions about her ‘partner’ head on. This is something I truly admire; her response normalises our relationship rather than hides it. Not once has her honesty been met with anything other than support and acceptance. Seeing her approach showed me that honesty was the best way to tackle questions regarding sexuality. This was something I knew before but was not confident enough to follow through with. Whilst I have never been directly asked the exact question since, there have been opportunities for me to discuss my sexual orientation which I have not shyed away from. I will share and discuss these in my next post.