Recent protests against LGBT education have once more brought a spotlight on whether our society is really progressive. The truth is that our education doesn’t go far enough when it comes to LGBT issues.
LGBT education is minimal in the UK and doesn’t go far enough to protect children and young people. Schools step in for parents – that’s their purpose. They protect students, help them develop and figure out their identities and provide an education. It’s vital that it includes learning about different identities so that queer kids don’t feel isolated, and so that allocishet kids don’t grow up to be bigots. But we could do so much more.
“LGBT education is minimal in the UK and doesn’t go far enough to protect children and young people”
LGBT education is really just SRE – which focuses on sex and relationships. This is a very limited idea of queerness and there is little compulsion by schools to teaching that gender isn’t a binary, or about asexuality and aromanticism. Trans youths are extremely high risk of attempting suicide, and experiencing suicidal ideation.Research on aromanticism and asexuality is still extremely rare but ace and aro people have spoken about how a lack of education on their identities harmed them. A lack of education leaves children and young people feeling alone and the odd one out against a society. It is vital then that students are protected and given a safe space to be able to learn about the world and, potentially, themselves.
Yet, it is not just SRE which needs to improve. Classes are generally weak when it comes to diversity. There have long been fights in the UK to drop the little focus on black history in the curriculum, including Michael Gove obsessing over whether students should be taught about Mary Seacole during his time in the Department of Education. There’s also a lack of any effort to ensure that disability is examined. Queer rights and identities are also ignored. Stonewall is known more as a charity than as a riot. The queerness of great historic Britons is often erased, even in an era where Turing is supposedly proudly celebrated.
Our curriculum across all subjects must become diverse so that different identities are normalised but also so students can understand just how oppression manifests. It’s not enough to say “don’t bully gay kids”. Students need to know just what queer oppression has been like and why their words matter.