Dear LGBT teaching warriors,
I hope this LGBT History Month has been a positive one. I hope you’ve had the chance and the time to talk to your students, colleagues, and others about the importance of celebrating difference and diversity. I’m not particularly fussy about how you’ve observed – I just hope you’ve achieved what you wanted. If you haven’t; don’t give up, you’ll get there.
The impulse behind this letter comes from following the ongoing drama coming out of a school in Birmingham. Recently, we’ve seen a clearly able and talented assistant headteacher (who has an MBE no less) hounded by Christian and Muslim parents for daring to teach his pupils the ‘No Outsiders’ programme that, shock horror, discusses LGBT rights and homophobia. In addition to receiving unpleasant emails and instant messages, there have also been protests outside the Parkfield Community School – all because of teaching kids that being gay, bi or trans is okay and that some people are those things – weird right?
When I first noticed this story, I was sincerely surprised. From my cushy bubble, I had forgotten that these attitudes still existed but this story reminded me that they do. Honestly, go through the excuses these parents use to justify their bizarre contention, everything from ‘the kids are too young’ to the classic ‘we should teach this to our kids ourselves’ (Sidebar: they won’t – that’s why you’re needed) is there. It is a tragic smorgasbord of the clichéd, the disproved, and the straight up odd – all wrapped up in a nice little ‘what me, guv?’ paper-thin denial of prejudice.
When left at that, the story is distressing. However, the response of the school, which amounts to a very polite “thank you, next” as well as the almighty slap-down delivered from the Ofsted chief inspector reaffirms that for all the passive-aggressive stamping of feet from the parents the teaching about LGBT people, the fight for equality, and the dangers of homophobia and other bigotries will continue as is right and proper.
Now, I understand the position that a lot of you will find yourselves in. Your work obliges you to maintain a dispassionate rationality when discussing issues, even ones this emotive, and so you at least have to respect the views these parents and others like them hold across the country and the world. You, essentially, have to play nice.
Well, you see, I don’t have teaching inspectors to report to nor do I have any parents (aside from my own) to whom I’m obligated to be nice, so, I offer you this battle cry.Screw ’em!
That’s right! Screw ’em! I, and everyone else on the right side of history, genuinely don’t care what their personal, religious, or otherwise views have to say about their kids learning about LGBT people. It doesn’t matter a jot and it won’t matter going into the future because society is bending towards progress.
Their kids, and their grandkids, will learn that not only do gay, bisexual, transgender, and a full raft of other identities and orientations exist and allow people to live full, rich, and well-adjusted lives as part of society and there is not a damn thing they can do about it. Raising the next generation to be the best one yet is far too important a task to allow it to stall waiting on some old-fashioned points of view to catch up with the realities of modern Britain.
The anti-progress crew face the same choice they faced when the issue was women’s emancipation, racial equality, the abortion debate, and all the other civil and political rights and equality struggles and they are, once again, on the wrong side. I, for one, find my patience well and truly eroded. We shouldn’t care to humour those on the wrong side of progress with the ‘everyone’s entitled to their opinion’ and ‘all views matter’ lines – they’d only be misinterpreted to mean ‘everyone is entitled to the same influence’ and ‘everyone’s view is of the same worth’ anyway.
In closing, I’d like to express just how much I, and most others, admire LGBT and LGBT ally teachers and educators. You guys go into battle each and every day with the future of our society and country hanging in the balance and you put your all into it each time. You’re doing great, you’re valued, and, best of all, you’ll win because you have both intelligence and right on your side – the opposition doesn’t stand a chance.
As LGBT history month draws to a close for another year, on behalf of everyone who cares, thank you.