Query: would it bother you if your child was taught about homosexuality or gender fluidity in school? How about in Primary school?
“Whatttttt” I hear some of you cry! Sexuality shouldn’t be mentioned at PRIMARY school, how very unbritish, wash your mouth out with some tea and a scone you heathen. You’d certain be screaming that if you were one of the many parents currently protesting the No Outsiders program in Birmingham. The program, developed by Andrew Moffat (whose own sexuality has been released into the public domain because someone decided it was relevant – which it isn’t) aims to teach children about diversity, from race to sexuality. I know, how savage. Why would you teach a child about sexuality? Well, because we do it every day.
From the moment a child is born, they start learning, and the vast majority of children in Britain learn that white, cis, heterosexual people are the “norm” and everyone else is… not. Don’t believe me? Let’s dissect.
Let’s use the ever popular, ever stab-your-eyes-out-dull Biff, Chip and Kipper books. Those three *delightful* kids are white skinned. Their parents are in a heterosexual relationship. They are the epitome of the nuclear family as we knew them 10, 20 and 50 years ago. Sure, they have side characters who are POC but as with a lot of literature that is used in schools and popular in modern Britain, these characters aren’t prominent, they aren’t the hero or heroine, they are side characters. In our children’s day to day school literature, by large, POC (people of colour) are reduced to a supporting role, and LBGTQ+ characters? Forget it. They are absent entirely. So, to revisit my point – we’re already teaching children via these very hetero/white/cis mediums. So what does this say to the child of colour who is looking for positive stories of black triumph? What does it say to the 9 year old boy who has already started to realise that he doesn’t get the flutter when he sees a girl in school he likes, but instead that he gets a flutter when he’s chatting with his friend Tim about their weekends?
I can honestly say that I would welcome my children (4, 6 and 7) to be taught about diversity, to be exposed to something other than the nuclear family of yester year. I’m not entirely sure what people who protest diversification of learning think is going to happen.
I’ve heard the following arguments:
- They are too young. PRESERVE INNOCENCEEEEE – what a load of bollocks. Might I direct you’re attention to the popular children’s fairy tale Snow white. Her mum dies, her dad is murdered by her stepmother, her stepmother tries to make someone cut out her heart so that she can eat it and then she’s kissed, without consent in her sleep by some dude. Bish please, do not @ me with your preserve innocence bullshit. You mean preserve inequality and homophobia. Pfft. Call it what it is.
- Children don’t need to know about sexuality, save it for when they are older – Actually, if you speak to most LBGTQ+ people, they will tell you that they knew pretty young that they didn’t have any attractions to opposite sex people. I think people confuse sexuality with sex, which I also think needs to be talked about more, but I’ll come on to that later.
- It’s confusing for them and teaches them it’s ok to be gay – you’re right, it must be hellishly confusing to teach kids to be themselves. How dreadful. It IS ok to be gay, it’s ok to be different and we need to teach kids that.
- It’s not the school’s place, it should be done at home or parent’s choice – Jesus wept, the amount of people who say this is mind boggling. How many children live in homes where they will never be exposed to anything beyond their own parameters? How do the next generation progress if it’s left to the previous, failing, generation to teach them exclusively? I realise not all parents are failing, but come on, the ones that are will have a fundamental impact on the future and it is NOT just homophobic parents that are causing an issue, it’s parents who don’t talk to their kids about diversity at all.
The No Outsiders project, which was founded in 2014, has been adopted across Birmingham because it’s been awarded “outstanding” by Ofsted and has paved the way for more programs to follow. The teacher who has developed the program has received threats and endless abuse for the above reasons, but I can’t fathom why anyone has an issue with their kids being taught that we are all different. This is not a class for 4 year olds to put the condom on the banana for Christ’s sake, it’s reading a story called Daddy, Daddy and Me. It’s not a class where 6 year olds are told that they should question whether they want to be a boy or a girl, it’s a class where they read Julian is a Mermaid and they have the opportunity to know that if they aren’t fitting into that “boys do this, girls do that” narrative that we are force fed from birth, that’s ok too.
On a further note, I have to question what our issue with teaching sex ed to younger children is and why heterosexual sex is all that is included in a loose curriculum for older kids. Our attitude towards sex in this country is perplexing. We do have sex, of that I’m convinced, how else would we Brits have built (and thankfully dismantled) an empire if we hadn’t been bumping uglies for generations in order to breed. Yet we also have sex for fun, and sex comes in a wide variety, as do relationships.
In The Netherlands, talking about sex at school happens in primary school, usually kindergarten and guess what? They have one of the lowest rates of STIs, teen pregnancy and abortion. Statistically they aren’t all rushing out to boink, but rather becoming sexually active at around 17, the same average age as an American teen. Talking to kids about sex in secondary school is too late, they are already aware of what sex is and learning about it from porn hub which is the equivalent of learning how to drive from GTA (thanks for that comparison Jamila Jamil).
On top of that, we aren’t talking about important topics when we do finally come around to the idea of talking about sex a decade too late. We aren’t talking about pleasure, we aren’t talking about self pleasure, we aren’t talking about unequivocal and enthusiastic consent. We aren’t talking about homosexual sex, we aren’t talking about transitioning and sex. We’re not doing enough.
To clarify I’m not suggesting we break out the Love Honey catalogue for a group of terrified 4 year olds, but rather that we cover the basic, minimal sex ed in a brief way (sperm comes from a male, eggs come from a female and makes a baby), and progress as children get older so that by the time they become sexually active they know how to be safe (whatever their preference), that there are many different types of sexual preference and that for the love of god they enjoy it and CONSENT to it. No 15 year old needs you to tell them about the birds and the bees, they already know, but they do need a better conversation about how not to get stung. Let’s make our schooling more equal, and let’s make our sex ed better and more relevant.