Understanding Identity and Context in the Development of Gay Teacher Identity: Perceptions and Realities in Teacher Education and Teaching
The way a teacher perceives relational justice—the feeling of being treated equitably and being included—in their work context is central to understanding the negotiation and enactment of teacher identity. For LGBTQ teachers, the degree to which they are out of the closet with their students and colleagues leads to many possible outcomes. These outcomes, ranging from feeling like they need to live duplicitous lives to being activist teachers that subvert the heteronormative assumptions in schools and curricula, are studied here by examining the identity development of a group of gay teachers and their perceptions of the schools in which they work. This article is based on a dissertation study that theorized that the heteronormative nature of teacher education is a limiting factor for gay teachers' abilities to work and thrive in school contexts. The study included in depth case studies of four gay teachers and their journeys as gay men and teachers. The goal of the study was to answer the question: Does the enactment of gay teacher identity interrupt heteronormativity in schools? The study also sought to answer two ancillary questions: (1) How do gay teachers negotiate gay teacher identity in schools? and, (2) How do school contexts impact gay teachers' perceptions of identity-based motivation and relational justice? This article will focus on Peter Ryan's (pseudonym) case study, specifically because of its emblematic nature in summarizing the intent and implications of the overall study.