Less than one in five LGBT+ primary teachers have come out to colleagues, parents or pupils due to fears of it hampering their career prospects.
While LGBT+ teachers have been protected from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity since 2015, LGBT+ teachers have reported to the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) LGBT Teachers’ Group that at times, they feel unsure, uneasy and sometimes even unwelcome in their staffrooms.
The latest figures come from an INTO survey of 2,362 members in the Republic and Northern Ireland. 10% of respondents identified as LGBT+.
LGBT+ teachers in the Republic were more likely to come out. 18% of LGBT+ teachers in the Republic said they were out in the school community, compared to 12% of those in the North.
One teacher said it wasn’t easy to take the step. “I came out very slowly to only one colleague at a time. It was extremely scary and stressful. Being in the closet causes an extreme amount of discomfort and distress,” they said.
Having a permanent contract was a significant factor in teachers feeling confident in coming out at work. 43% reported a link between job security and a decision to come out in school.
Many respondents expressed concerns about facing bias in interviews if it was known that they were LGBT+.
One reported that “there is a lot of prejudice out there. I didn’t want to take the risk that one of these people would be sitting on the interview panel”.
Teachers also said that derogatory language in the staff room is still a prevalent issue in schools.
In a report released in August 2018, one teacher said they were undecided as to whether or not the staff room was a safe place for them:
“A few transphobic jokes have been made in the staff room. Nothing particularly vicious, but enough to stop me from mentioning that my gender identity.
“I spent the first term trying to read the staffroom and decide whether it was a safe place for me to be myself or not.”
INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:
“The findings of this survey bring into sharp focus the challenges faced every day by our LGBT+ colleagues and the work still to be done to ensure our schools are safe and inclusive spaces for all. As a union, INTO has and will continue to be an unapologetic advocate for the changes that are needed. Standing up for our members and ensuring that our pupils are treated equally is at the heart of everything we do.
“As society changes for the better and we seek to be more inclusive, we must all up our game and ensure we play our part.
“On foot of today’s survey, INTO will seek to ensure that all teachers and schools understand and reaffirm their commitment to LGBT+ inclusion and visibility. Comprehensive training and support will be essential for all teachers and our union will be to the forefront in demanding the Government delivers on this front.”
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