“As we’re all patting ourselves on the backs for being so accepting, this is an ugly reminder that the fight is far from over”

BY LUCY KNIGHT. IMAGE: THE GENDER SPECTRUM COLLECTION.

When I heard about the protests against LGBTQI education in Birmingham, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t surprised. Not one bit. 

Perhaps that’s because, as a young gay woman, I have never received any kind of LGBT+ education apart from that which I sought out myself.

Or perhaps it’s because, after growing up within the bounds of a religious community, I am under no illusion about the fact that homo- and transphobia is still rampant in sections of our society. 

To me, it’s not shocking at all, against today’s backdrop of Brexit and Trump, where “outsiders” are murdered, and “insiders” Take Back Control, that LGBTQI people are next to come under fire. 

During her election campaign, former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that the fight for LGBTQI rights is, “really the fastest civil rights movement that I’m aware of in the history of the world.” 

While – certainly in the West – she may be right, this LGBTQI education issue has acted as an important reality check.

As we’re all patting ourselves on the backs for being so accepting, this is an ugly reminder that the fight is far from over.

It reminds us that here in the UK, same-sex couples might be able to get married (although not in the Church of England), and LGBTQI people might be able to live relatively “normal” lives, but we still have a long, long way to go.

And I don’t think things are going to get much better if we can’t accept the one thing that has the power to grant understanding: education.

The thing is, a lot of so-called “grown-ups” think they get it.

These days, I rarely walk into a room with the fear that I might be abused on the basis of my sexuality. People tend to have at least one gay friend, or one transgender sister-of-a-friend’s-uncle’s-step-son.

“We accept everyone!” seems to be a fairly common mantra. Yet, much as Reni Eddo-Lodge explains about racism in her book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, you don’t have to mean to do or say something discriminatory for it to be discrimination.

Without education, children will still grow up to become doctors who ask lesbians, “Why are you here?” when they come for sexual health checks, or politicians who disregard those who don’t conform to their standards as “snowflakes”.

And those children who are trying to come to terms with their own queerness will remain unsupported and unrepresented by a system that is supposed to prepare them for their future.

They will still rely, as I did, on TV and the internet to learn about their identity, keeping late night binge watching sessions under the wraps of bed covers.

So yes: we do need LGBT+ education in schools. And that doesn’t mean learning about sex at four years old, because believe it or not, there is more to the queer community than fornication.

It means learning about different kinds of people and different kinds of families. It means learning about respect and consent and love and inclusion.

And let me tell you: you’re never too young to learn those things.

Oh, and to the Birmingham parents who protested against LGBT+ education: being gay isn’t something you can “learn”.

(You wish).

@raucousguffaw

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