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Teachers and Parents: It's Time To Teach About Same Sex Weddings!

So in the end, common sense, lots of hard work from lots of people and the freedom to love and be loved prevailed. I can now legally wed the man I love, should I choose to. Blimey, I feel like my experience of reality just changed massively.

So in the end, common sense, lots of hard work from lots of people and the freedom to love and be loved prevailed.

I can now legally wed the man I love, should I choose to.

Blimey, I feel like my experience of reality just changed massively.

Interestingly, some of my Facebook friends who married soon after leaving school are now on their second or third attempt at wedded bliss, yet here I am at the ripe old age of 46 just starting to process the fact that I am no longer precluded by law from marrying the person I love.

I sincerely hope we will look back one day very soon and laugh about the same sex marriage ban as we now laugh about smoking on planes.

Surely we didn't used to let that happen?

Even in the decades that have passed since I arrived on planet Earth, I wonder how many young vulnerable gay men, faced with parents who had just learned that they'd given birth to a child who was born to love another man, suffered the humiliation of these reminders of our perceived inadequacies as offspring;

'We will never see you get married'

'You will never give us grandchildren'

The impact of this exchange on our already gossamer thin self-esteem as young gay men should not be underestimated. Of course I have sympathy for parents whose dreams have been apparently shattered, yet my sympathies also lie with the young soul, who may have been harbouring an unspoken truth for as long as he has been self-aware, in an often hostile world.

It is with a great sense of relief that I increasingly see a range of diverse families represented in our schools. I don't mind saying that this weekend I shed a tear over the first photographs of joyful looking same sex couples as I would for any happy couple.

The same sex matrimonial harmony was not entirely universal, there were dissenting voices from those who view marriage as an anti-feminist, antiquated, patriarchal institution. Whilst these arguments do resonate with me, I remain pleased that if same sex couples make a personal choice to marry (or not) then they now can. Yet my joy at being free to wed in my own country is offset by the immense sadness I feel at the appalling human rights violations being experienced by LGBT individuals in countries such as Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, the USA and the discriminatory laws in so many commonwealth countries against my own kind, and by that of course I really mean human beings.

There remains much to be done.

Over the past four or so years of travelling up and down the UK (and increasingly abroad) trying in my own small way to help places of education become safer places for all children (and in particular children who are LGBT or perceived to be LGBT ) I have been asked the same question time and time again;

'How will we end prejudice related to being LGBT?'

My answer?

Education for children, parents, educators, school governors and our various communities.

Education and information is vital from the very first day a child enters a nursery or school, because whether we as teachers approve or not, lots of children we teach will have LGBT friends and family and some will already know they are attracted to the same sex or will be subtly questioning the relationship between their sex and their gender identify when they arrive in our care.

I knew I was gay aged 3-4 and the earliest sign of gender dysphoria can show at the age of 2. We simply must be honest with ourselves about what children really are in order to support them fully.

There are still some parents and teachers who think children mustn't be told about same sex relationships until a much later stage than heterosexual relationships, thus sending a clear signal that they lack training and experience in how to tackle the issues positively

or that they are harbouring unease, fear, misconception or prejudice about LGBT people

If you disagree with me (and many do) then try flipping the concept around; imagine if I as a school leader decreed that children in nursery should not know about (delete as appropriate) heterosexual couples, disabled children, or people of faith until a much later stage in their education.

When I am leading anti-LGBT bullying training in schools through my work I often point out that if a child is happily reading and discussing an Oxford Reading Tree book with a picture of a 'traditional' wedding in it, no education professional would ever use this as a lead into a conversation about wedding night intimacies, for this would be wholly inappropriate.

Yet some teachers and parents act as if a book about 'gay penguins' (When Tango Makes Three) or a book about a same sex couple (King and King) would lead to 'awkward' or 'age inappropriate conversations about gay sex.

Call me old fashioned, but if one can only define a loving relationship in terms of a sexual act then surely one needs to either gain a wider perspective of what being human entails or one needs to get ones head out of the bloody gutter!

Some children in our nurseries and schools have two mums, some have two dads, some have one single gay parent, some have carers and some live with their grandparents. At last count we have 31 different models of family unit in my own school alone- there is no 'normal'- there is just a wonderfully diverse range of networks of affection.

Children have a right to know and understand the rich diversity of family life in the 21st century and to be sent an clear message that, whatever the makeup of their own family group or network of affection, it is a valid one. All children need such validation in order to feel included and to be happy and successful human beings.

If we go into teaching thinking we can only teach about the types of families or relationships that comply with our own personal, political or theological belief systems, then surely we are failing our children.

Similarly, I know from my anti-bullying work that some teaching professionals still think that by teaching the facts about same sex marriage they are in the business of 'promoting it' even perhaps as a 'preferred lifestyle' whatever that means; surely a preferred lifestyle should be what makes us happy and once again for the record, being LGBT is not a lifestyle choice.

I see these as weak excuses to place one's own prejudices above the rights of young people to learn about their own possible journeys in life and that of their families, sibling and friends.

I happily teach Christianity and Islam but I am a disciple of neither. It does not stretch my teaching abilities or offend me to teach these religions nor do I claim one is superior to the other.

Learning about religion as a child did not make me religious, even though I found it very interesting and clearly saw the joy it brings many people. By teaching RE I do not feel personally compromised so why should teaching the facts about same sex marriages compromise anyone?

Like it or not, approve of it or not, want to do it or not; same sex marriage now exists in our country and children have a right to know the facts about it, because for some of them, it is their future.

If education professionals (and/or parents) continue to project an aura of shame around LGBT people and the reality of same sex marriage from the outset, then from the outset we are passing the toxic chalice of shame into our children's hands.

Our children's hands that might one day place a wedding ring on their same sex partner's finger; our children's hands that might one day prepare a bottle of follow on milk for an adopted child or a child born by surrogacy to same sex parents.

I implore you- take a deep breath, look inside with candour and honesty, get some training and please let's stop using excuses to mask our own fears and prejudice. The Equality Act agrees, OFSTED agrees.

But don't do it for them, do it for the children, ALL of them.

Education is the key; love will prevail.

Congratulations on all your big days!

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