The last time I had to write something quite like this, I was back in high school. I worried a little about it and my mum said she understood how I felt, no one likes giving speeches. But sometimes I had to think not just about myself, but about my classmates, my friends and my teachers, who would be very proud of me.
There are some things that we have to do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others.
Prior to joining the Stonewall Cymru, my job as a Primary School teacher meant that I was very visible. I tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. For a long time, I tried to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people's stories. I've always believed that children's differences should be celebrated. As long as a teacher shows fairness and honesty in their work, their private life shouldn't matter.
I've stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I've been directly asked, "the gay question". But I began to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweighed personal and professional principle. It became clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I had given some the mistaken impression that I was trying to hide something -- something that made me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This was distressing because it was simply not true. I had no idea which of my pupils would grow up to identify as LGBT, but what I did know is that I had a personal obligation and social responsibility to my pupils.
To be a role model for young people who often do not see LGBT people represented positively in society. I wanted my pupils to feel welcome and encourage them to show kindness and respect. As a teacher, I didn't want to perpetuate the pervasive stereotypes that I witnessed in school. I did not want my pupils to be scared of who they are, children who couldn't find the strength or words to tell their parents the whole truth about themselves. I wanted the children in my classes to realise their potential, find their voice and be authentic.
As part of this I wanted to make sure that the diversity of relationships and the diversity of families were represented through education. At my old school, we invested in books and resources which showed the diversity of families and examined the images we used so that all types of family were represented. An Anti-Bullying day kick-started our work around homophobia and gender identity. It was very easy for most of our young people to see the parallels with other forms of discrimination.
I wanted pupils to recognise that, regardless of their own situation, there were other, equally valid, different kinds of families and partnerships. I worked hard to accurately and fairly portray LGBT role models throughout the school curriculum. It was not part of my job to push an agenda, but rather to be relentlessly honest in everything I seen, said and did. I never wanted to be any kind of teacher other than a good one. I am eternally grateful for what my mum taught me: There are some things we do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others. It was the catalyst for change within me. Being a teacher, trying to understand people from all walks of life, telling them stories, nurturing their talents, has been the greatest joy of my professional career, and I hope to be involved with working with children for a long time to come.