Let's Talk About: LGBTQ+ Inclusivity
It’s hit the headlines a lot in the last few months: should children be taught LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons at school? For many, the obvious answer is yes. It’s 2020, and it’s about time that LGBTQ+ representation made it into our classrooms. Yet for others, this is still a step that many think is unnecessary, and vehemently rally against. If you disagree or are on the fence, we thought we’d put together just a few reasons as to why LGBTQ+ representation is such an important and vital part of sex and relationships education.
Neglecting to teach LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE can be incredibly harmful
For many of today’s LGBTQ+ adults who grew up during a time that LGBTQ+ SRE was not delivered, it made them feel incredibly alienated. Heterosexual only SRE can make LGBTQ+ children feel as though they are being excluded from a vital source of education, and often the implication they feel is that their sexuality is irrelevant or abnormal. Many have stated that growing up as an LGBTQ+ child and receiving heterosexual only education continued to push a narrative in their schools that heterosexuality was the norm, and anything else besides it was abnormal, which would inevitably lead to the bullying of LGBTQ+ students. History has shown the damage that neglecting to acknowledge and include the LGBTQ+ community in schools can do. The implementation of Section 28 in the UK in response to the AIDS crisis was a devastating time for the LGBTQ+ community in Britain, particularly for LGBTQ+ students. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government passed a controversial law that prevented schools from ‘promoting a homosexual lifestyle as a pretended family relationship’ meaning that schools could not even acknowledge or provide support for LGBTQ+ students, which lead to a nation wide spike in homophobic attitudes and beliefs regarding the LGBTQ+ community.
LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE could help to prevent instances of homophobic bullying
By regularly providing LGBTQ+ inclusive education to children from a young age, this would help to teach children that every kind of sexuality and gender identity is normal, and nothing to be ashamed of. This could help to prevent homophobic bullying from taking place later on in life, if children are brought up with an education that teaches them every sexuality and gender identity is okay, and in turn that homophobia is not okay.
LGBTQ+ inclusive education ensures that EVERYONE is equipped with the knowledge they need to practise safe sex, regardless of sexuality
Many LGBTQ+ adults make reference to sex and relationships education having failed them when they were growing up, having only received heterosexual orientated education. As SRE, for the most part, has been heterosexual only for the past decades, this has meant that generations of LGBTQ+ youths have not been equipped with the essential knowledge they needed to practice safe sex. Some have even stated that it wasn’t until they were older and watching pornography online, that they realised gay men should still use condoms during sex to prevent the transmission of STIs, as they were lead to believe that condoms were only used for contraceptive purposes by straight couples. LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE allows every child, regardless of their sexuality, to learn how they can practice safe sex if and when they choose to start having sex.
It helps children at the youngest of ages become aware of and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community
Before starting school, children are aware of a very limited, ego-centric world. However as they start school and begin meeting new people every day, their worlds begin to expand. For some children, having one mum and one dad may be the norm, but for others having two mums or two dads may be the norm. At this point, children should learn via relationships education in primary school about the existence of the LGBTQ+ community, in order to learn that some people having same sex parents is just as normal as others having opposite sex parents. This way, children learn in a safe environment that either scenario is normal, and it also helps prevent the occurrence of homophobic bullying of children who may have same sex parents, and in the future fellow LGBTQ+ classmates.
LGBTQ+ covers a LOT of different sexualities and gender identities, which many young people need help understanding in order to better understand and accept themselves
LGBTQ+ inclusive sex and relationships education isn’t only about teaching children and young people about LGBTQ+ relationships and safe sex practises - it can also help young people who are still getting to grips with and understanding their sexualities and gender identities to identify just who they are. Sexuality and gender identity are a huge part of who we are as individuals, and sometimes it can be more complex to understand than we expect. The LGBTQ+ community encapsulates a wide range of sexualities and gender identities, so helping students to understand them all can make it easier for students to understand who they are and feel comfortable and accepting of themselves, rather than confused and feeling alone in the dark. For example, in addition to commonly talked about sexualities such as straight, gay, lesbian and bisexual, some students identify as less commonly discussed sexualities and gender identities, such as transgender, non-binary, or asexual. Due to being discussed less, this can make it harder for young people who do identify as such less confident in themselves, and can even make them think they aren’t normal, as their identities are not talked about or represented as much as others. Ensuring that every sexuality and identity is talked about and normalised during SRE can help every young person to feel confident and accepting of themselves, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
LGBTQ+ inclusive education can help children and young people who may be questioning or struggling with their sexuality or gender identity to better understand themselves in a safe environment
For children and young people who may be struggling to understand or come to terms with their true sexuality or gender identity, LGBTQ+ inclusive education helps them to ask the necessary questions they need to, in order to better understand and become acquainted with themselves. LGBTQ+ inclusive education at school gives children a safe environment to become informed upon things they need to know, without having to venture out into potentially unsafe territory if they are unable to access sufficient education at school. Many young people look online for more information if their school provided education is not up to scratch, however on an internet filled with anti LGBTQ+ propaganda and trolls, the spread of misinformation is common and this is not a safe alternative to a comprehensive and inclusive school provided education.
Lastly, because children want LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE!
In 2016, Terrence Higgins Trust surveyed almost 1000 young people about what they would like to be included in their school provided sex and relationships education, and a whopping 97% said that they would like to be taught LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE. This means that as parents, teachers, education policy makers and even voting adults who have the power to influence the education today’s young people are receiving, we need to listen up, and start teaching young people what they want to learn.