Wednesday, 15 June 2016

LGBTQIA+ in the UK: How Bloggers can advocate through our Education system

"The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn." Gloria Steinem

Hallo Leute/SJWs/LGBTQIA Bloggers/Vloggers!

So, in my last blog post I talked generically about the need for LGBTQIA bloggers to get involved with improving their own visibility within the world's education systems in schools, colleges, universities and other educational establishments. I'd now like to focus in particular on how UK based bloggers can do this within their local communities.  Maybe this will help those in other countries to search out for their own content and blog about it; after all collective "Knowledge is Power"!


Why does it matter?
Here's a few UK education stats for you to consider:
Primary School:
  • In Stonewall's landmark study into the state of LGBT issues in UK schools, The Teachers Report (2014), 50% of primary school teachers said that "boys who behave or act like girls" and 1/3 of boys who hate sports are bullied on a regular basis.
  • 70% of primary school teachers heard children say "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" at school and 1/3 heard children making specifically homophobic remarks, including "dyke", "poof" and "faggot". This language had not been used by those teachers interviewed so pointed to casual homophobia being dominant within the children's individual familial environment.
Secondary School: 
The sassy forever classy not a Coward!

  • Teachers Report: Polling by Stonewall found that 90% of UK secondary school teachers stated that students in their own classes believed they were victims of bullying and harassment based on their sexual identity. There was no mention of what percentage of the bullies and harassers were religious or atheist BTW!
  • The highly important Metro Youth Chances Survey (2014) which surveyed 956 trans young people found that 75% of them had experienced some level of name calling, and 28% had been subjected to physical attacks. (Again no mention of religious vs atheist numbers!)
  • The Metro Survey also highlighted the fact that trans students are more likely to miss lessons on a regular basis to avoid discrimination in the classroom.
  • Disturbingly, the Metro Survey findings showed that 27% of its trans respondents have attempted suicide.
  • Finally, 55% of LGB students surveyed stated that they are taught absolutely nothing about LGB issues whilst at secondary school, so it is no wonder many lack awareness of our strong queer English literary canon and history. If some of my UK blog readers were to ask what such a canon would consist of and which authors, playwrights and poets are currently being ignored from the UK English Literature curriculum, let me say they include authors, playwrights and poets as diverse as Aphra Behn, Iris Murdoch, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Richard Barnfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Ronald Firbank, Lord Byron, E M Forster and Noël Coward!  LGBTQIA UK students should all be proud of and celebrate their canon and history without fear of reprisals from homophobic or transphobic teachers, teaching assistants and/or students.
So which organisations can we, the general public approach if we want to make a genuine difference?

Stonewall

I'm sure any LGBTQIA UK blogger of repute will have heard of Stonewall. For years the charity has intensively campaigned for LGBTQIA rights in the UK and beyond. Part of their remit is to raise awareness of LGBT bullying in schools and to provide practical advice and guidance for teachers to address the high levels of bullying head on without fear of reprisals from homophobic, transphobic or biphobic individuals.

It's crazy to think that 80% of secondary school teachers and 86% of primary school teachers have received no specific training on LGBT issues and how to tackle the bullying that can appear to be endemic to them in their schools. PGCE courses have to include LGBTQIA bullying awareness as part of their degree programme; it'd take barely a week to address and can be tackled through the inclusion and safeguarding prism that all student teachers have to learn to make it relevant. There's no point tagging it in willy nilly because student teachers may be less likely to take notice of just how widespread homophobic, biphobic and transphobic HBT bullying is as exposed by the stats provided at the start of my blog!

One such example of study material that could be used is shown below:



Family Diversity from http://www.familleslgbt.org/
Stonewall has decided to address the challenge of raising LGBT awareness by designing specific courses under the catchy Train the Trainer programme. CJWs may say that we in the LGBTQIA community have no right to advocate for increased awareness of  issues in primary schools because children "would find it confusing" to hear about there being more than 2 gender identities or that they "wouldn't understand" the reasons why Mummy would rather marry another "Mummy" rather than their biological "Daddy". How patronising is that kind of argument? The traditional nuclear family ideal that was being espoused aggressively in the 1950's after the liberation experienced by women post WWI is dead and buried. More children are living in single parent LGBT families. We have to prepare children for living in the real world and not wrap them up with unnecessary cotton wool. We have to prepare all children, regardless of their familial, cultural and social differences to live in a modern, diverse, inclusive Britain.

Now Stonewall have been brilliant at addressing LGBT concerns in schools. I don't believe they've fully addressed the Queer or Asexual  aspects of the LGBTQIA term
 adequately enough. More rolemodels need to come forward to design training programmes to help secondary school students in particular to understand that being asexual or choosing to act differently from the homogenitive norm is OK. Students need to know that having no sexual desire in your teenage years doesn't make you a freak of nature and that wanting to avoid generic labels to describe your penchant for dog over human friendship can be admirable as opposed to a sign of cowardice. Not everyone will agree with me on these QA elements and will claim that we ought to be thankful for the gains we have achieved on the LGBT front. Well I say "boo" to those geese; as mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am for all intents and purposes against having anal sex myself and yet I love men. The two things are NOT inconsistent. I'm just a queer mindfuck of an individual and I LOVE IT! I want students to know they can live my kind of life if they want to! That's why I want to go into secondary schools in my local area and talk about queer theory more in the future!

BTW a great resource for anyone who questions the existence of queer identity: USE THE GENDERBREAD FORCE!!



 Schools Out UK:

Another place LGBTQIA bloggers can look for help and guidance is the Schools Out UK website http://www.schools-out.org.uk/. This amazing organisation originally started as The Gay Teachers Organisation in 1974 and has worked tirelessly to make schools, colleges and other educational institutions safe spaces for LGBTQIA students and staff to learn and socialise, without risk of physical and emotional harm. Schools Out UK is a grassroots campaign, meaning that its members are predominately teachers, teaching assistants, headteachers who are on the front line, directly trying to influence the views of their students by engaging in the LGBTQIA rights debate in a sentient, appropriate manner.

Even the Schools Out UK website recognises the need for all schools to "be inclusive and recognise the needs and rights of all characteristics as recognised under the EA 2010" and the need to "make LGBT people more visible" within the educational environment. LGBTQIA bloggers could help by attending primary and secondary school PSHME or RE classes and explaining their viewpoint to the students and allowing these students to ask the questions they need to ask in turn. As David Burns notes, "aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism."

Faith School Problem:

I contend that homophobic, transphobic and biphobic views exist in many faith schools across the UK and in some schools these views are allowed to develop and fester unchallenged. A few faith schools have been exposed for actively encouraging these views to develop by using their religious texts as a propaganda tool to justify hate in all its putrid forms. The Park View School case in Birmingham during Operation Trojan Horse exposed mass radicalisation campaigns and highlighted just how engrained HBT discriminatory rhetoric was within a predominately Muslim community .

The current Conservative government in the wake of Operation Trojan Horse has tried to address them by creating a set of Fundamental British Values and have tried to force faith schools to follow them since November 2014 using Ofsted's criteria framework.

According to Ofsted, these values are:
  • democracy;
  • respect for the rule of law;
  • individual liberty;
  • mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without any faith (something Ms Katie Hopkins is willing to overlook in America but accepts will be the case here in the UK)
As long as faith schools exist in their current form, it shall be very difficult to get them to adhere to all these basic principles especially if they are privately funded and rebranded as free schools. Hateful rhetoric may continue to be spurted out by self-radicalised teachers despite the extra requirements which bind free schools to show respect for the protected characteristics indicated in the EA 2010, including respecting those individuals going through the "gender reassignment process". As the Citizenship Foundation have pointed out in their November 2014 caveat: "Values won't be assumed because schools demand they are, particularly if they're very different from those at home. They have to be arrived at through mutual exploration and understanding."   (from http://www.doingsmsc.org.uk/british-values/)

The issue of faith schools refusing to accept the need to cover viewpoints that originate from outside their own religious doctrine is not just a Muslim issue. I believe it is the same in some Catholic and
Protestant faith schools, even if the language used may not be deemed as inflammatory or can be "accepted" because of the false notion that CJWs use that Christians "never" act on their hatred for lifestyles they don't agree with (mainly due to their own orthodox Christian ideology.)
Well put (despite the mistake) Mx Anon!
Tell that to someone like me, a member of the LGBTQIA community, a Christian Lutheran who was oral raped by a white stranger wearing a gold crucifix necklace! There's always the possibility this rapist WAS a Christian, and he certainly intended to do me harm to punish me for wanting to express my gender identity the way I wanted to express it. So why would that attack be accepted whereas a rape by a Muslim man would be widely condemned? It just goes to show the shocking levels of double standards that exist predominately on the political conservative right in the UK in June 2016.

LGBTQIA bloggers need to have the confidence to approach faith schools off their own bat and to show the students and teachers who attend them that they have the freedom to choose who they love, how they act and what they wear in UK society if they choose it for themselves. Bloggers may get an automatic refusal or they might get an icy cold civil welcome but if you manage to help challenge the ideology espoused in such a classroom just by attending and perhaps even inspire one or two to question that ideology, even if only internally, then you will have made a wonderful difference to the lives of all individuals in this country.