About eileengamble

Primary school teacher, living and working in North County Dublin, Ireland. Vice chairperson of the INTO LGBT Teachers' Group.

Teachers For Marriage Equality video

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LGBT with Kids – Margaret and Róisín’s Story

Our names are Margaret Burke and Róisín Ward.

We were privileged to be asked to speak at the launch of Teachers for Marriage Equality which took place in the Teachers’ Club last night. What an uplifting evening it was! We got a wonderfully warm reception from those in the room. This is what we said!

Immediate Family

 We set up the initiative, LGBTwithkids, with some friends, to give a voice to our families in the run up to the referendum on Marriage Equality. This referendum is about civil marriage. The reality of our families is not central to the referendum. Issues of guardianship have now been dealt with under the Children and Family Relationships bill. We feel, though, that if our families are to be the subject of so much debate, we would like to stand up and be seen for the proud and loving families that we are.

We met 18 years ago in St. Pat’s! Marriage equality was certainly not on the horizon back then, and the dream of having a family seemed like just that, a dream. With time, though, we realised that we needed to go and live in a place where we would have full equality. Canada was that place.

We lived for 5 years in Montreal. The relief and freedom we felt living in an equal society was enormous. Our three children, Úna May, Théo and Dara were born there. It was a big decision for us to bring them back to Ireland.  But we did and we have been home now for the past 2 years.

There are so many reasons why a yes vote in this referendum is important to us:  as a lesbian couple, as teachers, as citizens of this little country. But this evening we are speaking as parents, about how important it will be for our children and children of other same sex headed families.

For every child their family is their world, and our children are no different. In our children`s eyes their family is as unique and special as those of their cousins and friends.

Úna May was 2 and a half when I heard her talking to her little friend. I was upstairs giving Dara a bath when I overheard her friend ask,  ‘Where is your other Mammy?’ ‘I don’t have two Mammies,’ Úna May replied. That was the heart stopping moment for me…but she quickly added, ‘I have a Mammy and a Mama.’ And neither child batted an eyelid as they continued to splatter paint on the easel!

Or this year coming up to mother`s day, when the lovely ladies who look after Théo in crèche were encouraging him to make two mothers` day cards. He explained that it was ok. He said, ’They can share!!`

Life is life to our children, their family is their family, there is no further explanation needed.

We wondered if we should explain to our children about the referendum which is happening on May 22nd. Should we explain to them that people will head to the polling station to decide if their parents love for each other is equal to that of other parents.  The more we thought about it, though, and after careful consideration, the more nonsensical we knew it would sound to them. And not alone that, but how on earth would we explain it to them in the event of the referendum being defeated. We are lucky that our children are young enough not to be able to read, and there is a strict no radio policy in our house at the moment.

A yes vote in this referendum will send an unequivocal message from the citizens of this country, to the citizens of this country, that we agree that we are all equal, all to be valued equally, and that as a result, all of our children and families are to be treated equally. And to be treated equally does not mean to be quietly accepted, but to be joyously, proudly celebrated. As LGBT people we know what it is to live with silence. If this referendum passes it will go a long way towards breaking the silence, and we hope that as  a result our children will be able to hold their heads high, proud of their family and free to concentrate on the important job of living!

This referendum is painfully personal to us. We are desperately aware of the impact a yes vote will have, not only on our lives, but more urgently for us, the impact it will have on our children`s lives and well-being.

In Canada we felt the quiet sense of reassurance, the stability that comes with access to civil marriage. Equality goes beyond rights. Access to civil marriage here in Ireland would mean the recognition of our relationship and the recognition of our family as having the same status in the eyes of the state as any other.

We look forward to joyous celebrations on May 23rd, when the votes are counted.

We look forward to explaining to our children that this is a happy day.

We look forward to being eternally and unreservedly proud of our country and to being abundantly grateful for the love shown to us by our fellow citizens.

And we look forward most of all to the feeling that our children live in a country where their life, their family has been deemed to be as valuable and precious as any other.

Let Me Be – David’s Story

I am gay, I am Catholic and I am a primary school teacher in a Catholic school.

david face

 One day I’d like to be a husband and perhaps even a Dad; if I’m lucky enough. For as long as I can remember, however, there have been people putting limitations on me being me. Limiting my capacity to love, to be a teacher in a Catholic school, to be gay, to be a parent, to be a husband. I’m here to ask you to remove those limitations and restrictions once and for all and just let me be me.

 It’s ironic that these days I’m finding it much harder to admit my religious beliefs than my sexual orientation. Saying “I’m gay” comes easy to me and elicits very little reaction from people. Saying “I’m Catholic” however, is a different story. I believe in God and I believe that God, in His wisdom, planned for me to be gay. And thank God He did too. The God that I believe in is wiser and greater than any human mind, than any words we can put on human experience; than any laws, frameworks or structures that we can put on life in our societies. God knows what He is doing in making me gay.  The man-made structures in our society, however, are currently limiting my potential to express and live the love that I have the capacity for. God’s dream for me is not a dream of limitations. His dream for me is to be as fully me as I can be. I’m asking you to vote yes to let me live as fully as everybody else.

Love is God’s greatest gift to us. I trust in God. I trust in the positivity of love. I know I have done things in my life that the church would consider sins but I know in my heart that loving another man is not one of them. I know this because I have been in love once. And it was fantastic! I loved seeing him, I loved being with him, loved holding his hand, loved sharing life with him, loved being in love – he made my world a brighter place. In the end, we grew apart; we needed to say goodbye and go in separate directions in order to move forward on our individual paths. It was a taste of love. Something I pray I get to experience again, something that motivates me, something that I look forward to sharing again one day. I hope. I fail to see how allowing me to love and supporting that love as equally as the love expressed by my straight friends could be damaging or destructive to society. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me love as fully as everybody else.

I know that the church’s position states, broadly speaking, that the male-female unit is the most ideal for the upbringing of kids. It has even been suggested that allowing same-sex couples to marry would attack, damage or even destroy the uniqueness of male-female marriage. I have to disagree. Men and women will continue to procreate. Male-female unions will continue to be in the majority.  Elevating the status of gay relationships to the same as straight relationships in marriage doesn’t diminish that which is special or unique about straight relationships; just as elevating the status of black to that of white hasn’t diminished that which is special about black or white, nor has it said that black is the same as white. The same can be said for women and men. It simply says that black and white, women and men, gay and straight all deserve to be treated equally. In the not so distant past; sections of our society believed that being white was most ideal, that being a man was most ideal. People were conditioned into these beliefs; the beliefs around “ideals” in families are similarly conditioned beliefs. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me feel equal.

I’d like to think I’d make a good Dad. I’d like to think that I’d choose a partner who would also be a good Dad. If we decided to have kids it would be a very informed decision; it wouldn’t happen casually, as can be the case in some straight situations. The significant difference between my relationship and a straight relationship is that we’d need external help to have children; adoption services, surrogacy, egg donors etc. We’d have to jump through hoops. It wouldn’t happen by chance or by accident; it would be considered, planned and fought for. And that child would receive every ounce of love, support, encouragement and care that I could give it.  I want to provide a loving, caring, nurturing environment for a child to grow up in, an environment in which their uniqueness is cherished, an environment which allows them to blossom into the best possible version of themselves. Equality in Marriage would indicate to any children myself and my future partner may have that their Dad’s relationship; although different, is valued and supported and accepted as equally as their classmates’ family situations. I’m asking you to vote yes and let any kids I may have know that their family is not second-class.

 God made me. He did not make the institution of marriage. The institution is a man-made response to the interpreted best needs for society. It was constructed at a time when homosexuality was largely misunderstood, ignored, taboo and in the shadows. We now have a greater understanding of what it means to be human. We have hundreds of years of advances in science, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, medicine etc that inform and influence our current understanding of what it means to be human. Thus our understanding of what it means to be gay has advanced. The man-made institution of marriage needs to grow and evolve with our evolving understanding of what it means to be human and our expanding understanding of what society needs. Church and State now need to incorporate these advances and include all consenting, loving, committed adults who wish to marry, the capacity to do so. It is time for church and state to treat us equally and to be inclusive of our relationships. This referendum does not affect church marriage. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me be supported by the state in marriage. meprof2

 If I do meet someone to add to my life, someone whose life I can add to, someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, someone with similar morals and values to me; I’d like to have the relationship respected by other people of faith. Any potential relationship I may have in the future, however, has been deemed by superiors in the church as less worthy, deviant, morally or intrinsically wrong. It upsets me that two people could commit to one another and that certain others could look at it from the outside and judge it to be wrong. It frustrates me that anyone who passes the church doors from one end of the year to the other without entering into the building can avail of church and state marriage. Yet I can’t. It frustrates me that I’ve given to the church and my local community, that I’ve dedicated time and energy to the church, that I’m a Catechist in my local school and have passionately prepared children for the Sacraments of Penance, Communion and Confirmation and that I cannot avail of the sacraments as equally as everybody else. Voting yes in the upcoming referendum won’t change church marriage but I’m asking you to vote yes to let the hierarchy of the church know that you support me.

I’m 30 and for as long as I can remember there have been people telling me that I cannot be fully me; people who have put limitations on me being me. So once more; I’m asking you to please just let me be. Let me love. Let me commit. Let me feel supported. Let me be equal. Let me be a husband. Let me be a Dad. Without the limitations or restrictions. I already am many of these things and I’m doing as good a job at it as the next person; so support and protect me as equally as my straight friends. Please. I’d like to live in a world where I can be as fully me as God created me to be. I’d like to live in a world where the love that I have to offer can be expressed and celebrated confidently; without limitations. Now wouldn’t that be ideal?

by David Mooney

A letter from me to my straight teaching colleagues in staffrooms around the country. – Paul’s Story

Paul Knox 1

Dear colleagues,

There is much talk about how LGBT staff members might find maneuvering staffroom conversations a kin to a delicate tight rope balance, especially in certain schools. But what about if you don’t find this? What if you love who you are and love being exactly that person in the staffroom because of the inclusiveness and respect your teaching colleagues show you? That’s what most LGBT people want right? What if you have that, like I do? But what if it’s not enough? Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.  I want to tell you it’s not enough and you can do something about it.

After the Christmas holidays I walked in to the staff room at little break, the place a buzz with gossip and detoxing.  However everyone is crowding around one of my teaching colleagues cooing and laughing.  I wonder what’s going on. Maybe they’re chatting about a night out or talking about something funny that just happened in class. All these things I experience too, so I rush over to become involved in the fuss. Except it’s actually something I can’t experience, in fact it’s something I’m not allowed experience. A teacher has pictures of her wedding day. And I guess that’s why I am writing to you today.

One of my teaching colleagues Brendan is pretty much the same as me. We both hate planning, we both love having a laugh with our principal about it and we both have horrendous lunches because we both have not mastered the art of planning ahead.  Yet he and most of my staff have and can marry who they want but I cannot; and it’s kind of a big deal.

For me at least, working in a primary school, there seems to be a colleague getting engaged or planning a wedding every other week. In my school there is a running joke that I hate wedding talk and wedding pictures. I roll my eyes dramatically on hearing these conversations in a faux exaggeration of the persona I have created. It comes across as funny because I’m the young single gay guy who hasn’t settled down.  Some lament that they would love to be like me. But as much as I want, I can’t be like them. I can’t be like you. I can’t get married to someone I love. And every time another engagement is announced or another wedding conversation takes place, I feel more and more like an outsider. And all I’m doing with my jokes is concealing a deep divide between you and I. With you on one side with the choice to marry who you choose because you are straight and I on the other, not allowed to marry who I choose because I am gay.

Paul Knox 2

Being young and having fun on the town most weekends, with very few cares in the world, you probably think I don’t want to get married. It probably doesn’t look or sound like it I do. I’ve probably convinced myself  that I don’t either and because of this, I act the way I do in my staff room around the topic. However it’s not true. Yet in your world, the very typical is but a mere dream for me.  A world that I am excluded from for simply being myself and a world where if you are straight, was made for you and not me. I grew up in this world that wasn’t made for me. Well, it wasn’t made for the gay part of me. I never saw myself in books in school. I was never spoken about in the curriculum. I wasn’t on television.

Consequently I couldn’t dream like you could. I couldn’t dream because I didn’t exist in any form as I looked out and absorbed everything I saw and heard.  I never dreamt of marriage or the wedding that you dream of because I wasn’t in a fairy-tale story or a magazine getting married like you were. I bought into the conversation that I didn’t want to get married because I couldn’t. I didn’t dream of the moment I would say I do and commit my life to the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But it’s not true; inequality may have never given me a chance to dream but not anymore. I want to be able to say I do. I want to dream too. Like you.  Let me dream like you do. Let me imagine getting married someday to a person whom I love, like you can. I don’t want to be sitting at your weddings for the rest of my life. I want you to be sitting at mine.

I want my Dad to walk me down the aisle. I want my Mum to get a big day out and an excuse to buy a beautiful floral frock that screams “Irish mammy at a wedding!”.  I want to spend days contemplating centre pieces and seating plans. I want the trouble of figuring out where Aunty Patsy will sit because nobody likes her jokes. I want the joy, I want the pain but most of all I want the choice. My parents gave lots to me, just like your parents gave to you. They instilled me with the values of kindness, hard work and honesty. They worked hard to give me opportunities. Except I want one other very simple opportunity they had. I want to marry the person I love, make a home, and grow old with that person, that man. On May 22nd they have a chance to afford me that opportunity. You have that chance too. Not just for me but for your friends and many people you do not know.

In your staff room do you ever wonder about this when you share your wedding photos, wedding plans or engagement ring with me or someone like me? You do your best to include me in conversations, invite me to your weddings and make me part of your world. But it’s not enough to close that divide – you can do one small thing that could close it. I need you to think of me even if you don’t know me or people like me. I need you to break the silence that excludes me and I need you to vote in the civil marriage equality referendum. So maybe someday when you enter the staff room and see the cooing and laughter that signals an engagement or wedding pictures, when you run over to get involved and see what the fuss is, the person with the wedding pictures is actually me or someone gay like me. It’s not enough to be accepted in your world anymore, I want to experience your world fully, so it can be my world too.

Kind regards, someone you know, or someone who you love might know,

Paul Knox

“Coming to terms” with your sexuality – The loss of your future

What an awful title eh? Really awful, isn’t it? So negative and devoid of joy! You’d be forgiven for reading a bit of shame into it, a bit of self-loathing, a bit of (dare I use the word) internalised homophobia.

So why did I use it?

I used it because language is powerful. I used it because the way we phrase something often reveals the hidden truth of the matter.

When we talk about young people discovering their sexual identity, we nearly always use that phrase “coming to terms with their sexuality”. We come to terms with a loss. We come to terms with a tragedy. We come to terms with a disappointment. So why do we come to terms with our sexuality? Why is it negative?

It’s because for most LGBT people, the initial acceptance of that identity came with a loss. It was the loss of a potential future. When I first sat myself down and said “Ah come on now Niall, be honest, it’s not a phase, you really don’t fancy girls at all” it was an awful, awful loss. My future had been snatched away from me; I knew I would never be able to have the same life as my brothers and sisters. I was fifteen years old and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up…. but I knew I wanted to be a husband and a Dad. And now I knew that that would never ever happen for me.

When I came out to my parents at eighteen, they were wonderful and accepting. My mother, in particular, reacted to the news as if I had just told her that I preferred tea to coffee. She put down her knitting and smiled and said “Sure I know that, and I think Insert-Name-Here is a lovely boy. He’s your fella isn’t he?” It couldn’t have gone better. What I found out later, was that the next day she rang my sister and she cried and she cried and she cried down the phone at her. Not because she didn’t love me or was ashamed of me, but because “He’s so good with kids, and he’ll never be a father” and because “He’ll have to watch the other two get married and he’ll know he can’t” and because “life will be harder for him”. My mother “came to terms” with my sexuality. She came to terms with the loss of the future she naturally assumed I’d have, the one she’d prayed for when she felt the first kicks of that pregnancy, the one she’d imagined when she first held me in her arms. Gone.

All doom and gloom eh?

Well it isn’t! I’m talking about accepting my sexuality in 1997 and telling my mother in 2000. In 1997 it really was a loss of a future. In 1997 we never ever would have imagined that Marriage Equality could one day be within our grasp. I’m only in my early thirties and if we vote yes to Marriage Equality I most probably will end up becoming a husband and father one day. I will have the same life as my brothers and sisters, the life my mother pictured as she watched me sleeping in my cot.

I have set up a group called Teachers For Marriage Equality. It’s a group for primary and secondary school teachers, gay and straight to advocate and campaign for a YES vote in this referendum. If we vote yes, hopefully the day will come when no child in your class, present or future will have to “come to terms with their sexuality”. Discovering their identity will no longer come with the loss of a potential future of husbands, wives and children. It will be the same as realising you prefer tea to coffee. Instead of coming to terms with their sexuality, I want those children to embrace it as just another difference that adds to their own special uniqueness!

Please visit www.facebook.com/teachers4marriage and on twitter @teach4marriage

Niall Callan

Hiding in the Classroom – John’s Story

Hiding in the Classroom

It was only on retiring from teaching just over nine years ago that I got the courage to attend a meeting of the LGBT Teachers’ Group (and of course the group had only been recently formed then).

I started teaching in 1968. From 1970, I taught in a very large Dublin suburban school for five years and for the next thirty years in a school that grew from five teachers when I joined to over 20 when I retired. The schools I taught in were boys’ schools.

While a number of my colleagues knew that I was gay, I couldn’t describe myself as being “out”!

My experience in school was that I never heard an anti-gay joke being told in the staff room and I didn’t experience homophobic “bullying”, apart from what follows.

On one occasion (about 5 years before I retired) a First Class pupil stood in front of me and asked “Are you gay?” Shocked that he knew the word, knew how and when to use it and prepared to ask the question floored me! I actually don’t know what I said or how I reacted. Fortunately it was time to go home. But though the pupils were gone home, the fear and anxiety stayed with me – for a long time. Subsequently (and I can’t say exactly how long afterwards) I was in hospital, taken there from my G.P’s surgery by ambulance, having been taken to the doctor from the school playground after “small break”, when colleagues became alarmed. It was a particularly busy time at school just then, and I presented as though having a heart attack. I wasn’t, but I was under stress. Did the above-mentioned incident have a bearing on this? I leave that to the reader’s imagination.

During that hospital stay, I was able to talk to my headmaster about the incident (he knew I was gay), and he was, as always, understanding and supportive. But despite that support, the fear and anxiety persisted. As teachers we are in contact, direct and indirect, with a large population – pupils, parents, extended family, minders etc, and for the gay teacher trying to hide a significant part of him/herself within the school context, it is an exhausting process.

In March of the year I retired (and what I am about to describe was what gave me the impetus to get out – rather than “come out”! – I could have continued in the service for a few years more), I overheard one Fourth Class pupil say to another “He’s homo”; within two days my decision was made – RETIRE!

Someone glancing through what I have written above might think “What’s his problem? He had a fine time”. In ways they would be right – I had a fine time. However, a low level of fear and anxiety ran right through my teaching career. In the early years pupils were certainly not as aware as they were later to become, but social and religious attitudes, not to mention “pre-June 1993” life for gay men in Ireland, didn’t exactly fill one with confidence and self-esteem. This I find ironic for people in a profession in which we were supposed to be developing confidence and self-esteem in our pupils!

As attitudes changed, so too did awareness among pupils, leading to what I described above.

It is wonderful to witness the changes taking place in Irish society for gay people in general, but particularly in relation to the experiences of the next generations of teachers and how (some of them) are able to be at ease about their sexuality in the workplace. There is still a way to go for many.

The “State of Fear” in which I fulfilled my obligations as a teacher is something I hope is becoming rare; it was a crippling burden to carry, and it was only once I left the classroom I felt the full impact of that burden.

The Decriminalisation of Homosexuality legislation in 1993 was a huge step forward for all gay people in Ireland; the removal/amendment of Section 37.1 would be a great step forward for gay teachers in Ireland.

Hiding in the classroom, in front of 30+ (or is it 40+?)pairs of inquisitive, perceptive eyes, is an exhausting and demoralising experience. I hope it is not too long when it is a thing of the past.

John McElligott

I think I’m out now – The aftermath of coming out in a national newspaper.

Eileen Out

It seems like a lifetime ago now, when I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality, I turned to the internet for support. It was a desperate and almost fruitless search to find any trace of personal accounts from other Irish LGBT teachers. Were any LGBT teachers out in work? What happened when they came out? How did they handle questions about their private lives? What did Irish LGBT teachers even look like? What if I really was the only gay (teacher) in the village?

Finding the INTO LGBT Teachers’ Group gave me my first opportunity to answer some of these questions. And unsurprisingly, it turned out that LGBT teachers weren’t half as mysterious as I’d imagined. They were just teachers who happened to be gay. This sounds pretty obvious, but when the very mention of the word gay is met by silence in so many staffrooms, when it is presumed that you are straight, and even online searches for “gay teacher in Ireland” show sparse results, it sends out the message that there is no room for LGBT teachers in Irish Schools. I hoped that starting this blog might be another small step towards changing this misconception.

It took me three weeks to sum up the courage to publish the blog under my own name. By then I had decided that I would never again force myself back into the closet for any reason, even to stay in the career I love so much. So when I sat down to start the blog, I felt I had nothing to lose. What I hadn’t thought about was what I would gain.

When Grainne Faller from the Irish Times approached me to write an article based on the blog, I tried not to think about the consequences. It had been all well and good when only a handful of people had seen the blog, but my 96 year old granny reads the Irish Times and let’s just say, there’s a couple of things my family have neglected to tell her about my personal life these last few years.

Nevertheless, it was an opportunity for an LGBT teacher to write about their personal experiences in their own words. The very people Section 37.1 affects most are often left voiceless and faceless. For so many LGBT teachers, anonymity has been our employment protection because our equality laws have failed us. We have relied on others to speak for us, or our comments have remained anonymous, save a few brave individuals who were the inspiration for this blog.

Eileen Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/education-people-eileen-gamble-a-gay-teacher-on-coming-out-in-the-staffroom-1.1806611

Within two days of the article being published, I received over 500 calls, messages, tweets and emails from LGBT groups, teachers, teenagers, principals and even religious community leaders. The vast majority of messages were positive, supportive and caring. So many people wrote of the disbelief and anger they felt when they learned that Section 37.1 even exists in modern Ireland. Others wrote of their similar experiences of working in schools or other workplaces. People of all ages, both LGBT and straight, shared memories of how LGBT issues were treated in their schools. LGBT parents wrote about both positive and negative experiences of raising children attending religious-run schools. Parents came up to me in the school I was subbing in to shake my hand. Some even sat their children down and read them the article. It was a wonderful and overwhelming experience. But I also felt utterly heartbroken to learn that so many people in our communities still feel isolated or invisible because of who they are, who they love and their family structure. I just hoped that the positive messages I received were heard by everyone in these positions.

I was invited to talk with Ray D’Arcy on Today FM. The lovely Ray was extremely supportive and managed to charm all sorts of personal information out of me. But when it came to reading out emails from listeners, I held my breath. Would I be quick enough to defend myself live on air? I needn’t have worried. Other gay teachers phoned in to share their stories and parents emailed to give their support to gay teachers and gay parents. Finally, the silence was broken.

Ray Darcy

http://www.todayfm.com/player/listen_back/4/12069/04th_June_2014_-_The_Ray_D’Arcy_Show_Part_2

The INTO LGBT group were invited to the TV3 People’s Debate with Vincent Browne; “Is Ireland Homophobic?”. Vincent’s eyebrows were enough to terrify me to the very core. But it was an honour to sit alongside three other LGBT teachers; Anne Marie Lillis, Niall Callan and Dion Ó Caoimh who spoke with such dignity and eloquence. We had the opportunity to be in the presence of many of the incredible spokespeople for LGBT rights in Ireland today. Most notably, the young adults from BeLongTo Youth Services and TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) who spoke so movingly of their experiences of discrimination and the effects it has had on their lives. They are a glaring reminder that we are continuing to force the youth of this country to participate in a national education system that lacks the capacity to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination in many of our schools.

Vincent browne Vincent Browne

During the next few weeks, other opportunities to do interviews came my way. I was so grateful for these opportunities to talk about life for LGBT teachers and student teachers across the country.  By then, there was only one type of interview that was of a major concern to me – a job interview. As Dublin Pride week arrived and many of my teaching colleagues counted down the last days of school, I couldn’t relax. Like so many teachers on temporary contracts, I knuckled down to write job application after job application. I started to feel a bit sick as the reality of coming out in a national newspaper began to sink in. It was nice to be referred to as a proud lesbian teacher but I was beginning to feel like an imposter. Could I still be called a teacher if I wasn’t actually teaching?

Eileen Newstalk

 Newstalk’s Global Village with Dil Wickremasinghe

http://www.newstalk.ie/player/listen_back/21/10767/21st_June_2014_-_Global_Village_Part_2

I was giving my hairdresser/unofficial counsellor the update on all that had happened up until mid-August when the nice old lady sitting next to me bent over and tapped my on the arm.

Well did ya love? Did ya ever get a single job offer at all?” she pressed.

Even better”, I said, “I got three.”

Ah that’s grand for ya, isn’t it?

It is.” I replied.

And did you say you were a lesbian on your application?

No, there isn’t a box for it on the form.”

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

So I’ve chosen a one year temporary contract in a multidenominational school, an Educate Together National School, where Section 37.1 has no legal bearing on my employment equality rights. It’s the end of my third week. My head is melted and my throat is sore. I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. And when I go in next Monday and someone asks me how my weekend was, I will tell them; without editing pronouns, without avoiding certain questions and without replaying the conversation in my mind afterwards to make sure it was suitable. And then I’ll go back to my classroom and continue to do my job.

Eileen Door Sign

The last few months have taught me this; If you want to make any sort of contribution to the world around you, you do not need to be anything else but yourself. Of all the lessons I’m planning to teach my 5th Class this year, I’m making that one top of the list. If only our society made it that easy.

My reality is that I’m out now, very out! But the reality for most LGBT teachers and student teachers is that they are not out, and they feel that they can never be out in their school if they want a job or a promotion. And the number of teachers, gay or straight, who feel equipped to tackle homophobic bullying in our schools is miniscule. And this should not be the reality, for anyone, anywhere. No excuses.

Thank you to every single person who has supported this blog and especially to the other contributors so far; Cecelia, Niall and Ciara. And to other LGBT teachers who are wondering if their story is worth telling? Stop wondering and get typing/talking/sharing. Your voices and the voices of our many supporters remain the single most effective tool in combatting discrimination in our schools today.

UPDATEOn the 25th of September 2014, my dream temporary job became a dream PERMANENT job! Now that’s a happy ending 🙂