A teacher has described the heartwarming response from his students after he told them he was gay in an assembly.
Daniel Gray, 32, was told to keep it a secret during teacher training because pupils might seize on it and use it as ‘ammunition’.
He has personal experience of how upsetting bullies can be, as he was targeted during his own school days.
‘Every single day I was pushed in corridors, I was called names, I was insulted, I was sworn at, spat at and I had stones thrown at me,’ he said.
‘All because students suspected I was gay, I didn’t even know I was at this point.’
Despite the painful memories, he decided that he wanted to be open with students so they had diverse role models – and to help any pupils who might be coming to terms with their own sexuality.
He came out in front of 1,000 Harris Academy pupils in an assembly.
‘I went through all the things the school was doing for LGBT History Month (held in February in the UK), and then I just said, ‘As a gay man, I know how important it is to have positive role models, and that’s why we’re doing this’, he said
‘I was so relieved when it was done, and then the response was just like ‘OK’ and a few people shrugged. Most people weren’t even bothered.’
Since the assembly, he has been overwhelmed by the response from the school in Croydon, South London. Posters have been put up in the corridors supporting LGBT people, which is great.
But the best thing for Mr Gray is the pupils who have approached him about how much hearing him speak out has helped them.
People have asked him for advice, and talked to him about how they could come out to their friends and family.
‘Hipster’ says he wants to execute women who have abortionsHe has even had emails from former students who are gay, congratulating him and saying that they wish he had come out while they were at the school.
Daniel said he was ‘told categorically when I started to train to be a teacher nine years ago not to come out to my students.’
‘They said you don’t want to give them any more ammunition than they’ve already got, and that’s really a very depressing and very sad way of looking at it.
‘It’s assuming the students are out to get you.’
He said the response couldn’t have been more different from what he was led to expect nine years ago, perhaps showing that attitudes have changed even in that time.
‘It’s not like teachers are here to talk about their personal lives – they’re not – but my not talking about my life, it’s excluding those who feel like they can’t fit in’,’ he said.
‘I think it just takes one person to say ‘It’s OK’ for the floodgates to open and for all these kids to just accept each other for who they are.’
‘Even if you don’t know who you are, you maybe just feel a bit different, there’s other people out there for you.
‘You can be happy, you can be successful.’