Queer PE teachers reveal how students still call them f****ts and gay boys: ‘It’s the last bastion of homophobia’
Queer PE teachers have detailed the discrimination they’ve faced at work, describing the subject as the “last bastion of homophobia” in schools.
Secondary school educators Andrew Prestidge and Grant Huddleston interviewed two queer PE teachers as part of a research project, which they shared with TES.
Prestidge and Huddleston said that the subject is often seen as the “last bastion of masculinity”, with male teachers typically seen as “macho, strong and athletic”.
“Of course, gay men can be those things (and lots of them are)”, they added. However the teachers they spoke to said that often, LGBT+ men are perceived to be going against those “masculine” traits, leaving them isolated at work.
David was called a ‘faggot’ by a student.
One PE teacher they interviewed, David, is closeted at work but has still experienced two homophobic incidents within the last year.
This first involved a student calling him a “gay boy”, and the second saw another student call him a “faggot”.
He decided to ignore the first incident, which he said he regrets “as it could have set a precedent for future instances”, but for the second incident he “informed the head of year and a senior leader, as well as phoning home to speak to the student’s parents”.
However, the school took no action against the student. “This caused David to feel incredibly let down”, they said, “making him feel very apprehensive and unsure how to tackle future issues.
“He no longer enjoys going in to work.”
The lack of support from his school also strengthened his resolve to stay in the closet.
Mike says ever member of staff must challenge homophobia.
Mike, another queer PE teacher, has been teaching for 10 years and is open about his sexuality at work.
He said that thus far he has not experienced discrimination because of it, although he admits that senior staff could do more to protect LGBT+ people.
Comparing the two LGBT+ PE teachers, Prestidge and Huddleston argued: “The school should act regardless of someone’s sexuality or perceived sexuality.
“Every school should already be making a stand against homophobia, demonstrating that it will not be tolerated in society and certainly not within our schools.
Not knowing how to approach the issue is not an excuse.
They said that tackling homophobia within the context of PE comes down to a desire to change, and that desire could be hindered by the stereotypes male PE teachers are expected to abide by.
They added: “All staff, regardless of their position, need to challenge every single homophobic incident.
“This should already be happening, but it is clear from the above experiences that it is not happening everywhere. This needs to change so that staff and students feel safe.”