Daniel Gray, a 32-year-old high school teacher in the U.K. came out as gay during a school assembly of 1,000 students in February, which is LGBTQ History Month in the U.K. When Gray came out to his school, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Gray said that he had previously been told not to reveal his sexuality while going through teacher training. He told the Croydon Advertiser, “I 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.”
He said it was a “very depressing and very sad way” of approaching teaching and his relationship to students, adding that “It’s assuming the students are out to get you.” Gray added that he felt as though he was always hiding some part of his identity, and commented that, “You want to have a good relationship with your students, and part of that is being open about who you are.”
That’s what led Gray to come out to his students during a general assembly, and also to be a role model to his gay students. “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,” he said, adding that the school’s reaction to his coming out was “phenomenal.”
“Attitudes are changing, by being consistent and having a consistent message, we’re talking openly about these things for the first time,” Gray said. He added, “I actually feel a bit emotional [about it]. It’s just so powerful. The impact we have on students’ lives is immense as teachers.”
Gray said he was bullied early in school for his sexuality, but never knew who to confide in because he didn’t know of any teachers who were openly gay. “I want to make sure [my students] feel safe like I never did,” he explained.
Gray said he received emails from students congratulating him for his decision to share another part of his identity with them. “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,” he said.