It continues to become more difficult to provide sensitive and age appropriate education and support to LGBTIQ youth and their peers within the school environment. The reason for this is the mere suggestion of this education alienates a significant number of parents and interested community members. It causes an unnecessary hysteria. A post I read on Facebook earlier today included this article.
The post was not written on a particularly radicalised Facebook page yet I was surprised when I read some of the 259 comments. I found one post that suggested this type of education to be acceptable. The remainder of the posts ranged from blatant homophobia to angry to rationally describing why educating preschoolers on gender and sexuality was not supported by this group. I was surprised the split was so strongly biased one way.
On thinking about it further I believe the interpretation of what is being suggested is open to misunderstanding. Here is where the crux of the issue lies. I will be open that I support this education and it starting as early as possible and definitely in the home as well as school. I support this education because as parents we actually already consent to gender and sexuality education occurring for our children from day 1 of school. We actively teach our children about heterosexual relationships and gender stereotypes.
We don’t use the term heterosexual but that is what we teach. Examples of this include stories where there are heterosexual couples, interracial couples and stereotypes of gender roles in early reading books. Boys are portrayed as rough and tumble while girls are shown as playing with dolls and having tea parties. Not to mention comments such as “well he’s a boy what do you expect” when it comes to certain behaviours. Parents and friends will often talk or question a boy about having a girlfriend or a girl about having a boyfriend from toddlerhood. A boy and girl play nicely at day care the parents smile sweetly at each other and suggest a budding romance. I’ve done it myself. Two children of the same gender do exactly the same thing and they are considered good friends. There is an assumption that your child/ren will be straight and while this is likely it is not definite. Even as a lesbian with children the stereotypes are so ingrained I have to sometimes remind myself that my children may not be straight. I now try to talk about a partner in their future lives not a girlfriend/wife for my son and a boyfriend/husband for my daughter.
Why is the idea of teaching, for example not all men are tough, manly men that all fit into a similar box and do ‘manly things’ and that it doesn’t matter what gender you are you have equal capability to your peers so offensive to many? It is offensive because of a near global case of subconscious bias. Unless you are actively aware of these biases how can you reduce them and rethink your stance. You simply are unable to and that is OK. That is the exact reason we so badly need visibility and education about real, everyday members of the LGBTIQ community. If you are a parent how often do you consider your child may be LGBTIQ? Most don’t because of these deep biases.
The second reason I see the idea of teaching these topics is considered offensive is that because the word ‘sexuality’ is used it is often misunderstood that the conversation is about sexual activity and sexual behaviour. To introduce the idea of couples who are both the same gender does not require any discussion about sexual activity. It was not many decades ago that a single parent family would not be discussed in schools as it was considered shameful (with the exception of widows and widowers). Now various family types are represented with the regular exception of same-sex couples.
I would like to put this to the people who disagree with this education as I would like to understand better so a connection can be made. Do you disagree with the fact that families exist which have parents of the same gender this is highly likely include classmates of your children? Do you disagree that some of their peers or they themselves might feel affection towards someone of the same gender? Do you disagree that boys and girls have more similarity than difference – gender does not determine the characteristics you have and skills you have. Some people are born in the wrong body for their true gender. Your child will most likely have peers who experience this. What do our children need to learn? Be yourself you are the best and only you and you are loved.
The comments made in the original Facebook post I referred to were quite disturbing. I believe in the good of people and that those making the comments are making them with a true conviction that they are doing right by all children. What we need to do though is meet in the middle and form a way forward in the best interests of our children. That is what we all want – a great outcome for our children. With the political atmosphere being very divisive in relation to LGBTIQ people and the extremely high levels of self harm and suicide in this minority it is our duty to find a solution for all.
This quote from the article I think would be a fantastic place to start and would help reduce bullying. “We should teach children about what is fair and unfair about how children include and exclude each other based on gender and sexuality related to themselves and their family.”
If you’d like to share your thoughts on this topic I’d love to hear them.
Copyright Adele Fisher 2016