A teacher in a Zimbabwean boys’ school has resigned after coming out as gay to his students.
Deputy head of St John’s College sixth form in Harare, Neal Hovelmeier, was forced to come out in a school assembly. The school’s chairman claimed that a Zimbabwean newspaper was planning to out him.
However, as homosexuality is illegal in the country, some parents threatened legal action. Others sent death threats.
In a resignation letter quoted by the BBC, the teacher wrote: ‘I have come to realize that my current position as deputy headmaster is untenable.’
Helping gay and bisexual children
Also, he added that he would not subject himself to a ‘sham trial’. The teacher then revealed he suffered ‘threats of physical danger to myself and my pets.’
Neal Hovelmeier originally stated he came out to his pupils via an assembly to help students suffering from homophobia. He said that past students came forward to reveal how they were subjected to abuse as kids.
In a statement released by the school, the former deputy head wrote: ‘I have felt increasingly troubled by the fact that we as an institution have never openly dealt with trying to curb homophobic behavior and, equally, failed to provide a safe learning experience for students who may identify as being gay or bisexual to truly flourish and feel accepted.
‘I simply feel and believe that as an educator I will be able to better address and advance this issue if I am prepared to be fully and open and transparent about it myself.’
Zimbabwe’s stance on LGBTI rights
Male same-sex sexuality has been illegal since 1891 in Zimbabwe after British colonial law. Long-time ruler Robert Mugabe propagated these rules throughout his rule. He called gay people ‘filthy’ and said the country would ‘never, never, never’ decriminalize homosexual relations.