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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Thu 12-Feb-15 15:50:41

Guest post: Inclusive sex education - 'we must fight the assumption that every child will turn out straight'

Following Labour's announcement on inclusive sex and relationships education, Journey to a Mixed Family argues that we must counter the assumption in schools that 'everyone is basically straight', and make being LGBT ordinary rather than exceptional

Journey to a Mixed Family

Blogger and behaviour specialist

Posted on: Thu 12-Feb-15 15:50:41


Lead photo

'The world is heterosexist.'

"When did you become a lesbian?" We've all been asked it. When my family asks me, I know what they really mean is: 'please explain the terrible boyfriends you made us put up with'.

The traditional answer (shared through the LGBT hive mind, of course) is "when did you become straight?" It's a good answer, because it insists on equality and makes the point that sexuality is not necessarily a choice - but the reality is more problematic. The world is heterosexist; pretty much everything is based around the assumption that every child will turn out to be straight. Most children share this assumption, too.

The self-aware LGBT teen of Glee and other youth dramas is an absolutely true representation, in that there is only one per high school (two, if the producer is feeling brave and goes for a love interest). The rest of the LGBT kids are off-camera, floundering around, assuming that everyone is having the same intense same-sex friendships, or happily promising their parents that they won't have sex before they are 18/married/really ready (because at least that will postpone having to think about it).

Recognising that 'basically everyone is straight' is a myth - perpetuated in schools and in society at large - is a process every LGBT person must go through before they can even think about coming out or declaring their sexuality. This process can take years, as in my case.

This doesn't mean teaching the practicalities of anal sex to primary school children. It means embedding inclusive examples and language in our classrooms, and teaching teachers how to avoid being heterosexist.

The Conservatives dedicated £2 million to anti-homophobia work in October. While some excellent stuff is being done with the cash, one of the proposals for the fund was the suggestion of a 'specialist' LGBT school in Manchester. Essentially, this was an admission that Manchester schools had no interest in making themselves safe for their LGBT students. Beyond that, it assumed that all LGBT students are aware of their sexuality and are just keeping really quiet about it for fear of bullying. This may be true for some, but many more just aren't at that point.

This is why Labour's announcement of mandatory inclusive education in primary school and LGBT-friendly SRE (sex and relationships education) in secondary school is an important step in the right direction. Contrary to what UKIP's deputy leader Paul Nuttall seems to think, this does not mean teaching the practicalities of anal sex to primary school children. It does mean embedding inclusive examples and language in our classrooms and teaching teachers how to avoid being heterosexist. It moves us away from the idea that everyone is straight. This, in turn, will make it easier for young people to go through the process of recognising their sexual orientation.

At the root of opposition to these plans is good, old-fashioned prejudice. It's a fear that teaching children about LGBT issues will turn them all gay – that sexuality is determined by environmental factors, that, if only we can shelter our kids from the details, separate them, even, from those who are already ‘out’, we can protect them from this particular break from the norm. What people need to realise is that coming out will happen whether it is fast or slow, easy or incredibly painful.

Actively fighting the assumption that being gay is somehow out of the ordinary will simply make the process of coming out easier, and maybe a little faster. The choice is whether you end up with a happy or an unhappy LGBT person; they will be LGBT either way.

If I had had a more inclusive education, I might not have brought home those terrible boyfriends - and it probably wouldn't have taken me until I was thirty to be happy and comfortable.

By Journey to a Mixed Family

Twitter: @JoBardsley

Queenlizandabottleofgin Thu 12-Feb-15 17:33:04

Absolutly. Fantastic post.

Scepticalmum Thu 12-Feb-15 17:59:22

Brilliant post and very well said. I'm very proud to work in a school which actively promotes LGBT campaigns and encourages students to be open in talking about things so the idea of having to have a separate LGBT school really saddened me. I certainly hope more start to address these issues.

CMOTDibbler Thu 12-Feb-15 18:06:14

Totally agree. I also think as a parent its important to make your language inclusive, talking about 'when you find the boy or girl you want to marry' and just making it normal.

I have been shocked when people who I thought weren't homophobes come up with lines like 'but why would they need to know (about two mummy families) - we don't know anyone like that'

juliascurr Thu 12-Feb-15 18:27:49

yes, completely agree

PilchardPrincess Thu 12-Feb-15 18:28:47

Yep, agree as well.

TheFriar Thu 12-Feb-15 18:58:02

hmm I agree that there is a need to talk about LGBT, that there is no reason to not to do it and that children need to be aware about it. (Ie there is no reason to 'hide' LGBT relationship)
I don't agree about about making a special case of being LGBT. There are lots of different type if sexuality and they should ALL be accepted and acceptable, just as people should be accepted as people rather than a man or a woman (and that's what men do and that's what women do, whether it's about sex or anything else).
Seeing people as peoe rather than through the lens of their sex or sexuality will go a long way to make everyone accepted, acceptable and equal.

ArcheryAnnie Thu 12-Feb-15 18:59:17

Brilliant post.

However - I think there is a difference between the LGB bit and the T bit, and this article focused (and I am glad that it did) on the LGB side of it.

I am very, very wary of the current trend towards diagnosing children very young as trans, often for experimenting - as most children do - with interests or clothing or behaviour which the adults in their lives perceive as being more "appropriate", in a stereotypical way, to the opposite gender. I think it's a reactionary and retrograde step, and risks telling, eg, girls who discover that they like other girls that they must "really" be boys, and not gay or bi.

I hope that properly inclusive sex education will help give all children the confidence to explore who they are.

FatherHenderson Thu 12-Feb-15 18:59:51

Hear hear!

TBH I had not really thought about this enough. I may now get a bee in my cassock abou this.

I Have always presumed that may have to provide any realistic and positive LGBT info for my sons. I don't mind doing that of course, but would really like it to be backed up at their school.

AnnieLobeseder Thu 12-Feb-15 19:01:42

Absolutely. As CMOTDibbler said, when I discuss relationships etc with my daughters I try to always present both men and women as equally possible potential future partners, as well as letting them know that it's absolutely fine if they want to be single too. Having been raised in our heterosexist society myself it doesn't come naturally and I don't always get it right, but I don't want to present the "you must find a nice man and settle down" option as the default or only option open to them.

juneybean Thu 12-Feb-15 19:40:50

Absolutely agree, I even know of a same sex couple who talk about when their son has a wife. They should know better surely?

ArcheryAnnie Thu 12-Feb-15 19:50:07

I've been sure to include all possibilities when I talk to DS about this, even casually - and include the possibility that he might not want a partner at all, and that's fine, too.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Feb-15 19:59:21

My dd doesn't attend school but 2 much older girls in her orchestra are lesbian and in a relationship, dd is 11.
She is very mature for her age and has asked questions so that she understands a little bit more.
She asked if they have sex, kiss and hold hands and the difference between lesbian relationship and just close girl friendships.
I was happy to have the conversation and believe i handled it in an age appropriate way. She did ask me what would happen if she was a lesbian, I told her nothing would happen and she'd still be the same person and we would love her and think of her just the same.

birdofthenorth Thu 12-Feb-15 21:37:51

I remember pointing out to MIL, who pretends to be right on, that now she has 6 grandkids it's statistically likely at least one might be gay. She looked like I'd said they would be murderers... such an inbuilt assumption that gayness belongs to other people! In sad fact I hope the stats fall on our side (likelier with 4 DC) because BIL, who is generally otherwise utterly lovely, gets horrified when my nephews play with pink things or in anyway exert non-typical gendered behaviour... he is Mr Heteronormative

Wolfiefan Thu 12-Feb-15 21:47:30

I have heard so many parents talk about their child's future that implies no other option but to be straight.
I love my kids. They will be who they will be.
I hope we can teach the next generation to have healthy and loving relationships. Who cares what gender that is with?

Mintyy Thu 12-Feb-15 22:13:59

Well, it's not really about what is taught in schools, it's about what is taught at home surely?

I'm amazed this is still an issue tbh. I'm 52 and have countless friends and relatives who are of a similar age to me who came out in their teens. And none that I can think of who had to wait until they were the grand old age of 30.

I suspect another big factor is where you live.

LineRunner Thu 12-Feb-15 22:29:21

When are we going to challenge the category 'LGBT'?

Randomsquiggle Thu 12-Feb-15 23:06:50

Yes, good post. This sort of education could potentially have made a huge difference to me when I was younger. Kids of 13 y o know what being gay feels like, and if it feels weird or abnormal they (I) will go to any lengths to normalise themselves, with some very destructive consequences. Mintyy, there are still areas and bits of society in which coming out is a big deal. We are not 'there' yet! smile

SoonToBeSix Fri 13-Feb-15 00:11:41

Bird one in six people are not gay Stonewall estimate 5-7%

Expathousehusband Fri 13-Feb-15 01:57:44

Thought I'd share a personal point of view on this: We're a bog-standard straight white family and thanks to our having a couple of two mummy families with kids in our children's classes, who have become great friends, our kids will grow up aware of the difference but totally accepting of its normality.

FishWithABicycle Fri 13-Feb-15 04:43:16

SoonToBeSix one in six people are not gay Stonewall estimate 5-7%

Yes so if we say 6% then the chances of 6 people all being straight are 0.94x0.94x0.94x0.94x0.94x0.94=0.69 so there's a 31% chance that one of the grandchildren will not be straight. Statistically speaking, anything with that kind of level of probability can be described as 'likely' i.e. it's not that weird if it happens - not that it's certain.

Killasandra Fri 13-Feb-15 07:19:59

Why the LGBT label? Why are transgender and lesbians lumped together?

This is what I never understand.

I hope not having a partner and not having children is also presented as an option.

FuckYouChrisAndThatHorse Fri 13-Feb-15 09:14:53

Great post. I've always said to the dcs that they can love whoever they want, boy or girl, but it would be great to get to a point where that is the norm and not something I'm deliberately telling them to make sure they've heard it somewhere.

You could add in asexual too as something to be normalised (as well as those previously mentioned). It must be very confusing for teens with no sex drive, being told they should be desperate for sex.

portico Fri 13-Feb-15 10:15:41

School is about learning underpinned by education. Why always such an emphasis on sex education, and why always is there an LBGT linkage to the story.

sanfairyanne Fri 13-Feb-15 10:16:43

it's the mixed messages
'sex' education is often really only 'making a baby' education when it could and should be so much more
yes, parents have an important role to play in widening the discussion but as many parents wont, school should
there could be a vast improvement in all 'relationship' education including 'what is a healthy relationship' (domestic violence is a major problem now in teen relationships)

i also agree with others comments about the T in LGBT

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