It wasn’t the first time I had come out. As a teen I had been very open about my feelings for members of the same sex but this had led me to experience the same bullying and low self worth that I am now trying to change for future generations. This time around, however, was different.
This time I was confidently ‘out’ with my friends and colleagues and was, in the summer of 2009, having a civil partnership ceremony to Joanne Baldry. There lay the predicament. Baldry, I was Miller! I was going to be taking on her surname which meant that the pupils were going to have a new name to learn! On my return that September I arrived to a new name badge and proceeded to introduce myself to new and old pupils as Mrs Baldry. Many of the older pupils started to ask what my husband was called and it was at this that I had a choice to make – do I lie or do I tell the truth? I chose the latter. I had had enough of pretending and now I wanted to be true to myself. I responded proudly “She’s called Joanne”.
For the first few months it was at times hard with pupils writing offensive messages for me to find on pieces of paper in the classroom and sniggering down the corridors but issues were dealt with by SLT and, although low level comments may still be made today, they are less prominent and pupils will often be the first to stick up for what is right!
In 2011 Stonewall offered us a visit from Lance Corporal James Wharton to do an assembly about being ‘out’ in the Army, and being a garrison school I jumped at this opportunity. With this came my 3rd big outing as, in front of the whole school in the assembly hall, I introduced James as being gay – just like me.
From this moment on I have helped to champion the work of Stonewall and other organisations like Diversity Role Models within school and this has helped to move us forward to tackle homophobic bullying with the pupils being a lot more accepting of one another. This has led to several pupils feeling safe enough to be open and ‘out’ themselves.
I feel, as in all schools, there is still more that needs to be done but I am now happy to be the ‘OUT’ role model for the pupils I see come through my door each year.