‘Miss, are you gay?’ Part two

As stated in the prequel to this post I did not deal with this question well in the early stages of my career.  Actually, I dealt with it appallingly.  I denied my sexuality and set a precedent for how I may tackle similar questions in the future.

Fast forward a few years and at no other time has a student asked me explicitly about my sexual orientation.  However, there have been circumstances where I have been able to discuss my partner with students, both past and present.  The most notable time was on last year’s ski trip in Italy.  Another teacher and I were talking one night with two students.  My colleague was talking about her boyfriend and one of the students said to me ‘Miss, are you with anybody?’.  I was able to confidently say, “Yes, well actually I am married”.  The conversation continued and I disclosed that I was married to a woman.  It was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders; it felt great to talk about my sexuality.  It was exactly how I wanted it to happen: natural and met with complete acceptance, as I should have assumed it would have been.

I wouldn’t say I am openly out with students; it isn’t something I feel the need to declare.  It is not something I feel the need to talk about freely, in the same way I wouldn’t expect any professional teacher to talk openly about their private life.   I have been questioning the need that people in the LGBT community have to come out and tell people about their sexuality, especially since watching the film ‘Jenny’s Wedding’ that I have previously blogged about.  In a truly equal society there should be no greater need for me to announce my sexuality anymore than my heterosexual neighbour.

9 thoughts on “‘Miss, are you gay?’ Part two

  1. Nic says:

    Rephrasing the question from “do you have a husband?” to “are you with anybody?” shows great maturity and acceptance from the student- I wish adults would ask the question in the same way, then we wouldn’t perhaps feel so inclined to hide the truth to go along with other people’s assumptions or expectations.

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    • Marcus Gelling says:

      I agree with “are you with someone” is appropriate. However, I do feel that we should all be able to state, “my husband”, or “my wife” regardless of whether it is a man or woman answering the question. I’ve always had great relationships with my managers, and ultimately with (almost always) older senior management colleagues, and I really feel for them when they avoid saying “my husband”, replacing it with partner, as immediately they lose that twinkle in their eyes when talking about the love of their lives, just so as to ensure they would never offend anyone. “My partner” could then return to being the phrase used historically to describe “long term common law wife / husband”, so that colleagues, (and I am of course talking about friends), who don’t believe (can’t afford to in London), spending money on a wedding, rather saving to buy a home together, or as another example, those from mixed religious backgrounds whose love is “frowned” upon by their respective religious / ethnic backgrounds, families and places of worship. This of course then leads in to another much wider issue, that highlights the fact that all minorities, other than straight, white, heterosexual Christians in this country, face in a similar way to your original article. I’ve always had amazing support in Education, but have learnt that most people face “difficult” questions from inquisitive children, (and indeed adults), that most of the time the initial question is actually simply a question, and that the response when repeated to their family or friends, then leads to judgements through ignorance, which return the next day or week to the class room, and have then required educating about the modern world and Equality Laws. (The introduction of the Single Equality Scheme actually made it easy for me to state, here’s the Law, take it home to read!! Naughty I know, but…… I’ll stop now. And this demonstrates why I could never get a proper “column in a newsletter” written!)

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  2. Marcus Gelling says:

    I’ve visited your blog, (the first time I’ve ever visited such a thing – I’m a bit old for all this now, despite having taught IT for several years!!), specifically to congratulate and thank you for the excellent “Miss, are you gay” article printed in the TES. Your wording captured by own personal beliefs and experiences absolutely perfectly, and in a way that I could never have achieved, despite having attempted to write about it at the behest of my head. Reasonable, level headed, accurate, and recognising that we do still “feel awkward” about being completely out. I too absolutely, without hesitation, have always asked “why should I even need to highlight my sexuality”….. Sometimes I have felt that the “system” is almost needing gay teachers to identify as such, in the lack of it being “taught”, (and I doubt it will ever be listed in whatever “national curriculum” – or what ever it is called in the future). So many thanks for being able to describe the situation I, and several of my friends have experienced in such a “non-confrontational” manner, in such a way that everyone can read and understand, and perhaps ultimately emphasise with, because of your ability to write this piece. One small step, which leads to a “giant leap”!! Well done.

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  3. Arthur Lipkin says:

    I’m happy that you’ve given so much thought to this over the years and that your views have evolved.

    I recommend that all teachers reply to the “are you gay” question by asking the student first how a “yes” would impact his or her opinion of or relationship with you. Assure the student that you will answer the question directly in a minute, but that you’d like them to think about the issue first. If the teacher is straight, she/he can then come out as straight, but add that there are LGBTQ people in their lives whom they love and don’t like to see disrespected. That’s good ally modelling. If the teacher, like you, is LGBTQ, an unabashed “yes” is best, if you have the support of the school.

    But I hope that you’ll think longer about your equating coming out with talking about your private life. In your post, you recognize a difference between status and behavior. I hope your straight colleagues do as well.

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  4. Andy says:

    I remember having the same feeling; and because I lived so close to my school, it was known that I lived with another guy. I too would avoid the question… ‘Erm, do you ask every teacher that question?’, or, ‘your exam is in 22 days, you’ve got more important things to worry about’. No definite answer. And even that felt wrong. I remember sitting down and talking with a friend of mine who was part of the SLT, who said ‘these kids need a positive role model, just think of what you’re doing for those who feel uncomfortable in the skin in their classroom every day’. And he was right. The next time I was asked, I just said ‘yes’ and it ended the conversation. And no one else needed to ask as it was common knowledge. Not once did any of the kids disrespect me because of my sexuality, and I felt far more comfortable teaching them too.

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