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Tackling Homophobia in Schools Begins in the Staffroom.

Emma is a Teaching Assistant who works for Protocol Education in Wolverhampton. Her debut post addresses the sensitive topic of homophobia in schools and the attitudes she feels must be challenged - in the staffroom. 

Tackling Homophobia in Schools must Start in the Staffroom.

"I can't wait to see Suzie*" cooed Sharon*, a TA at a nursery I'd recently worked at. "She's been to a lesbian wedding.  I knew she was going to a wedding and I asked if there'd be a prince and a princess, but she shook her head and said no, two princesses".  She smirked. "This is the second lesbian wedding she's been to.  It's a shame, isn't it? She's going to think it's normal!"  Everyone agreed and shook their heads.  Everyone that is, but me.

I'm often surprised and disheartened when in the company of educated professionals I hear blatant homophobic comments. In this heteronormative society, where homophobia is rife, is it any wonder that LGBT youth are more likely to battle depression, low self esteem, self harm and attempted suicide than most other groups in society?

We often hear about the word 'gay' being banded around by teenagers as a derogatory remark.  "Oh I hate maths, it's so gay" or even used against others as an insulting remark.  And while homophobia (and for that please also include biphobia and transphobia) should be addressed in the classroom, I think it's vital that those doing the educating aren't themselves harbouring some deep seated homophobia.

At one school, where I spent several terms, a student teacher, Liz came in to class to talk to us.  The other TA, Holly told her about a friend of hers who used to date boys, but now dates girls.  Liz shot her a disgusted look as if she'd smelled rotten fish.  "Oh, one of 'those'.  I don't know how they can do it!" and they all laughed.  Inside I cringed.

Being an LGBT ally (that is a campaigner for the equal rights and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people) I was desperate to step in and challenge them.  Being a Protocol Education supply worker however, meant that at all times I am on my best behaviour and always trying to leave the school with the very best impression of me.  So, with my tongue firmly bitten I left the conversation with a heavy heart.

I often think back all those years ago to the time I spent at an after school club on supply.  To the 10 year old boy who loved nothing more than to raid the dressing up box, donning high heeled shoes and a pretty frock.  Much to the sniggering of the staff.  I envied his confidence in doing what felt right, defying social norms and his excitement at seeing a new pair of shoes and how well that he strutted in heels that I'd fall over in.  I hope the attitudes of others haven't dimmed his spark.

Society cannot begin to know true equality until those who educate the minds of the next generation do so with acceptance in their hearts, not just their lesson plan.  Tackling homophobia in schools must start in the staffroom before it can reach the classroom.

*Name has been changed

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Tags: EmmaH,Teaching Assistant, Nursery, Supply in Wolverhampton, homophobia, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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