Teaching While Lesbian Could Cost You Your Job

Lisa Reimer, a music teacher at a Vancouver Catholic girls’ school returned to work after parental leave for the birth of her baby to find she had no job. Although the school was well aware that she is a lesbian, and even supported her right to take time off to be with her spouse for the birth of their child, parent complaints during the teacher’s absence led the school to relieve her of teaching duties while still keeping her on contract.

The school claims it has not fired Ms. Reimer, but the she is not being allowed to teach.

This is fascinating for several reasons.

First, the circumstances that led up to what amounts to a paid suspension stem from the fact that while the school, and very likely the students, knew that Reimer is a married lesbian whose spouse was pregnant, parents didn’t. It was only after Reimer’s personal life became widely known among parents, and they began to object, that the school took action.

Second, the hypocrisy is stunning from every angle. Catholic schools in Canada are fully funded by the government. They are only slightly different from public schools in that the students and staff must be adherents of Catholicism. Knowing a few teachers and administrators in the separate (Catholic) school system, I have heard many a “don’t ask, don’t tell” tale where following the rules of the faith and keeping one’s job are concerned. Though same sex marriage is legal here, no one I know has any illusions about what could happen to a teacher in a Christian-based school who is found to be in violation of the practice of the faith.

Third, the idea that a legally married teacher starting a family is a bad example confuses me. Yes, there is the whole “lesbian thing”, but study upon study has proven that sexuality is hard-wired, so the argument about “impressionable” children being lured away from heterosexuality is a bogus one. This is about the prejudice of adults and the discomfort they feel. I highly doubt that Reimer’s students are anything other than mildly curious and probably quite happy for her.

When I was a teacher, I can’t recall a single school I taught in which didn’t have gay staff members, male and female. Like most other people I encountered in the profession, the vast majority of these teachers were in committed relationships. Teaching tends to attract the kinds of people who want to settle down and become part of a community. Boring ordinary people for the most part. Although students are curious about the private lives of their teachers, they seldom pry and for the most part are too caught up in their own lives – just like adults – to really care all that much about where their teachers went or what they did when they weren’t teaching.

I had students who were surprised to learn that we teachers weren’t simply put away in closets every evening and hauled out again in the morning.

Growing up, my friends and I knew which teachers were gay. This was back in the 1970’s, a far less enlightened time, and yet it wasn’t a big deal either. I don’t know anyone I grew up with who came out as a young adult who would have claimed to have been influenced in their sexual preferences by a chance placement in a classroom with a gay teacher.

The Vancouver incident is made tricky by the fact that it is a Catholic school. A former Catholic myself, I am a bit amused by Catholics who still think that the church, as an institution, will be okay with their a la carte approach to the faith.

The school insists that Reimer has not been fired though they continue to keep her from her classroom. Ms. Reimer believes that she will be let go once her contract expires. Difficult to say where the truth lies and sad to realize that truth probably won’t matter at all in the final outcome.

Empty Classroom by Rico Marcelli


Victoria J.
Victoria J7 years ago

This is BULL SHIT.
We should petition to get her her job back!!!

Donna J.
Donna J7 years ago

This is all so sad. I went to that high school and we had another teacher who was well adored, who was openly lesbian. Nobody had any beef with that, not even the nuns who ran the school at the time. Strangely enough, now that the nuns aren't there, this kind of stuff happens.

By the way, only Catholic schools in Ontario and possibly Quebec are funded by the government, but not in BC. The money they get are from donors, the Catholic Church and tuition from students.

Regardless, this is another example of hypocrisy of the Church and its blind followers. Homophobia and all its form should be over and done with. This outrage should extend to all the places and institutions in the world who don't allow gay marriage.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik7 years ago

"Would you like it if someone like a prostitute or a drug addict taught in your child's school? It is not just because she is a lesbian but a practicing lesbian, just like if you had someone teaching who was living a fornicating lifestyle. " Carole T

Carole, How would you even know if they lived a fornicating lifestyle? What does that even mean? I may interpret that to mean that they have sex at every opportunity with multiple partners. Someone else may think it is just copulating outside of marriage. A third may interpret it entirely different. Even in America, Parochial schools do receive (in addition to all the tuition paid by the parents) some state funds.
If this woman had not taken off to be with her partner when birth was given - the parents would have never known about it. It didn't say she was promiscuous. It didn't say she was out trying to get students to have sex with her. It said she was in a committed relationship. If this had been two males & they didn't have a child, would anyone have even cared?

Yes, parents do have a right to demand that their child's teacher is moral but that word is open to all kind's of interpretation. I want my child's teacher to be sane, sober, not on illegal drugs, and to be able to impart knowledge. I don't want one that lies, cheats or steals. I don't want one that is a murderer. Nor one who is a pedophile. Their sexual life is not my business. Being in a stable relationship is a plus.

Maureen Heartwood

A correction here, that I think is important: Catholic schools in Canada do not, and legally cannot, require either staff or students to be Catholic themselves. It's illegal. I attended a private Catholic girls' high school myself, and many teachers were not Catholic - just teachers who needed a job when a position was open at the school. I wasn't Catholic, and neither were a handful of other students, including two Muslim girls who wore hijabs along with their uniforms (head coverings otherwise being forbidden). And yes, we knew that one teacher was a lesbian, and I'm sure there were other non-straight teachers as well.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is NOT optional, and discrimination is illegal, with protected categories including religion and sexual orientation.

Ruth Barrett
Ruth Barrett7 years ago

Sounds like a pretty clear cut case of discrimination to me.

Sir Walk F.
Sir Walk F7 years ago

Poor lady, getting paid maternity leave. She's so oppressed!

Carole Tokaruk
Carole Tokaruk7 years ago

There are Catholic schools who are very lax about the faith and shouldn't be called Catholic. Then there are those who try to live their faith and are given a hard time. In Canada parents can choose to support the school system they want their children to attend so actually it is the parents who pay, not the government. Would you like it if someone like a prostitute or a drug addict taught in your child's school? It is not just because she is a lesbian but a practicing lesbian, just like if you had someone teaching who was living a fornicating lifestyle. We need good role models. It is not okay if someone is a person who is not genuinely trying to live a good moral life comes to teach. Their values are not , at least entirely our values.

Mario Venedrezi
Mario Venedrezi7 years ago

Another "don't ask, don't tell" incident. Except this time, she's still being paid. Doesn't make it okay, though.

Past Member 7 years ago

Being a lesbian should not even come into it.

Diane B.
Diane B7 years ago

Wow, I want a job that pays me to do nothing too!