This week, the BBC aired a short documentary about the recent protests outside schools in Birmingham, whereby parents – from primarily Muslim background – are protesting about children being taught about different families and relationships; including but not exclusive to LGBTQ families.
The programme was a difficult watch, and for me, as someone who is now so used to ignorance and hatred, the most challenging part was watching how staff members at the schools involved are dealing with this. These protests are now happening daily and they don’t appear to be stopping, despite so-called injunctions now being in place at certain schools.
The lessons – also under the name of the ‘No Outsiders’ project – were even recently halted to allow various groups the opportunity to share their “views” and consult with teaching staff, however no sooner after the lessons were re-introduced, after the consultation, the protests began again.
I wish I could predict lottery numbers as well as the way I can predict the actions of bigots and the ignorant. I’d be rich before I knew it.
But the thing is, a common pattern throughout these protests is the information (or more-so, MIS-information) being fed to parents about the lessons, and as we all know; ignorance stems from fear. Fear of the unknown. On top of that, you also have deep-rooted homophobia which is being covered up as religious freedom and legitimate debate (It’s not. It’s just homophobia).
So with this in mind, here’s my guide to what these lessons are actually all about.
Let’s start at the beginning:
What we know and where it all began
Starting back in 2014, Andrew Moffat – who is now the Assistant Head Teacher for Parkland Primary School – piloted a project that taught primary school children about different families and relationships – based around the Equality Act 2010.
In January 2019 (some five years later) a parent from Parkfield Primary School in Birmingham started a petition against the lessons, claiming they contradicted the Islamic Faith. Despite meetings with a number of parents, days after the initial petition started protests began forming outside the school.
Following this, the lessons at Parkfield, as well as across four other schools who were also taking part in the project, halted their ‘No Outsiders’ lessons to “re-engage” with concerned parents. The protests, however, did not stop and some schools reported daily protests outside school gates. Protests that included people who didn’t even have children at the school.
Where Are We now?
Despite being supported by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) and the Education Secretary Damian Hinds, an investigation conducted by the BBC reported that schools as south as Kent have now received letters of complaints from religious groups regarding up and coming changes; whereby lessons about Relationships and Sex education (RSE) will become compulsory from September 2020 (although schools are welcome to begin teachings now) in Primary and Secondary schools.
Protests have also recently resumed outside schools in Birmingham, although these new protests now have a new theme: that it’s not ok to be gay.
So what’s the problem?
Other than the blatant homophobia, the biggest issue is a lack of understanding and this leads to mis-information being fed (both intentional and unintentional) and lies being spread; causing fear. But the thing is, there is TONS of information out there to inform you as to what is being taught, it’s whether or not you want to listen.
As much as I am angry at what is happening, I can’t help but feel a sense of pity for the years of hatred these children – who are now adults – have been taught. It’s going to take years to undo this or stop history repeating itself, but this is why projects like ‘No Outsiders’ and RSE lessons are vital – but that discussion is for another time.
I could write war and peace about LGBTQ myths, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about RSE lessons, therefore here are some of the top questions (read: lies) about RSE lessons and the ‘No Outsiders’ Project.
“it is the role of the parents to teach about that “stuff”, and only the parents”
Yes and No.
Whilst having open and frank conversations about different families at home is important, some children do not have that luxury. For some children, school is their only safe place – regardless of whether they themselves identify as LGBTQ, but even more so if they do. Therefore, it is vital that children have access to these lessons at school as well as within the home.
Equally, children like mine – those who have two mums, two dads, or something entirely different – deserve to be recognised as equals amongst their peers. We can only do so much at home, it needs to be recognised outside of the home too to enforce (and reassure) what we are teaching at home.
“My child might learn to be gay”
You absolutely cannot learn to be Gay, the same way that I didn’t learn to be straight despite having straight relationships shoved down my throat from birth. You are born that way.
If you think that you can learn to be gay via a book about two penguins then you’re in for a shocker when your child starts to read Harry Potter.
Enjoyed #Panorama and the interviews with people saying children reading about being gay makes them gay. Finally an explanation as to why I am now a cat in a hat.
— Joe Lycett (@joelycett) July 15, 2019
“Teaching about LGBTQ “Lifestyles” condones the behaviour (which is against our religion)”
Firstly, being LGBTQ is not a “lifestyle” or choice. Living by the sea and having an interest in surfing and surf culture is a lifestyle. Being vegetarian is a lifestyle choice. Falling in love with someone of the same sex is not a lifestyle choice.
Secondly, religion is not the law. It is open to interpretation based on whether you want to be a dick or not. I could give several examples when the bible does not make any sense and people have chosen to ignore it, for example: Leviticus 19:19 states; “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material” but that doesn’t suit people’s lifestyles does it, so they choose to ignore those parts.
Using this logic, by being purposefully hateful and using your religion as motive or an excuse is you just being a dick.
“I don’t want my child to turn out gay”
I hate to break it to you, but your child will be gay whether you like it or not. They will be born that way. By limiting their freedom you are just going to cause them damage.
Also, why not? You worry about not having grandchildren? Absurd. You’re worried they’re suddenly going to abandoned themselves to all kinds of debauchery? Nonsense.
Being LGBTQ is simply being yourself, but more honest. Why would you not want to allow your child that luxury?
“My child is too young to be taught about sex”
This is the most common objection to RSE lessons, but it is also incorrect – certainly for Primary schools, which is what this post is primarily about.
Sexual Orientation and Gender is very different to the act of sex, and RSE lessons in Primary school are not talking about sex. It is only later in secondary schools that children will learn about the sex part, however even then the lessons will also evolve around other topics such as contraception, consent, and social media – a huge leap from the lessons I had in the 90’s where we simply got taught how to put a condom on a cucumber in the dark. I had no idea what to do knowing that I wasn’t interested in the cucumber!
#RSE lessons is about the teachings of the EQUALITIES ACT (including but not exclusive to learning about the #LGBTQ community and it’s rich history). Schools are not taking children on school trips to Prowler and watching episodes of The ‘L’ Word. Come on. #Panorama #NoOutsiders
— LesBeMums (@LesBeMums) July 15, 2019
RSE lessons talk about what different families look like, gender identity, and LGBTQ history, to name a few things. It is also talks about people with disabilities, marriage, race, and… religion and beliefs.
It’s so frustrating that I have to be respectful of people’s lifestyle choice to follow a religion when other people can’t be respectful of the way I was born. I do wonder what would happen if people started protesting about children being taught about religion.
“We don’t need to learn about LGBTQ history”
The same way we are taught about Jesus and Allah, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, the LGBTQ community also has a rich history, from the Stonewall riots to the origins of Pride to the introduction of Section 28 by the Thatcher Government, and it deserves to be recognised in history and taught in schools.
Without people like Marsha P Johnson, Oscar Wilde, Peter Tatchell, and Alan Turing we would not be where we are today.
“Let Kids be Kids!”
We are. We are giving them the respect they deserve by teaching them about what society really looks like, especially as mainstream media isn’t doing their part. We are not “indoctrinating” or brainwashing them we are giving them an insight into the diversity of family life. I could also argue why we still need to teach religion, but I’m more respectful and I want to teach T the same respect.
Why are we so afraid of being honest with children when they ask what appears to be a difficult question? T’s friends often ask their parents (we know, because their parents tell us!) why T has two mums and you know what they say?
“… Some people have two mummies, some people have two daddies, and some people don’t.”
It’s really as simple as that.
Their heads haven’t imploded, and they haven’t been harmed due to the exposure of a same sex family. 9 times out of 10 they then ask why they can’t have two mummies, because kids are inclusive and welcoming creatures, it’s the adults that aren’t. Equally, kids aren’t as stupid and naive as people think and this is what we need to tap in to.
The sooner we show children what different families look like the less hatred and prejudice there will be. I am sure of it. There won’t be ignorance and fear because people won’t see the difference in people that other people are so hell bent in making a point of and using as an excuse to exclude still.
Have I missed anything out? Do you have any questions? What myths have you heard?