The Vice Principal sat me down and said he's been made aware of my "choice" of sexuality. Then he said, "We can't have you here because what message does that send to our community?"
I remember I was shaking uncontrollably.
I would hate anyone else to have to experience that.
After that meeting with the vice principal, they made me walk off the premises there and then. I just thought – what is wrong with me? It was awful, the most dehumanising experience I’ve ever had. I didn’t get to finish my day of teaching, they just sent me packing. I burst into tears, I just couldn’t believe it. It was total shock and fear.
Part of my mission now is to make sure that students in particular never have to feel the way I did that day. I would hate anyone to have to experience that. So much of this is about the kids. If we can’t, as adult teachers, feel safe at work, how can the students feel safe? I don’t have any problem with faith-based schools, what I have a problem with is them pushing this blatant discrimination – and the government’s allowing it.
As union members, as allies, we need to stand up and say – this is not OK. We need to work collectively to support one another. This discrimination shouldn’t be happening for staff, and it shouldn’t be happening for students. The cultural shift we need can come from strong voices of fellow unionists, that collective voice can really help gain traction on this issue.
We launched a Pride group at our school last year. I’m very excited about how that came about. The Pride group students had a luncheon yesterday just to really acknowledge that school is a safe place - because we don’t know what their home circumstances are like. It was exciting that the principal was very much clear that this is where we stand, and this Religious Exemptions Bill is not OK.
At the moment I’m out and proud at school. I’m thankful for that. To be able to stand up and proudly say I’m a gay woman and to because I wish I had had role models at school. The outpouring of love and gratitude from students, parents and staff members when I shared my story online on Wear it Purple Day incredible. It was very affirming.
Previously I was at a Christian school which meant there was no homosexuality. So I was trapped – I felt I had to close myself off. I couldn’t put two and two together at the time – but there were moments where I was hospitalised because of panic attacks. Sometimes I couldn’t hear, my body was numb, my heart felt like it was racing, skipping a beat or stopping completely.
Now I’m at a different school and I thought – something has to be done here, there needs to be a shift. Who’s going to do it? Well I guess it’s me! As union members, as allies, we need to stand up and work collectively to help and support one another. I don’t want more stories like the ones I’ve lived.”
- Sam Cairns, secondary teacher & IEU member
The Morrison Government’s proposed Religious Discrimination Bill has taken a hit this week thanks to powerful union campaigning - but there's no guarantee it's been shelved for good. Sign the IEU's petition to drive home to every single MP our deep opposition to this dangerous and divisive Bill.
In the meantime, we congratulate every IEU member and unionist who has been a part of this important campaign – this is your victory!