The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched an investigation into the Safe School Coalition program. The Safe School Coalition is aimed at providing a safe and inclusive school environment free from homophobic and transphobic bullying.
I have watched as the increasing coverage in the media has occurred in the past few weeks. This coverage and focus on the Safe School Coalition has culminated in the launching of this investigation. It has also brought out in the media significant debate regarding the appropriateness of the program. The most frequently quoted fear mongering statement is that children as young as 11 are being asked to role play being same-sex attracted. A brief look at the Safe School Coalition website shows there are so many helpful and age appropriate resources to promote a safe and inclusive school environment.
So let’s take this through a natural progression. We are in a world now where being LGBTIQ is no longer considered a mental health illness and the greater majority of the world accept that there are LGBTIQ people who do not need therapy to ‘convert’ to being straight. Countries have anti-discrimination laws and some countries have hate crime legislation. Areas of law including marriage, surrogacy and parenting are all moving to be inclusive of the LGBTIQ community. Work places have policy to address discrimination toward LGBTIQ people. The greater majority of people support these advances. This tells me that, as a whole, society supports a safe environment for people of all sexuality and gender identification. I also believe this is primarily true at an individual level across different religious beliefs and values. If you were to ask the majority of people whether members of the LGBTIQ community deserve to be safe the answer would be ‘yes’.
What do the statistics say? The statistics show us that LGBTIQ youth and adults have a much higher rate of self harm, suicide and isolation than their heterosexual counterparts. This leads me to believe that we have more work to do in addressing the undeniable harm experienced by this group of people. If the adult population has the above laws and social mores is it not reasonable to have and teach the same expectation for our youth?
Where do children and young adults learn about society? Where is the best place to give consistent, accurate information to children? The first answer of course is in the home; however consistent and accurate information relating to the LGBTIQ community may not always exist within the home environment. Many young people who are at risk, do not have support in their home. Therefore logic says that the school environment is a place where this can occur. If we are to reduce the overwhelming harm should we not do everything we can to educate our youth? This is not about promoting the LGBTIQ agenda or confusing children or bringing politics into the school environment. It is about harm reduction. Please show me a person who doesn’t want to reduce harm.
10% of students are same sex attracted – they deserve to be free from bullying and live openly
4% of students are gender diverse or trans* – they deserve trust that they are the only people who know their true gender and deserve the right to be authentic to their gender
1.7% of students are intersex – they deserve respect and understanding of their gender
In real numbers that means in a school of 500 there are 50 same-sex attracted students, 20 students who are gender diverse and 8 students who are intersex. These 15.7% of students deserve to be understood by their peers and free from bullying and discrimination.