Earlier this summer, high school teachers Luke Burgess and Pam Stallard of Longhill High School in Britain came out as gay during a school-wide assembly. On August 2nd, they appeared on Good Morning Britain to defend their choice, arguing that their coming out in front of the whole school teaches the students “something fundamental that they can’t quite get in a classroom.” However, Katie Ivens, the vice chairperson of “Campaign for Real Education,” was quick to attack Burgess and Stallard’s decision, saying, “They are teachers and their job is to teach.”
Before I give my opinion about what Ms. Ivens said, I would like to applaud Ms. Stallard and Mr. Burgess. Coming out is a very tough task, especially in front of 101 students, and to do so while teaching students to combat homophobia makes it all the braver. I’ve had to come out before, and it was not as easy as Ms. Stallard and Mr. Burgess made it look. The mixed reactions are normal, and I hope this can change.
Now, onto Ms. Ivens. You said that teachers are supposed to be teaching their students what they will need to know in order to become “knowledgeable people.” Knowing how to treat members of the LGBTQ+ community like they are human is definitely something everyone should learn, something that should qualify as “knowledgeable.” In addition, LGBTQ+ students don’t have many people to look up to, and if they see that their teacher is in the a part of the community with them, that they are not alone, they can find supportive role models while they are still young. I remember struggling with this when I was younger and feeling like I had no one I could see myself in. At that time, I had no idea that my teacher was a lesbian. Had I known, I would have been able to come to terms with myself much earlier than I did.
Ms. Ivens, you are suggesting that LGBTQ+ teachers have to hide themselves away from their students. Well, guess what? The next generation has already been regarded as the most tolerant towards the LGBTQ+ community, and by suppressing a sexuality, all you are doing is making those kids take longer to realize that, although they are different, they are still human. Safer schools means more a inclusive society, and the LGBTQ+ community is no exception.