Gay and lesbian school administrators : negotiating personal and professional identities and professional roles and responsibilities within heteronormative organizations
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The conceptual foundation of this study was patterned from Getzels’ and Guba’s social behavior premise that the unique task of administration, as it relates to staff relations, is to integrate the demands of the institution and the demands of the staff member in a way that is at once organizationally productive and individually fulfilling. Absolute congruence of institutional expectations and personal needs is seldom found in practice. Despite many educational initiatives introduced over the years to reform schools, school leadership remains a constant dominant factor in determining the success of a school. There are few studies that pertain to gay and lesbian school administrators. Since the current image of school leadership perpetuates heteronormativity, a study exploring how being gay or lesbian affects school administrators’ ability to lead is needed. This phenomenological research study explores how self-identified gay and lesbian school administrators negotiate their professional and personal roles and responsibilities, where their sexual identity might negatively influence their legitimacy as leaders in a social climate that assumes public school administrators are heterosexual. The findings from this research study identified five common themes among nine gay and lesbian school administrators, as they negotiated their personal and professional identities and responsibilities. Themes identified by the participants were: (1) societal expectations of a school leader; (2) constant awareness and need to perform above expectations; (3) desire to be more authentic; (4) a need to feel safe and comfortable in the work environment; and (5) fear. Participants in this study exerted enormous energy to strategically conceal their sexual identity, efforts which worked in direct conflict against the equally strong desire to be truly authentic people. This distraction limited workplace effectiveness. In spite of the heteronormative cultures that exist in schools, posing enormous obstacles for gay and lesbian school administrators to be authentic, gay and lesbian educators continue to pursue school leadership positions. This study concluded that school districts and school boards must implement policies and practices that allow openness and genuineness, and mandate inclusion and acceptance of gay and lesbian individuals.