A Comparison of Gay and Heterosexual Teachers on Professional and Personal Dimensions

A Comparison of Gay and Heterosexual Teachers on Professional and Personal Dimensions

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The purpose of the study was to provide more sophisticated data on gay teachers than the available anecdotal information. Three instruments were used to gather data on volunteer samples of self-labelled gay teachers (_n = 30) and then self-labelled heterosexual teachers (n_ = 30) for comparison. The heterosexual teachers were matched with the gays on age, sex, and number of years in teaching. The participants taught grades K-12 in both public and private schools throughout the state of Florida and were obtained primarily through personal contact and referral. Previously the only available data on gay teachers were found in magazines and legal journals; these data were described. Other areas of information relevant to the characteristics and stereotypes of gay teachers were also reviewed: the development of sexual orientation, femininity and masculinity, child molestation, and proselytization. The Bern Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) yielded independent scores of femininity and masculinity, based on endorsement of stereotypic attributes. The Teacher Characteristics Schedule (TCS) yielded scores on six scales: attitudes towards pupils and school personnel, religion and religion-associated morality, openness to change/liberal attitudes, social/personal adjustment, dedication to teaching, and validity of response. A personal interview provided information on demographic variables, sexuality as a classroom topic, and perceptions of various aspects of teacher influence on students' sexual identity. Both teacher groups were also compared to normative data from national samples on the two standardized instruments. Variables controlled for in the statistical analyses were sexual orientation (gay or heterosexual), grade level taught (elementary or secondary), and sex (female or male). The level of significance was p = .05 for all tests. Results from the BSRI indicated that gay women scored significantly higher on the masculine scale than did heterosexual women, with no differences on the feminine scale. Gay men scored significantly higher on the feminine scale than did heterosexual men, with no differences on the masculine scale. When compared to the national sample, the gay teacher group scored significantly higher on both the feminine and masculine scales. No differences were found between the national sample and the heterosexual teacher group. Results from the TCS indicated no significant differences between the gay and heterosexual teachers on any of the scales. Compared to the normative sample, gay teachers were more open to change, less religious, more socially personally adjusted, and less dedicated to teaching; heterosexual teachers were less religious, less dedicated to teaching, and more prone to give valid responses. For the interview data, questions with quantifiable responses were reported, including descriptive comments by the teachers. Only one interview question produced a significantly different answer for gay and heterosexual teachers: qDo you think that you can influence the development of sexual identity in your students?q Significantly more gay teachers replied qno.q Differences on femininity and masculinity exhibited between gay and heterosexual teachers within sex concur with the results of other studies. Both lesbians and gay men are more likely than heterosexuals to behave in ways considered appropriate to the opposite sex by cultural standards. The failure to find differences on any of the TCS scales has more than one possible interpretation. The finding could be a function of an unreliable instrument, a Type II error, or the result of actual similarity between gay and heterosexual teachers. Implications of these results and other data on the employment of gay teachers are discussed. Some misconceptions about gay teachers are delineated, accompanied by research which contradicts those assumptions.The purpose of the study was to provide more sophisticated data on gay teachers than the available anecdotal information.


Title:A Comparison of Gay and Heterosexual Teachers on Professional and Personal Dimensions
Author: Suzanne Nickeson
Publisher: - 1980
ISBN-13:

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