A lesbian teacher – who attempted suicide after falling victim to homophobic bullies at school – has explained how she comes out every year to her students.
Emma Baldry, a drama teacher in Merseyside, England, told the Liverpool Echo: ‘Many of the older pupils started to ask what my husband was called and I had a choice to make. Do I lie or do I tell the truth? I chose the latter because I’d gone through enough time living as not me so I promised that now I’d found who I truly was I would never ever hide my sexuality again.’
The 31-year-old also shared a handwritten note from an LGBTI student, thanking her for inspiring the author to accept themselves for who they are.
Adding that one or two students have reacted negatively to her openness, she explained: ‘One of the first pieces of work I do with my new year sevens is about family. We talk about families coming in all shapes and sizes including adopted, foster, single parent, mixed race and same sex. I’d ask the kids to bring in a photo of their family and I brought in mine: of me, my wife and our cat!’
‘It’s my way of letting kids know that my room is a safe space to talk about anything, and that it is all-inclusive.’
‘When I first told them my form were adorable. They said ‘Miss, we still love you and if anyone says anything we’ll get them for you. From the day you say “I’m gay” you’re forever outing yourself to somebody, but having my students behind me and knowing it doesn’t change anything means so much.’
She also revealed how she was bullied at school for being LGBTI, and how a lack of support from teachers because of Section 28 – notorious legislation passed in the 1980s that banned local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality – led her to self harm.
‘Staff were fearful of doing anything because they could lose their job. So even the bullying I experienced wasn’t recognized because it was a problem they couldn’t talk about it. I self-harmed and tried to overdose twice because I struggled to deal with the guilt and the feeling of who I was and how society saw that as something wrong.’
Emma – who took her partner’s surname after a civil partnership in 2009 – is now an ambassador for the work of Diversity Role Models and Stonewall within the Merseyside schools she works at as a supply teacher.
This Saturday she will be helping out with education work for Liverpool Pride at St John’s Garden.