E is for Education

Were you ever educated on LGBT issues in school? I ask this a lot and the general answer I get is no, or not much. I know it was the same for me. I had very little education around LGBT issues, I was told that guys having sex was just like ‘how dogs do it’ by a biology teacher, I don’t remember much about how women have sex together being said, people being bi was mentioned only when I was 18 in sex ed, and not once was anything trans related taught in our curriculum. Even on these mentions it was focused only on the sex portion, rarely the relationship. Because what right person would ever have a non-traditional relationship?

Today I am going to discuss education, this is around all things LGBT but particularly focusing on gender, as is my theme for this month.

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Education is important, it is a fundamental human right. But why is it that people learn all about cis  hetro people, and yet rarely hear about LGBT history? The stonewall riots were a massive point in history, but I don’t remember learning about that at school, we heard nothing of section 28, I think the only person I heard about who was non-hetro was Alan Turing, the man who pioneered the early PC’s, before what we know now. Even then I think it was just when I researched I learnt about his sexuality.

I want to give a small rundown of the events I spoke about above. Firstly, the Stonewall Riots. Despite what the film Stonewall may have you believe, the first brick was thrown by a person of colour. In the film, they show the first person to fight back to be a white man named Danny, but a very minimal amount of research into the history shows that actually the first person attributed to fighting was Marsha P Johnson, an African American drag queen and sex worker who later went on to become a prominent LGBT activist. I am going to post more about the riots after the A-Z Challenge is over, so keep your eyes peeled for more on the monumental day in history.

Secondly, the bill known as Section 28. This was a bill introduced which was very similar to the current goings on in Russia, anything LGBT related was banned from being discussed. It prohibited local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality or gay ‘pretended family relationships’ and prevented counsels from spending money on materials in education and projects that were seen to promote a ‘gay lifestyle’. People were gagged from discussing anything around the topic, it was brought in in 1988, and only voted out in March 2003 and only officially came into effect as no longer existent in November of the same year.

The act was brought in under Margret Thatchers Conservative rule, and stayed for over a decade. I myself was lucky enough to work with a youth worker who helped with one protest with young people whereby they stormed the House of Commons. Growing up I had no idea this law was in place, and as someone who joined secondary school in 2005, I feel I was not disadvantaged too much by it, however I know others who definitely were.

It may no longer be in place, but it seems a lot of educational establishments are still too afraid to discuss LGBT issues. School is a time where young people are developing their sense of self, they are exploring themselves, their bodies and their gender. It is very damaging to leave such vital parts out of the curriculum. Even to touch on the fact that trans people exist, mention their history, give trans and gender non-conforming young people someone to look up to. When I came out I was working in the youth service and my boss encouraged me to be open – but I was petrified. I found myself struggling to talk to the young people about my gender, unless they worked it out I said nothing.

A lot needs to change, and I know this is a topic I will cover again at some point when I am not rushed to get these posts out in time before the end of the day.

Were you educated on LGBT issues growing up? What were you told? Were you told anything? Or were you at school in the UK when Section 28 was in place or a similar law in your country? Let me know in the comments!

As always if you want to see more blogs in the A-Z Challenge, click here and discover something new. Tomorrow’s post is F, for Feminism. Another interesting topic, and I am sure it will not be the only time I talk about it either!

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