The mental health of LGBTI teachers in villages is at greater risk than those in urban schools, a UK survey has found.
More than half of teachers surveyed experienced depression, the study showed. As a result, 46% have been absent from work, compared to only 5% in urban and suburban schools.
Dr. Catherine Lee, Head of the Department for Education and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University, carried out the anonymous study on 100 teachers.
Homophobia and heteronormativity were the main causes for leaving a role for a third of the LGBTI rural teachers interviewed. Furthermore, 31% admitted hearing homophobic language at work on a daily basis.
‘He said lesbians don’t become headteachers’
Reporting the most problematic remarks heard at work, one teacher said: ‘A mum asked if being gay is compatible with teaching.’
Another opened up about what she felt were double standards. ‘Straight teachers can talk about their husbands and wives,’ she said. ‘But it’s an overshare to say I have a female partner.’
‘My headteacher told me to keep my sexuality to myself,’ said another. ‘He said lesbians don’t become headteachers.’
The answers prompted concern about whether teachers receive enough support from their institutions. Notably, 40% believe their sexual orientation is a barrier to promotion.
‘LGBTI teacher identities must be acknowledged without fear’
Dr. Lee told Gay Star News: ‘LGBTI teacher identities must be acknowledged without fear, so that in all schools the dominant discourse is inclusive and reflects the lives of all those who live, learn, and teach there.’
She added that results showed ‘teachers in rural communities often lack the opportunity to speak their identity into existence at school. [They] find personal and professional identities incompatible, leading to low self-worth, depression, and anxiety.
‘I would urge policymakers to take heed of this research and take action to protect teachers in village schools where perhaps attitudes to LGBTI people are more conservative.’