Parents who demand that LGBT+ education is withdrawn from schools would find it easier if they just withdrew the LGBT+ students themselves. Gay and Trans people exist. Shock. And yet, in 2019 the LGBT+ community is still having to fight to have its voice heard and for the lives of future generations to be improved.
As a gay person who attended a faith school myself, it is no surprise that LGBT+ issues were definitely not on the agenda. What parents and educators don’t seem to realise is that the damage that is done to LGBT+ students is much greater than that hypothetical damage they concoct when demanding schools become LGBT-free zones. In fact, for an LGBT+ student, avoiding discussing these issues can make coming to terms with their identity whilst trying to fit in and avoid any unnecessary hassle from peers very difficult.
From my own personal experience, this created an uncomfortableness around my identity, avoiding any discussion or elaboration until much later in my school years when I soon realised that most people just didn’t care. Indeed, it is the parents who demand LGBT+ education be removed from lessons who have the problem, not the children, as most young people are significantly more liberal than their elders, something which appears to be improving year-on-year.
However, that doesn’t eradicate the bullying and intolerance that many LGBT+ students can face early on in school. Terms like ‘gay’ or ‘faggot’ are still part of the lower school vocabulary, often used interchangeably and to just insult someone, as opposed to expressing direct homophobia. I can remember being asked if I was gay before I even knew I was, simply because I did not conform to the typical ‘lad’ stereotype. Whilst some may see this as harmless, and in my case it pretty much was, not every child is as resilient. Nor should they have to be, especially when we are aware of the detrimental effects it can have. As new issues arise, such as those around transgenderism, schools have the opportunity to prevent problems worsening and actually educate students on these issues. Ignorance is one of the greatest causes of such abuse and schools have a duty to address such matters, regardless of whether a few bigoted parents kick off.
Some parents argue that these are matters for them to discuss at home. Interestingly, these parents don’t take such a liberal standpoint when it comes to any other part of their child’s education. In reality, this is just a way of avoiding teaching their children at all or only giving them a one-sided perspective on LGBT+ issues, which is probably far more indoctrinating than having a teacher discuss such issues with them freely and critically.
Like many other LGBT+ campaigns before us, this will likely follow the same moral panic trajectory; revoking Section 28, permitting gay adoption, allowing gay marriage, and now putting LGBT+ issues on the curriculum have all taken the same form. They begin with parents stating they’d indoctrinate or damage their children, citing something about liberalism (the irony isn’t lost) and demanding the state protect them. You’d honestly think they were sticking on gay porn with the way they react.
Eventually, LGBT+ education will just be the norm and parents will accept it, but we can’t wait for history to repeat itself, especially when there are LGBT+ students in schools struggling to come to terms with themselves and looking for guidance and support. For every child like me who over time becomes proud of their sexuality, there is a child who doesn’t and may never. Those are the children who we should be protecting, those are the children we should be thinking of, those are the children who we should be protesting about. To make use of the Queer Nation phrase: parents, we’re here, we’re queer, get over it!