“Just take the pride down a bit”
After coming out to class, teacher Jodie is called into a meeting
After a week of coming to terms with coming out to the entire school population and realising it was now the running joke to play I Kissed A Girl every time I walked in a room, an email dropped in my inbox from the executive head of school and it went a little something like this:
“Good Morning Miss Duffy,
Myself and Father Frank* request a meeting with you at the earliest convenience to discuss some of the 'rumours' about your current lifestyle choice, that are currently circulating around school.
Thank You For Your Cooperation.
Mrs B. Barry*"
I was surprised to see it had taken a whole school week for it to come to her attention and I suppose in a way I was expecting it. However, I didn't understand how me disclosing my sexuality changed anything about who I was. I had attended the school myself, back then it had been a normal comprehensive school and I had been a prominent member of the student body, helping out when I could, never getting in trouble and academically I was one of the top students. By the time I reached my final year I had 12 GCSEs and was about to pick up four A-levels. Upon leaving, I went to the USA on a gap year and on my return I got a job at the school. I did my Teach First training there and walked straight into a full time teaching job.
My teaching wasn't suffering either. I received a one in my Teach Frst assessments (the top grade), had been rated outstanding by Ofsted and all my classes were working at A*-C grades. None of the above had ever be compromised just because of who I chose to love. If anything, I was doing a lot better than many of my heterosexual peers.
The other thing I didn't quite understand was the choice of the word "lifestyle". I don't see my sexuality as a lifestyle choice. I'm a firm believer that we are born gay and I know that my life is exactly the same as my straight friends. The word lifestyle seems to insinuate that maybe I was thinking of turning vegan or I was leaving teaching to raise Alpacas on a farm in Peru. (I might have thought about this more than once). When in fact the only lifestyle choice I have ever made is teaching. A lifestyle that meant countless long hours marking work, meetings and planning.
I agreed to meet with them both that afternoon, wondering exactly how we were supposed to address those rumours. It's not like I could take it back and I didn't want to deny who I was. I was finally out of my rainbow closet and I wasn't going back in. As I stood outside her office door I mentally went over every answer to every question I could think they would ask. Then suddenly I was finally granted entry into the tiny office space. I sat on the huge purple chair and the conversation began:
Mrs B: “Now, Miss Duffy, we all know why we are here and we want you to know that we fully support you and the lifestyle choice you choose to lead”.
(This was not the statement I was expecting at all. I was expecting to be given my marching orders or at least a good telling off. But she was actually commending me and wanting to support me. My answer to this shocking statement, “Oh! Well… erm, thank you”.)
Father Frank: “However, as you know the school adheres to many rules, as set out by the Lord himself and the Archdiocese of course. In relation to this we would appreciate it you said no more about this matter and if you could just tone down the pride a bit we would be ever so grateful”.
And that was that. I was sent back to my classes with his words ringing in my ears... “Tone down the pride a bit”. This made it sound like I wore a shirt with the word "Lesbian" emblazoned on the front in a rainbow pattern or that I had rainbow flags all over my own office. I only had three things that would even point to me being part of the LGBTQ community: Rainbow Laces, badges on my backpack and a picture of me and my other half stuck to my desk. Effectively they were telling me to go back into the closet, to pretend that I wasn't gay and adhere to rules that for me weren't real, from a “God” I personally don't believe in.
But then one thought did come to mind - how many of the students at this school where hiding who they were? Too scared to come out due to the institution they had been born into. For many, their families, friends and teachers choose not to acknowledge the LGBT individuals in their own community. I’d had a hard enough time coming out in a non-religious family so I could only imagine how hard it was for the kids that I had grown to be protective of. At that moment I made a decision. I wasn't going to just let them silence me. I wanted to be a role model, someone that the students could confide in.
The only thing stopping me was the attitude of 90% of the school's population. Only 36 weeks left to go.
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