Earlier this year, Anderton Park school became the centre of a major LGBT debate simply because they chose to teach young kids about LGBT-related issues. It wasn’t actually anything major. It wasn’t graphic nor was it detailed. In fact it was a really subtle introduction to the very real issues which happen in the very real world. One book mentioned that a penguin chick had 2 dads and a boy who wanted to wear a dress. That’s all. What’s not to like about teaching the next generation to be inclusive and tolerant??! Well. Sadly some parents didn’t like it. They said kids were “too young” to be learning about LGBT issues and that the school had no right to teach their kids about these things. Technically, the school did have the right to do so as the government passed legislation that made relationships education a compulsory subject in all primary schools by 2020. Anyhoo, the last time I checked, 2 women together or 2 men together did class as a relationship…but here we are. Unfortunately, the parents were so against the teachings that they staged protests outside the school. They even withdrew their kids from lessons, saying things like “Our kids, out choice”, “Let kids be kids, listen to parents” and even “If you take your kids to school today, you’re not a Muslim and you’ll burn in hell” (the school is situated in an area where Muslims represent a large proportion of the community). Oh yes, they played the religion card.
Now this is where I’m going to tread carefully because there’s always someone who will quickly take something out of context, citing racism or hate crime. For the record, this isn’t a post designed to belittle race or religion. I apologise in advance if anybody gets that impression. My aim is to look at the issue from a logical point of view, based on what I’ve seen and read about.
Religion is an absolute gem when it comes to LGBT topics. In fact, as history has shown, religion is a “go to” when creating opposition. It’s also led to a lot of major conflicts. The fact these parents use religion as a reason is fine. Each to their own. It’s a choice they made and that’s ok. The society we live in respects religious choice. We even have a law (Equality Act 2010) that protects people from being targeted for their choices. But their kids are in a UK school…a school which upholds the Equality Act. A school where there are also non-religious kids, or ones that follow a different religion. Where is the respect for those kids? Should we segregate kids, teaching them different things based on their religion? Should we be teaching different things based on where they live in the country? No. This is one country. We should be teaching all kids about all religions and that all relationships are equal and acceptable. And we can teach this, as long as we have the chance to. Yes, religion teaches many things but so do schools. Both are very different. It’s like having two computers: one that’s never been online since it was built, whilst the other is constantly connected to the internet, allowing it to receive regular updates. With that in mind…shouldn’t kids be learning from a qualified and up to date source which accurately reflects the needs of today’s ever-evolving society?
Parents may say their kids are too young to learn about LGBT issues but if we’re being perfectly honest, their kids can experience so much worse outside of school. What they grow up around becomes their norm. So why can’t LGBT issues be normalised for them? Compared to things like domestic violence or video games that promote violence, a little cartoon penguin having 2 dads, taught in a safe evaluated environment is nothing. Applying their own logic, shouldn’t parents be consistent and also ban/remove anything remotely negative which their kid(s) could be exposed to when outside of the school environment? Remember when “the talk” about birds and bees was given by parents? Not so much these days. Parents seem to have taken a step back from that kind of thing, instead letting schools handle the delicate matter. Let’s face it, even if these protesting parents say they’ll speak to their kids about LGBT issues when they’re older, would they? I mean, their religion considers being gay or transgender as “wrong”…so why would they teach them about LGBT issues, let alone in an open and impartial way? My parents are very traditional people. Old fashioned. They know nothing of LGBT issues. Though they aren’t particularly religious, they see it as wrong because these issues were unheard of when they were growing up. They don’t know any better nor will they actively look for search for the knowledge. As years went by, there was no department meeting or update to brief them on the latest developments in the world. Proof that parents don’t always know what’s best for their children. The bulk of our learning comes from our time at school, college and/or university. What my parents now know of LGBT issues is based on what they see in the media and their opinion – a very one-sided opinion that lacks understanding because they never got the memo. Do I blame them? No. Do I blame the parents of the kids who attend Anderton Park school? No. It’s all about having the knowledge and understanding – something which the school is trying to teach.
What started out as airing their views became regular protests outside of the school, which led to things being thrown at teachers and physical disruption. Whilst I’m not saying that the parents themselves are transphobic or homophobic in any way, their actions have coincided with homophobic and transphobic hate across the region, as external parties see this as an opportunity to spread their own hate. In fact, some of the protesters don’t even have kids at Anderton Park!! According to West Midlands Police, there’s been a huge surge in LGBT hate crime since the protests began. The protests became so bad that the school in question had to take out an injunction to ban protesters from a certain area. As the protests continued, the claims became greater – including things like “there are paedophiles in there…they are pushing a paedophile agenda” and that this was all an attempt to “qeerify the classroom”. It was also claimed that gay people “want to take” their children. Really guys??? Where were these parents when Gary Glitter was at large?! Thinking about it, maybe these LGBT lessons should be opened up to all adults too?! Whilst the emphasis is about their kids, the protesters haven’t stopped to think about another group of kids: the ones who see this hostility and become afraid to come out or to be different, thinking that they’ll be hated by those who are religious. Where’s the equality guys? Or is it only wrong when it only concerns their own kids?! I know trans women who are so afraid to come out because of the people around them. Having been told that who they are is wrong, they have no option but to hide who they are. That’s no way to live. Some have even given up their faith in order just so they can find the peace of being themselves.
Pushing something underground or into the shadows has a wider problem too: it creates and fuels taboo. In some extreme cases, even an obsession. Those that “chase” trans women do so in private, not wanting people around them to find out because they believe they’ll be judged or that it goes against their religion or community. Anyone who follows my Instagram stories will know that I regularly receive messages/comments from creepy guys who are after a hook up, somebody to satisfy their kink and even those that fantasise over or fetishise trans women. You’ll also know that I have no problem with naming and shaming them. A large percentage of these guys are also religious. How do I know? The geniuses say so in their bio!! If their profiles aren’t set as “private”, it’s evidenced in their photos/captions too. What they write or talk about in private messages are very different to how they appear to their friends or families. From the safety of private messages, away from their family members, what they send can be very graphic and explicit. Some guys getting abusive or aggressive if they don’t receive a response. This behaviour isn’t exclusive to those who are religious or of a certain ethnicity, let’s get that straight. All I’m saying is that even those who are religious can and will act the same as those who are non-religious. As such, shouldn’t the teachings of LGBT issues be rolled out to all? Will discussion of LGBT issues help to stop this from happening? Not immediately. But it will help towards normalising LGBT people and related issues.
Religion will always be an important part of people’s lives. That’ll never change. But change itself isn’t something that can be stopped or prevented. The world will always move forward whether you like it or not. If you don’t adapt or move with the times, you’ll get left behind and could eventually find yourself living in an isolated community that isn’t able to see the world for how it really is.
Featured image: via Google