I'm gay and a teacher - problem

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Shaun.P, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. Shaun.P macrumors 68000


    Jul 14, 2003
    Omicron Persei 8
    I'm a teacher at a high school, teaching from ages 11 to 16.

    I have a senior class who are 15/16 who I have a very laid back relationship with. I am very personable with them - and I've made an effort to try and get to know them in order to develop a good working relationship.

    For example, about once a fortnight I let the class listen to music - I asked them to write down their favourite song, downloaded them and made a playlist so that they're listening to each other's favourite music. I also often talk about anything eventful that I've been doing personally in my life, such as if I've been to any gigs, what I did at the weekend etc. I also ask these questions to the class, when appropriate.

    Anyway, I love teaching this class because this has harboured an extremely positive learning environment. Sometimes I have felt that the students have went too far (such as too much talking when I am talking) but on the whole I would say there is a mutual respect and I know that they enjoy being in my class.

    The pupils are naturally inquisitive about me and today when I was doing a study session, I was helping one pupil in particular. I could peripherally hear another pupil casual ask me, in a kind enough way (although sort of in passing and indirectly) if I am gay.

    I am gay. I am not particularly open about it (I rarely go out my way to tell people - but if people ask me straight (pardon the pun) I will be honest).

    Because I was helping another pupil, I pretended that I never heard it. The question was not repeated.

    I am stuck in a dilemma.

    If I tell the truth I worry that it might affect this excellent relationship that I have with the class. But I also think that this excellent relationship is based on a "fake" me if I am not being true to myself. Moreover, I am worried that if I answer truthfully this might spread throughout the school causing problems with my younger, more troublesome classes.

    However, I don't see why I should have to lie and say I'm straight when I'm not.

    I have been thinking that if I am asking again to give a general comment that isn't very specific and vaguely answers the question, like "I don't see how this is relevant to me being your teacher". However feel that that is a bit rude considering how open I've been with them so far.

    I know I am a teacher and I carry a responsibility - which I do take seriously. I am trying to approach this uncomfortable situation from a professional view point. It's starting to stress me out - hence why I thought I would ask for some help here.

    I don't think I would have a problem telling this class in particular if I knew each of them wouldn't tell anyone else in the school. This obviously isn't going to happen.

    I should add that I am relatively new to teaching.
  2. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Do not answer. Kindly reply that you like to keep your personal life private. Instead, ask the student why they are asking you such a question. They may need someone to talk to about their own sexuality. If this is the case, refer them to a counselor.

    Trust me on this- the students do not need to know this about you, and they WILL tell everyone they know.
  3. imahawki macrumors 6502a

    Apr 26, 2011
    I agree, and not BECAUSE your gay. Although that may put your career at risk (NOT RIGHT!!!!! but reality) its also just not a good idea to answer such personal questions even if you were not gay.
  4. Rolvag macrumors regular


    Apr 2, 2010
    Tell them, only if your ready for the negative repurcussions
  5. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Yes- these are students, not co-workers or friends. Treat them as such.
  6. HasanDaddy macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I served as a public school teacher for about a year and a half - it is deeply fulfilling work

    That said - you should be honest about your homosexuality - however, I strongly recommend that you consult with the Principal before making the announcement - that way, the Principal is in your corner and won't feel blindsided if parents complain - in addition, I also recommend that the Principal be present in the room when you tell the class so that there's a documented history of how it was announced

    It sucks that these sort of things have to be "announced" with authority present, but the good news is, by being honest, you're making homosexuality more acceptable and that's a major feather in your cap - lastly, it's important that you keep your job, so cover your bases, consult with the principal and make it happen

    All will work out brother :)
  7. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    It seems hugely inappropriate to ask and even more so to answer. Do as the above posters are saying. Perhaps scale back on the personal recount of your weekends as well.
  8. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6


    Aug 17, 2007
    As a teacher myself, you are asking for a world of trouble if you talk about your sexuality, doesn't matter what your orientation is, with students.
  9. r1ch4rd macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2005
    Manchester UK
    I would try and keep my personal life separate. Most of the students may accept what you say straight away or come around to the idea quickly enough. However, it just takes a few to ruin the class for everyone else. It's a sad situation, but unfortunately I suspect this is the risk that you run.
  10. ashman70 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 20, 2010
    Your sexual orientation has nothing to do with your job and is no ones business but your own. If you wish to share it, that's up to you, however I am sure you are aware of the consequences (even though there shouldn't be any) of doing so. You should simply say that your personal life is personal and that they shouldn't judge someone based on their appearances, accent, skin colour or sexual orientation.
  11. Shaun.P thread starter macrumors 68000


    Jul 14, 2003
    Omicron Persei 8
    I am definitely leaning towards this.

    It wouldn't put my career at risk to tell them. I didn't think it would be a good idea to tell them - but you naturally get questions like, "are you married", "do you have a girlfriend".

    You're 100% correct, and I don't think I am.

    Yes, I do understand this and I don't treat them like friends however I have worked hard building a relationship with them all the while maintaining my professionalism.

    Your post worried me! I have even told my Principal or see him regularly. I don't mind telling people I am gay but don't go out of my way.

    I do not think it is inappropriate for a student to ask this. Children are naturally inquisitive. If it had been asked in a vile way, I would intend to agree but the tone in which it was asked for a friendly, inquisitive way.

    When I made the comment regarding explaining my weekend it's literally only a few minutes on a Monday. Such as "Welcome back! Did anybody do anything eventful at the weekend? I went to the cinema and watched X, it was very good - you should go see it!". I don't see anything wrong with this? Do you agree?
  12. dXTC macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2006
    Up, up in my studio, studio
    Yep. Ultimately, it's none of the students' business. All it takes is for one of these students to tell their homophobic/ultra-conservative parents or a friend with homophobic/ultra-conservative parents, and then it's "OMG think of the CHILDREN!!!!!1!one" and you'll be fighting for your job.
  13. ChristianVirtual macrumors 601


    May 10, 2010
    this in combination what the OP described sounds like a good way to keep the open communication but also the "hierarchy" to the "giving" teacher and "receiving" students (in a very positive meaning).

    But finally I would also suggest to keep it out of the class room. It will cause more problems. More with parents getting scared or upset. We are still one or two generations away from easy acceptance.
  14. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    That's, respectfully, not true.

    Straight teachers get to talk about their sexuality all the time. Every time they mention their opposite-sex spouse, their family, etc.

    A gay teacher should be able to reveal the same information without worry that it could affect the relationship they have with their class and co-workers (not to mention retaining their job). Unfortunately, that's not always the case at this time.


    I think it's a complete mischaracterization of students to suggest that they should view their teachers as void of a personal life and personal relationships. That wasn't my experience in high school. I saw pictures of my teacher's families; sometimes a teacher would joke about something their spouse had said; at times I was driven by the teacher to an extracurricular (school-related) event and her kids might come along; one teacher had her husband's band perform at a fundraiser for a club; etc. And this was at a school of about 2,000 students.

    Teachers are human too, and it's important that students know that. Teachers are a vital and valuable role model for their students. I received an enormous amount of advice, academic and otherwise, from a few of my teachers and it will help me for the rest of my life.

    That said, if you're not ready for possible backlash or you don't want to tell your students, then you're not obligated to. But if you want to tell them, I think it's well within you're right to do so (especially if it's alright with the principal).
  15. waloshin macrumors 68040

    Oct 9, 2008
    A) You're not gay... your a teacher, a human being your sexuality does not define who you are. Your sexuality is just one aspect of who you are and a very small part.

    So no you're students do not need to know.
  16. chuckles:) macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2006
    I've had several gay teacher, and the class was always fine with it. Some of those were even when I went to a religious high school. If you students have a good relationship with you, it probably wouldn't change that.
  17. likemyorbs macrumors 68000


    Jul 20, 2008
    Same here. I had one in 2nd grade (1997), his name was Mr. S. He was pretty flamboyant and used to always mention his boyfriend Chuck. I don't think any of the kids actually understood that he was gay, but the parents didn't seem to care.
  18. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    Those question are easy to field.

    "Are you married?"

    No I am not (assuming you are not married)

    "You answer the do you have a girlfriend?"

    Answer: "I am or am not seeing someone" and then deal with any follow up by saying you do not talk about that stuff at school

    Both are honest answer and neither state your sexuality. I would not talk about it with them. It is just asking for a world of hurt if you do no matter which way you are.
  19. MacHamster68, Nov 2, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2011

    MacHamster68 macrumors 68040


    Sep 17, 2009
    you should Never have to answer a question about your sexual preferences , not to the pupils neither to your employer , because it does not matter as long you dont start a sexual relationship with one of your pupils it should be of no interest to anybody . being gay or hetero doesn't make you a better or worse teacher , having said that i even think gay teachers are more sensible for the problems of children , maybe because of the "problems" they went trough as teenagers discovering that they are different

    Btw we had one gay teacher too and he was the best teacher we had in school , and my whole class and at least all i know of the school in the years i had been there will agree to that , we still are all in contact with him and he is the one who is organizing the class reunion meetings and that more then 20 years after we left school, his sexual preference was nothing to hide and never a issue, as his partner was teaching at the same school too and he is retired now , but his partner is still teaching and i know of no issues in the 10 years i had been there with parents or pupils . they even have 2 daughters adopted (they could not adopt them as a civil partnership or married couple ,but one of them could adopt children as thats the legal status in Germany)which go to the same school and even that never raised a issue and its a public school in Germany in a smaller town where nearly everybody knows everybody anyway and they organize lots of events in the town too (music festivals and such things)
    they didn't need to answer the question as everybody knew it anyway . Btw the town has a quiet large muslim community (about 20%) and even they never had a issue with those Gay teachers

    Maybe a reason why i never understood why one could make a issue out of someone being Gay
  20. iBlue macrumors Core


    Mar 17, 2005
    London, England
    Totally agree on this.
  21. MarkMori macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2011

    I completely understand your situation. I understand also all of the comments about separating personal life from work, asking you to keep your sexuality private. I have a few thoughts of my own, as a gay man who grew up in a relatively hostile school environment in the 80s.

    First, although it's true that there is a separation between personal life and business/work life, the straight teachers talk about their children or their wives from time to time, which gives a tangible personality to someone. While I agree that formally, teachers are usually not expected to talk about their wives or children, most teachers do talk about what they've done at the weekend (e.g. went to the circus with my family, attended a wedding of my wife's sister). These conversations give a clue about the familial structure of a straight teacher without ANY formal or direct and confrontational problems. While one can say, private is private, and you should not have to share your sexuality, straight colleagues share their "straight" sexuality by talking about the weekend, when the gay teacher is basically told not to share any details about their lives. Should you say "I went to see a film" rather than "WE went to see a film"? Should you say "I liked the Chinese restaurant that I went to" or should you say "We both really liked the dishes we ordered at the Chinese restaurant this week, but I liked his dish better"? Straight people share their sexuality (e.g. spouses, dates) with no qualms, and it is easy to tell someone to "separate" private from business, but that puts a huge burden on the gay teacher to have to censor everything s/he thinks. I think this is unreasonable.

    Secondly, I grew up in a school which did not have any books on sexuality in the school library. I was suicidal when I was about 13-14 years old because I did not have one gay person in my middle school that I could talk to. When I started high school at 15, I met a teacher, who was "rumored" to be gay, and he, as a gay man, helped me come out to be a well-adjusted man ready for the university.

    I agree that you probably would benefit from talking to the principal, so that s/he is aware of the curiosities of the students. However, I think the discussion with the principal should not be about whether you should or should not let the students know, but how you should share. I think you should be able to talk about the weekend or your partner's family or activities (if you have a partner), which may actually help a few students directly. There may be students suffering from not knowing how to deal with an older brother who's come out to her family several weeks ago, and with your rapport with the students, she might be willing to come to you to talk about it. I think these situations can all be helpful.

    You may have a gay neighbor, a gay firefighter, a gay nurse, a gay gardener, a gay shopkeeper, a gay police officer, a gay teacher. All should be acceptable, and yes, SEX is not the topic of discussion in schools except in sex education, but sexuality is not sex, it's a person's life. And we need to make sure that sexuality can be shared in any environment as straight people share it nonchalantly everyday.

  22. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68040


    Feb 9, 2010
    Wow! Blown away by the responses here. I would have said, absolutely tell them that you're gay. A simple yup! like it is no big deal might teach these kids a lot... their favorite teacher is gay and so what? He's just as great a teacher today as he was before. The more out of the closet, everyday people kids are exposed to, the more gay becomes just as "normal" to them as straight and maybe that will cut down on people who still think being gay is wrong. My cousin is a gay teacher. Just like my wife who I'm sure has said "My husband and kids did this....", I would hope he has no problem saying "My boyfriend did this...." Why should straight people be allowed to say things like that but gay people have to hide it? Isn't that part of the problem?
  23. ericrwalker macrumors 68030


    Oct 8, 2008
    Albany, NY
    When I went to school I never really knew anything about my teachers personal life. I think that's the way it should be, but then again times change. I recently heard a story about how a high school girl was about to commit suicide and she sent a text to her teacher (not sure if it was to let him know, say goodbye, or a cry for help).

    The only thing I could think of is why the hell does this kid have her teachers cellphone number. Email I could understand.

    Well at least he was able to get her help right away.

    I don't think students need to know if you're married, single, gay or straight. They are there to study.
  24. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    That would be great in a perfect world. Problem is- the OP will probably have trouble with the parents. They could cause enough trouble for him that he might be fired or feel forced to quit. I would not come out to students unless I knew every single parent would not freak out. Sadly- there's no way to know that.

    I'm saying this as a gay man who is out to everyone I know. I would never teach, because I would never feel comfortable being out in that situation. Sadly- there are still too many bigoted people in the world, and they have kids in school.
  25. interrobang macrumors 6502

    May 25, 2011
    Speaking as a straight, white, male, it's easy for people like me to say, "Stand up for yourselves!" to a member of a minority group that is subject to discrimination and bigotry. It's much harder to actually be a member of said group.

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