By Raf Galdeano
You’re eleven. You know that queer people exist because there’s a rumour going round that your maths teacher is a lesbian and that’s why she can’t teach sports anymore. You’re thirteen and you come out as bisexual, for a while someone you know won’t let you sit next to them on the bus. A couple of years later you enter a classroom, a video is put on, and you watch a short film in which two girls kiss on a bench and a shooting star flickers across the sky. Film off, short speech about why homophobia is bad, and then back to the day-to-day of secondary school. You just received your first and only LGBTQ*-inclusive sex education lesson of your life.
Looking back at this moment in my life when I watched two girls kiss on that screen, it pretty much sums up the education systems’ stance on LGBTQ* young people and their needs. We are a different type of people, the Queers, but we still kiss. We still get married thanks to David Cameron. (Remember: ‘children should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society’ SRE legislation 2017). We can still have children and apparently still exist inside the gender binary, which the Department of Education can provide for. By condensing the entire queer experience into two thin white girls kissing, we become tangible and understandable to the education system and the state. There is no need for LGBTQ* inclusive sex education in the Department of Educations’ eyes, because we are exactly the same. This may come as a shock to the powers that be, but LGBTQ* people are not the same as cis/heterosexual people. – In twenty-five pages of reports about sex education, trans and non-binary people are featured exactly zero times. Queerness encompasses a spectrum of human beings with specific sexual health and well-being needs, this blog is here to tell you why. (Yes, it is 2017 and I am writing about why LGBTQ* people deserve basic education)
The facts are this:
– Only one in five LGBTQ* students have been taught about safe sex in relation to same-sex relationships.
–80% of trans students have self-harmed and 40% of trans students have attempted to take their own life.
–60% of LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) students who are not trans have self-harmed, with 20% of LGB students attempting to take their own life.
-Research suggests that up to 80% of trans people have experienced violence from a partner or ex-partner.
–25% of lesbian and bisexual women have experienced violence from a partner or ex-partner. (Stonewall School Report 2017)
Sexual harassment, assault and abuse are all endemic issues within the LGBTQ* community. Bisexual people are four times more likely to experience sexual violence than heterosexual people. So why are lessons on consent still not compulsory in the UK? Teaching body autonomy to young people is imperative when their sexual orientation is hypersexualised for consumption by heteronormative media. Teaching young people it is okay to say no, that a healthy queer relationship looks like mutual respect and love instead of abuse and manipulation, that not having worked out your sexuality yet is alright, that gender expression has nothing to do with your genitals, those are all topics that matter. These are topics that save young people’s’ lives, not upholding the societal expectation of marriage.
Of course, there is the age-old argument that parents can teach young people about sex, consent, relationships and sexual expectations. For my fellow queers, how many of you taught yourself sex education through YouTube videos? How many people’s parents told them advice that was not specifically about heteronormative relationships? How many of you scoured countless books, TV shows, films and even porn for queer content only to find that most contained cis, able bodied, white, attractive & thin bodies followed by sex (and then death for femme characters), over and over and over again.
We have a chance to change this though. We have a chance to change experiences of queerness from fifteen minute videos into open and frank discussions about trans rights, consent in queer relationships and safe sex. Our survey on SRE conducted last year revealed that LGBTQ* issues, consent, healthy relationships & sex expectations are all the most common issues that young people who filled our survey wished they could have been taught in their SRE. Only 5.2% of people received an education on LGBTQ* relationships and how they work.
12% of queer people who answered were satisfied with their SRE.
So, I’ve written WHY SRE needs a change. Now for the part where we make it happen.
-First of all, share this blog with your friends, school, teacher and MP.
-Get in contact with your school! Find out what legislation and education tools they use, ask them to change what you find bad/useless. Maybe even go to your parent governor.
-Create a group within your school to investigate your school’s’ SRE policy & work out what needs changing.
-If you know who your local UKYP (UK youth parliament) representative is, contact them! Let’s make sure that 2019 is the year where young people get accessible and comprehensive SRE.
-Support organisations which are campaigning for LGBT people’s rights.
Most importantly though, know that you as a queer person are not alone. You deserve an education and you deserve safety.