Written by Luna Webster
As a Scot, during last year’s referendum campaign, it seemed to me that Labour’s core values had been long forgotten. The party that once strived for social equality were ranting about the importance of our nuclear weapons and the necessity for cut backs within the welfare state. All of this bagged Labour a less than flattering nickname; “The Red Tories”. However, Labour’s proposals for improved LGBT education gave me hope for the future of the party, as well as for future LGBT youth.
I think the first time I ever heard the word “gay” it was being used as an insult. I didn’t know what it meant, but I understood the connotations well. It meant something negative, something bad, something worthless or useless or uncool. If this is the context a child first hears a sexual orientation in, it is unlikely that they will ever see that sexual orientation as a normal thing. For them, it will always be a fringe group. The same applies to other slurs against the LGBT community. You can insist you are not homophobic or transphobic as much as you want – you are still using somebody’s identity as an insult.
I’ve always been disappointed in the lack of LGBT education I had at school. Come to think of it, I’m unsure if I had any at all. All of our sex education was about straight people, which not only excludes the LGBT community entirely but puts gay men, women and non-binary people at risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases. On top of this, the complete lack of transgender education has lead to the vast majority of people treating trans people incredibly poorly, misgendering them and all too often even being violent against them. Additionally when health proffessionals are not taught about LGBT issues the healthcare provided to those in the community is not up to scratch. When suicide is at such a high level within the LGBT community it is an absolute necessity that we begin to educate our young people on everybody in our society – not just cisgender people.
Labour’s proposal is this; if they get into government they will make inclusive Sex and Relationships Education compulsory in all state schools. They plan to begin teaching children about gay, bisexual and transgender issues at the age of 5 in order to increase a more accepting attitude within younger generations and reduce the rate of depression and suicide, and violent attacks, within the LGBT community.
Critics have complained that these plans are unfair as they “single out” bullying on LGBT children rather than focusing on it as a whole. However the truth is that LGBT people are a group that struggle significantly more than others. Even the language of our society reflects this. If we want children to grow up feeling included, confident, having faith in themselves and without daily fear of persecution, education is the key. I am overjoyed that the Labour party has brought up this policy. I can only hope that other parties follow suit.