Do you remember the first time that somebody told you about cisheterosexual people? When somebody expressly sat you down and told you about the existence of people who live as one gender and love another gender. I don't mean the birds and the bees, or any of the other endearingly British euphemisms for "the sex talk", but all the stages that go before you ever need to care about somebody's genitals. I'm willing to bet that nobody ever did because you just lived in the world and some things were taken as read. At 2, 3, 4, 15, 16, 17, 18, there was this idea that the world was only one way - if you're lucky and live in an area where multiculturalism is real, you might understand that some people have different skin pigmentation to you, that some people are tall, or short, or bigger, or smaller, or right-handed, or left-handed; that they wear dresses, or trousers, or headscarves, or turbans. You don't get told that these people exist, exactly. You just learn that they do because there they are.
So what about the things that people didn't talk about? Growing up under the long shadow of Section 28, gay people were something that was talked about in hushed terms, if they were talked about at all. The things that I could infer were terrifying: hypersexualised bodies that choose to live some kind of deviant experience with the lingering idea of damnation or maybe something to do with the late night movies that I caught on TV. Imagine my dismay when I found out that there had been gay people around for as long as I'd lived on the earth and we just hadn't talked about them - family friends, teachers, people I met, people I went to school with. They weren't exotic, or exciting, or different. They were just people. We hadn't talked about their existence, but that hadn't stopped them existing; we hadn't talked about my existence, but that hadn't stopped me from existing either.
NUT have taken steps this week to introduce LGBTQIA education into the curriculum from the moment that children start school. We know, from academic theorists, researchers, and quantitative and qualitative data that a holistic approach to education is the best one - not just for children who may come to identify as LGBTQIA, but for those who will live in the world with them. Spoiler alert: that is everyone, even you. This isn't just an amazing move, it's a revolutionary one. It's a movement into a world where knowledge is shared, and communal, and it takes away the stigma about things which shouldn't have stigma around them in the first place. The best part is that children, as you will quickly come to realise, just don't care. They're so busy learning things every single day, that everything is new and exciting. The difference this education will make is that it will afford children the vocabulary and the understanding that even if they have no questions or concerns about their gender identity whatsoever, there are people out there who might.
It also undoes a vital part of the damage done by Section 28. LGBTQIA bodies aren't inherently sexual ones any more than 'straight' or 'cis' ones are. It means that when we discuss transgender issues, it stops the focus being on the genitalia in question (and I promise you, that is never ever any of your business) and allows it to focus on the existence of the person who is living a life. It could even mean that the incredible rigidity of those ridiculous social stereotypes - the ones that suggest boys are blue and girls are pink - starts to lessen its hold, and acknowledges that people can be people.
This isn't about "exposing" children to anything, and if you think that LGBTQIA people are an exposure risk then I'm afraid that says more about you than it doesn't about your take on education. It's not about "making" children confused but there's a chance that it might make our next generations a little bit more open-minded. Because as Vonnegut once said, there's only one rule that I know of, babies - God damn it, you've got to be kindSuggest a correction