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Challenging the use of homophobic language in schools: Mumsnet and Stonewall campaign

(270 Posts)
RebeccaMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Nov-13 10:02:09

"That's so gay." Um, actually it probably isn't.

It's also something most of us don't want to hear, and it's absolutely something young people shouldn't have to hear in the classroom.
That's why, for Anti-Bullying Week this year, we've teamed up with Stonewall on Gay. Let’s Get Over It, a campaign to provide guidance to schools, parents and young people, and to address the misuse of the word 'gay'.

Mumsnetters talked about the need for the campaign here, and you can get involved in it here.

Do share on Twitter #GetOverIt, Facebook and Google+ - the more people know about the campaign, the more we can challenge unacceptable language and change the culture of our schools. And do feel free to discuss it here too.

Tomorrow, Will Young will be coming into MNHQ for a webchat about the campaign at 12pm - watch active for the webchat thread which will be up later and post your questions to him there.

elskovs Mon 18-Nov-13 15:12:46

I have always taught my children to be kind to others and I will continue to do so.

I don't think aged 5 and 8 they are ready for sex education though, which surely would have to be a part of your campaign - wouldn't it involve explaining what "gay" really means?

intitgrand Mon 18-Nov-13 15:13:55

I think its the daftest campaign ever!

elskovs - I don't think work with children in this area necessarily needs to include sex education in a narrow sense - just wider relationship education, firstly respecting others, and secondly explaining that some boys have boyfriends and some girls have girlfriends, or similar discussion.

kreecherlivesupstairs Mon 18-Nov-13 15:19:40

That's a well thought out response initgrand.
I'd support this campaign wholeheartedly. My DD challenged a girl at school for calling something gay when she first started there.
Since then, her NN seems to be lesbian because she has short hair.
Fortunately, she is able to defend herself (not that she should need to).
IMO, it's general ignorance from home and the media.

I do think more support could be given to schools to give teachers and TA's more confidence and best practice ideas on how to respond to a variety of situations and language being used by children.

elskovs Mon 18-Nov-13 15:23:51

I don't see how you can avoid mentioning it Juggling.

Respect for others should be a given without any campaign.

And I wouldn't personally be happy with the school talking about same sex relationships to such young children. IMO that is sex ed.

MrsSquirrel Mon 18-Nov-13 15:25:32

You can explain what gay means elskovs in an age appropriate way without talking about sex. Just as you can explain what marriage means without mentioning how they are expected to be consummated.

TiggyD Mon 18-Nov-13 15:29:00

That's Stonewall, the GBL organisation. Not GBLT. They dropped the 'T' for 'trans' a few years ago. They then nominated a transphobic writer for one of their awards. Then a couple of years later they did it again. Then this year for a GBL footballers campaign, they teamed up with Paddy Power, a company that got into trouble for a transphobic telly advert.

I agree with the subject of the campaign, but I would never recommend anyone to get involved with Stonewall in any way.

PaulMcGannsMistress Mon 18-Nov-13 15:31:05

DP and his brother are constantly calling each other gay. No idea why and it gives me the proper irrits. They have done it since school age. Mind you they are both homophobic, so that doesn't help.

I support this campaign.

themaltesefalcon Mon 18-Nov-13 15:34:39


What is your aim? To stop kids from using their own slang? I laugh in your face.

In the UK, people also use "pants" to mean "bad, rubbish." Is this offensive to undergarments, or to American trousers? If we take as a premise that American men generally wear American trousers, can we conclude that this slang use of the word "pants" is both misandrist and xenophobic?

Kids will speak however the sodding hell they want. I discourage my daughter from making stupid statements (such as, "Boys are stupid") in my hearing, but it fucks me off to think of anyone else presuming to tell her how she is allowed to speak. At some point we all have to get a grip and make a conscious decision not to get upset and offended by things that come out of the mouths of babes and innocents. Accusing children of "homophobia!" As though most primary school pupils have a firm idea of what homosexuality is.


purpleroses Mon 18-Nov-13 15:39:34

MRsSquirrel - yes I imagine the headteacher did explain why he shouldn't use the word. But the whole thing of having to go to the head's office means that something is VERY BAD, in my daughter's understanding of things. Other children were saying that it was homophobic, they'd been didn't want to play with the boy any more, and that he was going to be expelled.... would have been so much better if the playground supervisor themselves who overhead the comment could just have helped him find a better word to use, rather than sending out a message to the kids the word is some kind of taboo subject which they mustn't ever mention.

To be sent to the head for using a word that you don't understand is alarming for a 10 year old, I would guess - you're just trying to make sense of the world at that age, and quite often get things a bit wrong.

Exactly MrsSquirrel, we find it quite possible to talk about heterosexual relationships without being graphic about sexual practices.

I wonder how much we are still influenced by the legacy of section (clause) 28 which forbade the "promotion of homosexuality" in schools.
I think it's important we do feel able to talk about the diversity of relationships in society and family life with our children, and from the earliest ages (which I work with) though I'll say I don't always feel I have the confidence to do so.

It seems a bit like though passionate about breastfeeding I don't always have the confidence to model BFing to the children, but often find myself feeding a doll with a bottle when joining in with children's play. Am always delighted to see a child put a doll up their jumper for it's feed though - usually just like Mummy.

Teachers/ early years educators need encouragement/ ideas/ tools to explore many slightly more challenging areas - it can be easy to take the safe path.

MrsSquirrel Mon 18-Nov-13 15:49:37

Well purpleroses I do think that it is very bad, so that is where you and I disagree.

elskovs Mon 18-Nov-13 16:05:28

Even without mentioning the mechanics of intercourse, Id rather my children naturally became aware of same sex relationships as they grow up rather than learn about them at school.

Seems a bit unnecessary to spell out "some boys like kissing other boys and that's ok too" to a five year old.

DziezkoDisco Mon 18-Nov-13 16:05:42

Themaltesefalcon - stopping kids using their own inappropriate, offensive slang is a great thing to do. Adults use gay in an offensive manner too.

Nigger used to be slang used by adults and kids when I was young in a similarly offensive manner, thank fuck none of my kids have used that vile word. They have used gay though, hopeful this campaign will stop people thinking it is okay to use.

So you let your kids speak however the sodding hell they like. So if she comes home calling someone a fucking cunt, thats okay is it? or some one a fucking Polak, or Paki or nigger or ginge or lardarse or whatever.
I mean its just out of the mouths of babes, she didnt mean any offense.

Devora Mon 18-Nov-13 16:06:35

elskovs, your children might go to the same school as mine. They might hear that my kids have two mums, that we're gay. Sex education doesn't come into it; you can't expect the school to insulate your children from real life.

Devora Mon 18-Nov-13 16:07:58

And you know what, my 4yo and my 8yo old have the right to feel that their families are ok too, without that being treated as analogous to giving children explicit information on the mechanics of sexual intercourse.

elskovs Mon 18-Nov-13 16:12:04

They might pick it up, yes. But Id rather it wasn't part of a lesson.

Ill be taking my children out of the sex education portion of PSHE if it includes this at primary.

Im happy that my children wont purposely hurt anyones feelings.

JacqueslePeacock Mon 18-Nov-13 16:23:17

Crikey, I couldn't have imagined that anyone would oppose this. I'm stunned by some of the responses.

Can you imagine if children were using the word "black" as an insult? Would people be saying 'it's just evolution of language" or "my children can use whatever slang they want" then?

I guess this shows how much the campaign is needed.

noblegiraffe Mon 18-Nov-13 16:24:31

but it fucks me off to think of anyone else presuming to tell her how she is allowed to speak.

If she is in my class in secondary, then I absolutely have the right to tell her how she is allowed to speak - in my classroom at least. Be polite, no swearing, no racism, no taking the piss out of people and no using the word gay as an insult. Most kids pick it up fairly quickly.

SirChenjin Mon 18-Nov-13 16:28:50

Agree Jaques. Shocking views expressed on here - the longer I'm on MN the more it feels like a parallel universe sad

YouAreMyFavouriteWasteOfTime Mon 18-Nov-13 16:33:51

but it fucks me off to think of anyone else presuming to tell her how she is allowed to speak.

but it is not one person telling them what to do - it is Society deciding that discrimination on various grounds is no longer acceptable.

wetaugust Mon 18-Nov-13 16:37:33

We're going to run out of words at this rate.

intitgrand Mon 18-Nov-13 16:45:51

Can you imagine if children were using the word "black" as an insult? Would people be saying 'it's just evolution of language" or "my children can use whatever slang they want" then?
a more accurate parallel would be a campaign dictating that black should not be used in its usual sense ie describing the absence of colour eg a black car

WorksforPOTUS Mon 18-Nov-13 16:46:59

I guess what we're aiming for is to teach children not to speak to others in a way which is unkind, prejudicial and derogatory - this is something no-one could say is a bad thing at all. This is general good behaviour, common humanity, kindness etc etc.

But why this issue? It's hard to argue it's not a PC -thing.

I am a practicing Christian and I find the use of 'Jesus / Christ' as an expletive offensive - as do most practicing Christians.

Will there be a campaign about this? hmm In a society that highly values equality it seems that some are actually more equal than others.

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