“Being gay is something to be frowned upon”

Vanja Skotnes

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Amanda (22) is a teacher in a catholic school in Galway. She is also gay. No one knows of her sexual orientation, she is too fearful of the consequences to ever come out as gay, she says.

Amanda thinks it’s a shame that not all teachers can be themselves at school. She believes that individuals work best when they feel accepted and appreciated, and she feels that the current work environment is oppressive.

“Furthermore I believe that if teachers who are openly gay were accepted it would reduce homophobic bullying among children. The teachers would also serve as positive role models for children who are struggling with their sexual orientation”, says Amanda.

“Many people would judge me”

The primary school teacher would prefer to be openly out as gay, but don’t know if she ever will.

“Being a temporary teacher, I think that being out as gay will harm my chances of becoming a permanent teacher. Although the Irish National Teacher’s Organisation claims to be making a progress regarding the inclusion of teachers regardless of sexual orientation there is still an undercurrent that being gay is something to be frowned upon”, she says.

Amanda also fears how the people around her will react.

“I fear that my parents would be extremely disappointed and hurt. In Ireland I think that many people would judge me solely on sexual orientation rather than the content of my character.”

“I feel like a fraud”

At school, she finds the break times the hardest.

“When I’m speaking with other adults it makes me feel a bit more insecure than how I would feel if it was fully accepted being gay. Right now it’s just assumed that everyone s straight, so most conversations revolve around husbands and men in general”, says Amanda.

She never pretend to be attracted to men anymore, but she still finds herself in uncomfortable situations.

“I feel like a fraud when I’m questioned about men directly. For instance, if someone says ‘Isn’t he gorgeous?'”

Wants to be able to help others

If one of Amanda’s students came out as gay, she would embrace them with understanding and respect.

“I would tell them that I totally understand and that I don’t see them any differently now. I would tell them that I am always free to listen if they ever needed someone to vent to. I would offer to tell their parents if they wanted me to, but of course I would leave the decision up to them”, she says.

Read my previous posts about this topic:

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Vanja Skotnes

As a former journalist for Amnesty International, I will use this blog to write about human rights abuses. My intention is to create more awareness. Follow my posts and stay updated. Twitter: @vanjaskotnes

  • Anne Melsom Bjerke

    This is such an important topic, Vanja. I´m horrified that we have not come further than this. “Being a temporary teacher, I think that being out as gay will harm my chances of becoming a permanent teacher”. It´s shocking! A really good article. I´m impressed.

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Thanks a million, Anne. And yes – it is really horrifying that the Irish society not has come further in terms of equality.

  • Nina Stiles

    Very important topic! How are teachers supposed to learn students to be themselves, when they have to hide who they actually are?

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Good point, Nina! Thanks for the comment!

  • Arne Fenstad

    Always strange and surprising to hear these stories. But maybe more people like Amanda should be openly gay for the situation to really change. Good and important stuff, Vanja 🙂

    • Vanja Skotnes

      That’s a really important thought, Arne. Thanks a million for the comment 🙂

  • Viljar Valso

    I can imagine the stress this teacher feels having to hide her sexual orientation. I have to second Arne on this one. More gay people should take the chance of “outing” themselves. Amandas fear of not getting the next contract is very sad, and one could only hope she takes the chance. She has the moral high ground as I see it.

    One related point:
    In “a mans world” it is my experience that men more often define what is accepable moral standards. Therefore i belive the “male homosexual comunity” needs to get better at “outing” themselves. And also be better to react in with indignation and openly communicated anger when “the hetero boys” gives them trouble for it. I think this would make it easier for both male and female homosexuals.

    Be what you like Amanda, those who would deny you that are at best somewhat retarded. And if they piss on you for being who you are, do not be sad, be angry!

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Brilliant words all over, Viljar. “Be what you like Amanda, those who would deny you that are at best somewhat retarded. And if they piss on you for being who you are, do not be sad, be angry!” Thanks for the comment, pal!

  • Christian Engen Skotnes

    Based on my knowledge of the Irish society it doesn’t suprise me that this teacher feels insecure about her future employment as a teacher. This is based on the fact that the Catholic church condemns homosexuality, and that the Republic of Ireland is one the strongholds for this religion. Close to 90 % of the population viewed themselves as Catholics, according to a poll in 2006. This being said it doesn’t necessarily mean that being a Catholic means you oppose homosexuality. On the other hand it is a view shared by many Catholics, and the newly appointed pope, Frans I, is known to have been against the law allowing gay marriages in Argentina. From this we can at least assume that the official view of the Catholic Church concerning homosexuality still will be one of resistance in the foreseeable future.
    Signs of change are to be found in the Republic of Ireland though. Statistics show that the Mass attendance was declining, especially among the younger generation. I feel that I need to point out that I don’t entirely blaim the Catholic Church for the opposition towards homosexuality in Ireland, but as an historian I know that the Catholic Church has and have had a major impact on people and the values of society. Seeing that Amanda is a teacher in a Catholic school I fear that here fears are well justified. One can only hope that Ireland will follow Norway’s example of secularisation of the shcools.
    This autumn the national broadcasting network in Norway, nrk, together with Amnesty International ran a camapign targeting schools and youth. The slogan was that one should have “the right to love the one you want”. This campaign had a massive impact on the pupils attidude’s towards homosexuality. These sort of campaign could lead the way for teacher openly being gay in Ireland as well. All though i fear that the Catholic schools will decline such campaigns.

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Thanks for brilliant and informative comment, Christian.
      Actually, there is an annual campaign running one week in March in Ireland called “Stand Up – Don’t Stand for Homophobic Bullying”, it’s created by the gay rights group Belong To Youth. I don’t know how many schools participated this year, but the director of Belong To says that number of schools participating is increasing every time. That’s a good sign too. Especially since over 90 per cent of all kids in Ireland are in fact attending Catholic schools and 58 per cent reported the existence of homophobic bullying in their schools (in the most comprehensive research about LGBT young persons in Ireland).
      Change is slow. But it’s coming.

  • Kristine

    Being allowed to be yourself is a basic need to be happy. If your basic needs are met, it will automatically affect how you experience your everyday life. In this case how you are doing in your job. I doubt that this will benefit the students in any way. its a shame and a pity that teachers experience that they cannot be themself in fear of losing their jobs.

    Good article, Vanja.

    • Vanja Skotnes

      “Being allowed to be yourself is a basic need to be happy. If your basic needs are met, it will automatically affect how you experience your everyday life.” Well put. Thanks a million for the comment, Kristine 🙂

  • Hilde

    Good article Vanja !

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Thank you, Hilde!

  • Stian

    This has been a sensitive subject for many of the different religions. What they need, is someone who does this job, someone who shed light over the situation. It may lead to others “coming out”. It might also show who is on which side, regardless of their orientation. These articles are important to awake the society, when people are fed with these articles, it will make the change.

    This profession is probably the best way to make a change, this is an important topic too. Keep them coming V!

    • Vanja Skotnes

      Thanks a bunch, Stian.

  • morten skotnes

    “Who are you to judge the life I live?
    I know I’m not perfect
    -and I don’t live to be-
    but before you start pointing fingers…
    make sure you hands are clean! Bob marley;)
    keep on the good work Vanja.
    papps;)

    • Vanja Skotnes

      One love, papps!

  • kim

    ugh, it sucks 😛 some ppl say that “gay teacher or gay friend made my child gay ! ” but if somebody can choose to be gay why the hell am I being gay…. but the horrible thing is that even though some teacher came out when i was in my elementary school or middle school, I would despise them much … without any reason, only because of my prejudice which I learned from somewhere,somebody.. Actually I don’t know where the solution should start and even whether there really is solution or not..

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  • Reidun

    I wonder how Amanda could see the circumstances changing? Are there other Catholic countries that have come further than Ireland, and could inspire and perhaps work as a template? Love Morten’s comment.

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