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12th May, 2022

Pretended: Living with and Challenging Homophobia in Schools


Event Details

12th May, 2022
19:30 -
Anglia Ruskin University - Lord Ashcroft Building
Bishop Hall Lane

Between 1988 and 2003, Section 28 of the Local Government Act prohibited teachers in UK schools from ‘promoting homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. Section 28 left LGBTQ+ teachers fearing they would lose their jobs if their identity was revealed in the school workplace, and created a damaging legacy that continues to impact LGBTQ+ teachers today.

In her inaugural lecture, Catherine Lee will explore lived experiences of LGBTQ+ teachers in UK schools under and after Section 28. Within a post structural critical framework that positions sexual and gender identities as multiple, fragmented, and constructed in relation to systems of power and knowledge, Catherine will interrogate heteronormative and cisnormative discursive practices in UK school communities. She will also investigate the moral panic that surrounds teacher sexual and gender identities in schools, and consider the impact of homophobic, heteronormative and cisnormative practices on the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ teachers.

Catherine will also discuss how she used her research findings to help establish Courageous Leaders, the UK’s first leadership development programme specifically for LGBTQ+ teachers. At a time when the average length of service for a Headteacher in the UK is just three years, Courageous Leaders is an important vehicle for improving the diversity of teacher leaders and facilitating school cultures which enable LGBTQ+ teachers to be their authentic selves and flourish within the profession.


Catherine Lee is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Inclusive Education and Leadership. She is also Deputy Dean for Education in the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care. A teacher by background, Catherine has published extensively on the theme of LGBTQ+ teachers in schools and her research has created national and international impact.

In 2016, drawing on her research and funded by the DfE, Catherine worked with schools in the region to set up Courageous Leaders, the UK’s only leadership development programme specifically for LGBTQ+ teachers. The programme has worked with over 100 teachers to date and has been nominated for numerous national diversity awards. In 2019, Catherine was recognised for her research-led work on Courageous Leaders, by being included in the UK’s Pride Power List as one of the top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK. Most recently, Catherine’s autoethnographic research has been adapted for a BBC and BFI funded film about Section 28.

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