Being a gay man in todays society still has its odd moments of violence and slander and being a gay man in early years can sometimes feel like your adding fuel to the fire.
In my first nursery establishment I worked in, I had such a variety of emotions when it came to my sexuality but I mostly felt embarrassed. When going into early years it was often said to me ” it would be great to have a man in the nursery to play football with the boys” or ” children need a bit of rough play” or my dreaded comment ” children need a manly man in their lives”. Every single one of those comments used to make me feel ill for many reasons such as :
I am rubbish a football
i hate rough play, it scares me
i am not a manly man
So not only was I battling with my sexuality I was also battling with everyones perceptions of what a man in nursery should look and act like.
As months went on children would ask me if I had a wife (I was 19) so it was easy for me to say no because..well…I didn’t have one. staff would begin asking questions that I would either answer with a lie or make a joke and move on very quickly.
Coming to the end of my time in my first nursery job I would sometimes hear things said about me and my sexuality and it would hurt because these people were responsible for caring for children however, I was the talk of the steamy because of being gay. I eventually came out to my work colleagues and I felt honestly relived but I knew it was time to move on to start fresh and become a better practitioner and enhance my abilities in early years.
Moving onto my second nursery establishment I was an out gay man and I felt happy because the stigma around men being a manly role model was easing and I started to feel myself. I met fantastic staff and amazingly open minded children who would often start conversations about marrying whoever you want and talking about family diversity and it honestly shook me (in a positive way). For years I’ve been hiding and trying to convince myself that children wouldn’t understand that people dont need to marry the opposite sex from each other, and here they are having non adult led conversations based around these complex topics that I struggled with in the past.
When it was time to leave that establishment I was a proud gay man ( with a fiance) who was ready to shine the light on LGBT learning and ready to challenge anyone who thought otherwise ! ( its amazing what 2 years in a nice nursery and having a fiancé can do to ones self esteem). When I moved to my new establishment it was based in the heart of the west end of Glasgow and came with many diverse families. When arriving to this nursery there were children from same sex parents attending, books about diversity and an over all feeling of inclusion and acceptance. However, doubt would slither in now and then and remind me that being gay wasn’t okay to everyone so I would have to dull my sparkle (to put it nicely).
On the last day in nursery before I went off to get married my work mates gathered all the children round and they surprised me with a song and some gifts and my manager said ” Duncan is going to get married tomorrow to a wonderful man called john”. My heart genuinely sank I was worried that these 4 year old were going to throw wooden blocks at me or spit in my face or something but, instead they looked not interested in who I was marrying but more why I was marrying and it was amazing.
Coming back from honeymoon I had parents ask where I have been and that they heard I got married. Most of them were just being polite and making small talk but one parent really stood out that day. One particular parent pulled me aside and gave me this amazing speech about being proud of who I am and not to hide my life away, instead I was to continue to support children and showing them that being gay is a tiny part of who you are and its to be celebrated.
(As you can see from this blog post so far that my sexuality and professionalism have a love hate relationship with each other and my mind often likes to make me doubt myself. But we are near the end of the story I promise)
My confidence in work was growing and my husband John actually came into the nursery sometimes to help out at Christmas fayres etc and parents would talk to us and it felt ‘normal’ and nice and I started to completely feel proud and actually actively looking to advocate LGBT in the early years profession.
The most recent positive situation in my professional life was when a new family came to be settled into my nursery and mum had this wonderful aura that I was drawn to and we actually had a really good professional relationship that allowed me to explore further into the queer community. The little girl who was placed in my group was a fountain of knowledge and was so well versed in queer culture and trans rights that she made me so comfortable to be myself (She was 4 hehe!). She would paint my nails and do my makeup and wash my hair in the house corner and it started to have an impact on the other children I started to see boys with prams and boys being dads and mums whilst in play and it was refreshing.
My final thought on this situation is that even though I have had mostly positve experiences with being a gay man in nursery all it takes is one conversation to have you doubt everything. In terms of the queer community being discussed in education sentences we are still relatively new but I can see it starting to rise from the ashes!
I’m surrounded by two types of teachers at the moment. Those that are still going into their schools to work and those who are working from home. But let’s make this clear, both of those groups are working. And they’re working hard.
Let’s go back a few weeks to what seems a lifetime ago. Living in NI I’m very aware of the date of the 17th March. Paddy’s Day. A day usually filled with silliness and probably a few pints. Not a bank holiday for the rest of the UK but often marked with fun activities for the children and a bit of craic at the weekend. This year was one very different to any I’ve known. I was at school at an emergency governors meeting. I was putting together strategies for my own classes and supporting Early Years leaders who were trying to risk assess their settings to keep…
I am back after a much needed break from blogging and writing my opinions of early years and current cultures that surround pedagogy.
In todays current pandemic I have seen so many inspiring and motivating actions made by early years professionals across the nation and it has genuinely warmed my heart. It has made me excited to get back into the setting and do what I do best which is have a laugh and challenge children to thrive in our establishment.
This is a small blog post to simply welcome everyone back to my website and to reconnect with my writing skills!