Talking about my masters in challenging homophobia in schools in the pub the other night I was confronted with the question:
“So are you gay then?”
This person assumed I must be as she could not comprehend why someone who is straight would be bothered about discrimination of a group that they did not belong to.
With students I usually reply to that question (with a gentle reminder about ground rules and no personal questions!)with:
“would it matter if I were?”
and we start to unpick why this stuff should be important to us all, and how ones sexual orientation does not affect their ability to be a good teacher, a good friend etc.
In the classroom it is an interesting one- if you are a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual teacher, do you really want to come out to the students in your school? You could be an amazing role model but likewise in a non-supportive school you could be opening up a can of prejudicial worms. Likewise a straight teacher doing this work maybe worried people will assume they are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and treat them differently as a result, and this may serve as a barrier to this work. Also they may feel they don’t know enough about the issues to address it properly (to that I must point out white male teachers can teach about racism or sexism just fine- this is no different). (Oh and N.B Straight Teachers answering that question with an emphatic “No!” as if its a bad thing, only serves to reinforce the pervading culture of heteronormativity. Sigh.)
To the woman in the pub I didn’t ask her “would it matter if I were?” but said
To me this is an equalities issue and it’s something we should all be bothered about whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.
(and then carried on ranting about my research to the poor woman- sorry!)
Whilst doing this work I have always been aware of having heterosexual privilege. Being a married (to a man) mother of two working in this field, means that it brings this issue into the mainstream. I’m not someone from a so-called “sexual minority” (I hate that term- very “othering”) on a soapbox but someone who never experiences homophobia but is actively engaged in challenging prejudice and discrimination particularly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. In my experience this has possibly added a level of engagement to the work from straight colleagues, that might not be present if I was a gay, lesbian or bisexual teacher?
I’m not saying all teachers need to be as engaged on these issues as
rantypants me, but I am saying all teachers can and should challenge LGBT prejudice as much as possible regardless of their own identity. It’s a human rights issue, it’s an equalities issue and even just taking the time to consider how you might answer the question from a student
So are you gay then?
in a way that addresses sexualities equality in some way is a step in the right direction.
Anyhow Macklemore, Ryan Lewis &Mary Lewis say it better than me afterall its “Same Love.”