'Transphobic Jokes Made In Staff Room': Irish LGBT+ Teachers Detail Experiences As Inclusive Staffroom Guidelines Launched

The 1st of October saw the launch and distribution of the 'LGBT+ Inclusive Staffroom' guidelines by the INTO LGBT Teachers' Group.

INTO LGBT Teachers at Pride

The INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group is a special interest group of the INTO union and consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender primary school teachers. It supports and advances the cause of LGBT+ teachers in primary schools nationwide.

Supported by the wider INTO union, the group have developed updated guidelines to support schools in being LGBT+ inclusive workplaces. All schools will receive a copy of the guidelines along with a letter from INTO President, Joe Killeen, in which he asks principals to ensure that the guidelines are displayed prominently in their staffrooms and that schools work towards meeting the recommendations contained therein.

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 INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group that at times, they feel unsure, uneasy and sometimes even unwelcome in their staffrooms.

The following quotes were collected from LGBT+ primary teachers in August 2018:

“It took months for me to mention my girlfriend to other staff members. And when I did so it was with fear and unease.

“I have been advised by many well-meaning teachers in senior posts not to let anyone know I’m gay. They tell me to be very careful what I say, and as gently as they can, they tell me that I will never get a permanent job in this county if word gets out that I’m gay.

“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.

“Somewhere inside, there remains the fear that a parent could complain about you as being somehow ‘unsuited’ to working with children.”

Speaking about the launch, INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group Chairperson, Cecelia Gavigan, said “LGBT+ teachers have been legally protected from discrimination since 2015. However unless this translates into an LGBT+ inclusive culture within Irish primary schools, it doesn’t make any difference to the lives of our LGBT+ colleagues.

“It’s up to each teacher, principal and Board of Management to ensure that their schools are proactively welcoming of LGBT+ staff members. They must be aware that LGBT+ teachers may have faced homophobic or transphobic comments in the past and need to see physical symbols in their work environment that let them know that it’s a safe place for them to be themselves.”

The guidelines are also available on the INTO website at into.ie/lgbt/EducationalResources/

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