Teacher Emma Baldry comes out to her new class of students every year.
‘I’m a drama teacher and one of the first pieces of work I do with new year sevens is about family,’ the 31-year-old told the Liverpool Echo. ‘We talk about families coming in all shapes and sizes including adopted, foster, single parent, mixed race and same sex. I’d ask the kids to bring in a photo of their family and I brought in mine: of me, my wife and our cat!’
Emma started sharing her sexuality with her students after her civil partnership in 2009, when she took her partner’s name.
‘Many of the older pupils started to ask what my husband was called and I had a choice to make,’ she explained. ‘Do I lie or do I tell the truth? I chose the latter because I’d gone through enough time living as not me so I promised myself that now I’d found who I truly was I would never ever hide my sexuality again.’
Emma knew her openness and honesty was important, but never quite realised the extent of her influence until she received a letter from an ex-pupil, which explained just how much Emma’s story had had an impact on her own.
Image: Emma Baldry/Out Teacher
The handwritten note, which was left on Emma’s desk just before the pupil left the school after finishing Year 11, explains how the student found her presence comforting, and made it easier for her to come out at school.
‘If it wasn’t for you I don’t think I would ever have come out at Risedale,’ the message begins. ‘When I first started here, I was really scared to come out, mainly because the words “gay” and “dyke” were used all the time as insults, but also because at that time there wasn’t anyone else that I knew of that had “come out”.’
They went on to reveal that when they heard Emma’s story, they felt that it made being gay more normalised and accepted in the school enviroment, particularly because of the lessons and assemblies that she had devised.
‘Knowing that you were out I always felt I had someone to talk to and go to,’ the pupil wrote. ‘Also hearing your stories about when you “came out” made me feel a lot better to know I wasn’t the only person in the world (when it sometimes feels like it).’
Emma told the Echo she experienced bullying and self-doubt during her own school days, when help was less available. ‘The bullying I experienced wasn’t recognised because it was a problem they couldn’t talk about,’ she explained.
The letter is now going viral and has been shared across social media sites around the world, and speaking to GoodtoKnow, Emma said that the positive response has been incredible.
‘When I received the letter, I was overwhelmed and brought to tears by the impact of the sincerity within the letter to my conscious and unconscious support too the pupils in that school,’ she said. ‘With the media attention I have recently received my faith in humanity has been restored by the positive support I have received from total strangers, and any negativity takes me back to looking at the letter and spurs me on.’
She continues to be open with her pupils about her sexuality. ‘When I first told them my form were adorable,’ she revealed. ‘They said “Miss, we still love you and if anyone says anything we’ll get them for you.”‘
‘From the day you say “I’m gay” you’re forever outing yourself to somebody, but having my students behind me and knowing it doesn’t change anything means so much.’