“Give Them A Chance To Be Heterosexual”


Teachers march in Dublin Pride. pic: William Murphy

If we still hold to the principle of equal rights, should exclude teachers from anti-discrimination protection?

To win marriage equality we spent all our efforts for a minority among us who wished to marry, for the principle of equal rights. Not many actually ran off and got married. Yet the effort we put into winning their right to do this was significant.

It was always about the principle of equality, regardless of the numbers involved. If we are now going to value the rights of students over the rights of teachers in this matter, isn’t that like saying that matters of health should have taken priority over marriage equality, as more people were affected, and it was a life and death situation? But we did it anyway, because it means the Earth for some people to have the equal right to get married.

For some teachers in private schools, their jobs mean the Earth for them too. Even if it is unwise for them to work for private schools in the first place. It’s probably unwise for any gay teacher to work in any school.

That’s what the University of Sydney teacher training in their Faculty of Education, under the head of school, Mike Horsely, and Professor David Smith, in the early 2000’s, advised me. They said that no gay person would be wise to work in any school at all.

Time and time again we were lectured that gender difference was paramount, that keeping the topic of homosexuality out of the curriculum as long as possible, while the pupils were going through puberty, was utterly imperative.

To give them a chance to be heterosexual.

And gay teachers were to be discouraged – without using any language that could be seen as discriminatory. There were hundreds of witnesses to their lectures and papers. This is still the unofficial policy of the NSW Department of Education.

They won’t admit it. So from their viewpoint, to say that an “LGBTI teacher” is “not as important” as the children, is valid. At the same time, it would be wrong to ignore the need for equal rights for LGBTI teachers in private and public schools, under the same rules that should protect everyone in the school community. They cannot be left exposed to the abuse of being isolated.

Keep in mind, I’m in NSW, one of the only States where private schools can discriminate against students and teachers already, and where we have one of the most recalcitrant State Departments of Education when it comes to matters of LGTBI issues. Except for a few partnerships with ACON in a short health program, in partnership with PE teachers, for sake of controlling the spread of HIV. That’s about it.

The Liberals are thus using teachers in some game with the outcome of having people judge us, question us, isolate us: the whole point is to put us down. If no agreement can be made, maybe that was not their objective; rather, firing up hate.

Fletcher Thomas