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LGBT+ K-12 Educators Coming Out Experiences to Promote Inclusive Communities

Theresa Mercier, Johnson & Wales University


While LGBT+ students benefit from support and LGBT+ K-12 educators provide an active role providing such support, educators are reluctant to do so visibly (GLSEN, 2020). One underlying reason for hesitancy may be the need for LGBT+ identifying K-12 educators to choose how to approach their identity in schools as they navigate heteronormativity and the competing concepts of LGBT+ pride and professionalism. They may knit, split, and/or quit their LGBT+ and educator identities (Connell, 2015; DeJean, 2010; Gray 2013; Neary, 2017; Turner, 2010; Bliss & Harris, 1998). Choosing to split or quit identities means that LGBT+ youth cannot benefit from LGBT+ educator role-models.This sequential explanatory mixed methods study rated the common factors that lead an LGBT+ teacher to knit, split, and/or quit their LGBT+ and educator identities. Factors were also compared across educators who have knit, split, or quit their LGBT+ and educator identity. From these data, the study explored how educators’ descriptions of their coming out informed the supports and development needed for LGBT+ educators to serve as role models for LGBT+ students.Self-identifying K-12 educators (N = 40) rated the factors that influence their decision to knit, split, and/or quit their identities in a questionnaire. Participants were provided the opportunity to voluntarily participate in an interview. In this interview, educators were asked about their experiences coming out and as role-models for LGBT+ youth. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, and qualitative data was analyzed using thematic analysis (Krueger & Casey, 2015).This study confirmed the importance of inclusion to LGBT+ educators, including the need to be role-models for LGBT+ students. It also identified the fear of families as a primary factor for splitting one’s LGBT+ and educator identities. Supportive communities were also a factor that was especially prevalent to knitting identities. Interviewed educators identified the proposed actions stemming from the study including the need for resources, affinity spaces, supportive administration, and professional development.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|LGBTQ studies|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Mercier, Theresa, "LGBT+ K-12 Educators Coming Out Experiences to Promote Inclusive Communities" (2021). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI28969715.