This week saw the publication of a government-commissioned report entitled “Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: a review of evidence”, compiled by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. The 164-page document paints a gloomy picture of life for LGBT people in the UK in a number of key areas. Bullying on the basis of actual or perceived sexual preference or gender identity is, the report concludes, rampant in schools. Widespread heteronormativity and cisnormativity in almost all areas of life, from healthcare to specialist services means that, often, LGBT people are left bereft of the support they so desperately need.
There is widespread inequality for the LGBT community – so why isn’t the Government doing anything about it? LGBT people are at an increased risk of falling victim to hate crime, the incidences of which continue to rise. That being the case, it is wholly reasonable to question the 18 per cent cut in real terms to police budgets – safety is not at the heart of policymaking.
Gay bars and nightclubs are supposed to be safe spaces for gay people. But with the introduction of mobile apps and the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the illusion of safety has been shattered for many LGBTQ individuals today.
While articulating the issues at hand, most of which are by no means news to many members of the LGBT community, the report offers nothing in the way of possible solutions. To be fair, it doesn’t set out to. Regardless, a perfectly justifiable response to the report’s findings would be to ask how we are still in this position in the post-SSM era and to what extent the Conservative government is responsible.
The same-sex marriage debate has been hijacked as a vehicle to conflate unrelated matters — and the Safe Schools Program is number one on the hit list.
Labelled as a program that “sexualises” children and “encourages cross-dressing” opposition to Safe Schools — run in 307 schools across the country — underpins “No” campaign advertisements with controversial claims.
Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said suggestions changing the Marriage Act would “somehow see some new sway of teaching reform sweep across the country” was “patently ridiculous”.
“This is just not going to happen,” Senator Birmingham said.
So are any of the Safe Schools myths true?
News.com.au took our questions to the Safe Schools Coalition Australia itself to find out.
Is Safe Schools connected to the same-sex marriage plebiscite or the official “Yes” campaign?
Would/were children within the Safe Schools program (be) asked to “role play” homosexual relationships?
Are children in the Safe Schools program asked to “fantasise about sexual intercourse?”
A. No. The national program resources do not include any resources which discuss sex education and none of the “All Of Us” resources discuss sex education either.
Does Safe Schools teach girls to bind their chests so their breasts won’t develop?
Does Safe Schools encourage kids to use either boys’ or girls’ toilets?
Does Safe Schools teach kids gay and lesbian sexual techniques?
Are children asked to “hide” materials discussed as part of the Safe Schools program from their parents?
The evidence-based “All Of Us” unit guide was written by education experts.
If teachers decide to use this resource school leadership must first obtain consent from the relevant parental body.
A Safe Schools Coalition spokesman told news.com.au they are battling against a “series of false claims” about the program in light of the same-sex marriage plebiscite.
“These claims are contributing to ongoing misinformation and we continue to take opportunity to clarify the content of the program and our resources,” the spokesman said.
“Our resources are designed to help schools to create an inclusive and safe learning environment so all students can participate and engage with their studies and school activities to the best of their abilities.
“The national program resources do not include any resources which discuss sex education.”
But Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman Monica Doumit said changing the Marriage Act would mean parents “won’t have a leg to stand on” if they “don’t want their kids taught radical sex education and gender ideologies”.
“In parts of Canada, such programs were optional before same-sex marriage was legalised, but have now become mandatory, even for faith-based schools,” Ms Doumit said.
“In the UK, faith-based schools that refuse to teach homosexuality and gender identity issues are being faced with closure.”
Yet Senator Birmingham offered assurance to faith-based schools their teaching would be unaffected by the plebiscite outcome.
“The reality is, schools in the future, if they are faith-based schools, will be able to teach according to their faith and including according to the definition of marriage according to their faith,” he said.
“That will be respected in future, as it is today.”
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education at QUT, Amanda Mergler said the concept of introducing gender theory into schooling at any level or concentration would always be met with “hysteria” by some conservatives.
“Some people feel when change happens in society, and its of benefit to someone else, they must somehow be losing something,” Dr Mergler said.
“It’s like the old saying, when you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”