The atmosphere, and lack of support, almost ended my teaching career. However, while some students were casting judgement, others began to reach out. I had students approaching me wanting to talk. Some were happy to just have someone else who was out, and who understood their identity. Other students wanted help and support in understanding their own feelings. It was these pupils who made me realise the situation needed to change, that the school could no longer ignore the attitudes some students carried with them.
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Gradually, things began to change. A new anti-bullying policy was implemented, this time including clear references to homophobic bullying. There was such a visible change throughout the school — I wanted a way to show it to others. At the end of the academic year, I discussed the Stonewall Riots with one of my classes. At the end, I asked the students if they wanted to complete one post-it note each about the riots and acceptance.
I explained they would be used to create a rainbow Pride sign that I could take to a march. I had so many volunteers that I ran out of post-it notes.
Others wrote paragraphs that brought tears to my eyes. The students asked about Pride, too. What was it like?
You Can Be Teacher of the Year and Still Get Fired for Being Gay
Why do you go? What do you wear? Some of these students had shouted abuse through classroom windows, and now wanted to show their support at a Pride parade. I had never witnessed the power of education so clearly.
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I showed the sign in a staff briefing a week after Pride. I explained the project, and mentioned some of the students who had been involved, and there was visible surprise from some of my colleagues.
So I went to the administration again and still nothing happened. Although to many Americans, there appears to be progress in visibility and legal protections for the LGBTQ community since same-sex marriage became the law in all 50 states in and films depicting queer relationships have flourished at award ceremonies, the reality is very different for queer and trans teachers. There is no federal law that gives specific protections to queer and trans workers. What would happen to me if I were out with my peers?
‘I don’t blame any teacher for not coming out as gay’
A Center for American Progress survey found that A report by the Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and National Public Radio found that one in five people in the community said they were discriminated against when being considered for a promotion, applying for a job, or looking for housing. Of course, one of the main differences is that Estes was outed and did not get the chance to control how people learned she is gay.
But the lack of administration support once the information came out fits a pattern.
A teacher fired from a Catholic school for being gay has reached a settlement
A Kentucky chorus teacher, Nicholas Breiner, lost his job a month after he came out as bisexual on Instagram, which he said he did to show LGBTQ students they are not alone. Breiner said the deputy superintendent questioned him about his sexual orientation. In , a teacher read a book about two princes falling in love and dealt with significant parent backlash, but administrators did not have his back.
Teachers have lost their jobs after getting married. Estes said there is still a lot of fear among teachers in the LGBTQ community about being themselves in the classroom.
It is a reality for many queer teachers that we might have certain legal rights but in terms of just being ourselves, I think there are a lot of unwritten rules. After harassment became worse, Estes took steps toward greater privacy on all of her personal social media accounts. Estes said she went to administrators again and worked on a plan for a lesson on tolerance, with administrative encouragement but without administrative help, to address the issue.
Months later, not long after a student made homophobic comments on a school project, and progress stalled yet again, she went to her union representative. Estes said that after she went to various teachers union representatives who eventually referred her to a lawyer, she thinks some people in the community perceive her as out to make money, but she wants them to know she is doing this for the LGBTQ community. The middle school chorus teacher said he came out as bisexual to help students in the LGBTQ community.