ABCN scholarship controversy will backfire on the LGBTQ+ community

Content warning/Trigger warning: homophobia, Orlando massacre (only brief mention)

TV presenter, Sonia Kruger has come under fire again, this time for criticising the Australian Business and Community Network Foundation, (ABCN), for asking about a potential scholarship candidate about their gender identity and whether they identify as LGB. She argues that scholarships should be given based on merit alone and she has labelled e ABCN move as ‘reverse discrimination’. 3AW talkback presenter debated this with former Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs.

When I read about this, I did a little research on ABCN, including the link to the information and application form to be filled out by Principals, not students or their parents. If you look at the form, the first section asks about student’s academic achievement, and the other part focuses on social, personal or economic challenges that the potential applicant faces. The two questions that are causing uproar are:

What is the student’s gender?

Male

Female

Transgender

Prefer not to say

And:

Does the student identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual?

Yes

No

Prefer not to say

 

Now, the other questions in this section of the form goes on to ask about racial identity, Aboriginality/ Torres Strait Islander identity, disability and so on – to indicate what struggles potential recipients face. I get that. What makes everyone gets their knickers in a knot is on the website, the ABCN admit that this year, they are directly targeting to get students who are LGB to apply.

Is this “reverse discrimination” in the legal sense? Well, according to Triggs, no. The Sex Discrimination Act (NSW) 1984, Section 21 does prohibit education providers educators to discriminate against students on the bases of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, intersex status, etc. The only exceptions (at least in this section) is if a school is specifically aimed at one gender (single – sex school, for instance). Religious institutions, including schools are exempt from anti – discrimination laws surrounding, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy if it goes against their faith teachings. There seems to be nothing in regard to reverse discrimination (not that I can find – if anyone knows anything that I haven’t found about exemptions, feel free to let me know).

 

Sure, not only LGBTQ students are able to apply for scholarships through ABCN, I still think that the fact that they specifically advertised for any applicant that identifies as LGBT and have those questions on the form is a bad error of judgement and, as I’ve said before on a number of issues, has the potential for backfiring on the LGBTQ+ community.

The fact that the scholarships are aimed at disadvantaged youth is praise – worthy. As I’ve written before, LGBTQ+ youth do face a number of personal issues, such as homelessness, suicide/ self – harm and bullying. But is advertising specifically for LGBT people – or in this case – getting the Principal to disclose LGBT status the way to help the youth?

I’ve also said this before, worldwide, there is a push back against the LGBTQ+ community and their allies where LGBT rights – including same – sex marriage, has been pushed down people’s throats without any chance to argue a differing viewpoint. Since the tragic Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida in June this year, two pastors have been exposed as applauding the shootings against the Latinx/ Latino/ Latina LGBTQ+ community. This was less than a year since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), ruled that same – sex marriage was to be legal in all 50 states after the Obgerfell vs. Hodges court case.

Brazil is still a hotspot for LGBT – based hate crime, even though same – sex marriage was legal in 2013. In 2014, Conservatives – including anti – gay evangelicals rose to power, creating concern that progress of LGBT rights will backslide. According to Catholic publication, Crux, a study indicated that a slight majority of Brazilians were actually against same – sex marriage.

 

Closer to home, the “anti – bullying” initiative, the Safe Schools Program has proven to be a total debacle, with one of the creators, Roz Ward being exposed as having a socialist ideology and that the program was not to combat bullying, but to push gender – less, anti – Capitalist agenda. Along with other controversies, like the Daily Telegraph accusing Cheltenham Girls’ School in Sydney of banning the term “girls” or “women” and others banning terms like ‘mum” or “dad”. For the record, the Principal at Cheltenham has denied that they enforce a ban on terms like “girls” or “women”, but I think the damage is already done.

This is why I do support a plebiscite on same – sex marriage. People – especially conservatives, are sick of being backed into a corner. Also, would – be supporters of LGBT rights, including supporting same – sex marriage, are getting turned off by the political correctness and the never – ending outrage from the militant same – sex marriage activists. A number of would – be same sex marriage supporters have criticised the reaction over Kruger and other over – reactions toward those who merely question the length that LGBT rights activists are going to – I hate to say it but… provide LGBTQ+ people with “special rights”. People want equality, yes? Well…this isn’t the way to go about it. I truly think it isn’t.

 

All LGBTQ+ people unequivocally deserve safety. The social challenges that face many LGBTQ+ people, especially youth is unacceptable – period. But we need to do this in a way that doesn’t alienate straight people, especially would – be allies. Pushing this, frankly elitist agenda will only drive them away.

Pushing For “Gayby Baby” Curriculum In Schools Won’t Win Hearts

It’s been awhile since I posted here, and for that I do apologise. I read this article  on Mamamia about a new push for there to be a “tool kit” available to both primary (years 5 and 6) and high school (to Year 10), about “non – traditional” families – code word for same – sex families. The creator of this program was responsible for creating the “Gayby Baby” documentary.

Anyone who knows me would know I’m a big fan of any initiative that allows LGBTQ+ people and families to be safe in school environments. I have argued vehemently that teachers and counsellors should be given the correct knowledge to support LGBTQ+ students; including those who are questioning and those who may identify as asexual. But, frankly, I’m wondering whether all this – what people see as “social engineering” – will end up doing the OPPOSITE to what it’s set out to do. Maybe this is about ideology pushing rather than anti – bullying and creating a more welcoming space to those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Further more, I wonder whether this just singles out same – sex families and the LGBTQ+ community; which, ironically, is one of the things bullies will target – those who are “different”. Just let them be!

One of the creators of the Gayby Baby documentary, Maya Newell. She was raised by same – sex parents herself. I can understand her wanting to create awareness about same – sex headed families, but I think the push to have this in schools – along with all the other programs – will only further alienate people that already disagree.

Children know that there are different families. If they aren’t part of one, they most likely know someone who is. Leave schools to teach subjects like English, Maths, etc. Support same – sex attracted/ non – straight/ non – cis – gender youth and families. But hearts won’t be one by endlessly pushing an “agenda” in schools.

 

Some People Aren’t Straight, Get Over It!

Earlier this week, Catholic school. St. Francis Xavier College, in Berwick, Melbourne, made headlines when it was alleged that the Principal set up an assembly and demanded the children in Years Eight and Nine tear out pages of a health text book that dealt with losing your virginity, how to negotiate sex, same – sex relationships and sexual orientation. The Principal, Vincent Feeney, originally argued that the discussion about sexual relationships and sexual orientation should be discussed in Religion classes, not Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. He later admitted that the move was heavy – handed.

Earlier in the year, everyone (in Australia at least), would’ve heard about the controversy about Safe Schools, a program that talked about tackling homophobia and transphobia in schools. I do think they went too far, especially the program aimed at pre – school aged children. There have also been criticisms and concerns from experts about the accuracy of the information being presented; the number of people who are LGBT+ and the video case studies. I get all that.

 

Here’s the thing. Sex ed has been around years. We had it when I went to school from Years Seven to Ten. Anyone remember the “putting a condom on banana”? Yeah, I do. Relationships were talked about, especially in Year 10 (I remember that vividly), and… no one complained. Not to my knowledge anyway.

So what’s everyone up in arms about now?

Short answer: LGBTQ+ people are starting to be discussed. The gay/ straight dichotomy is finally busted. Now bisexuals, asexuals, etc are starting to be discussed. Frankly, a part of me wishes I was in school now! I thin it’s great; providing the information is accurate and age appropriate, that the LGBT+ community in all it’s forms is starting to become visible. My hope that one day, we’d hear about students being aware of asexuality is coming true.

Here’s the thing. Like I’ve said, I think some of the criticisms aimed at programs like Safe Schools are called for. There were inaccuracies and from what I’ve read, it lacked support for students who experience same – sex relationships/ encounters early in life, but end up identifying as straight. That aside, I can’t help but think that the reason why people are so up in arms is because heteronormativity is no longer pretended to be everyone’s orientation. It’s bringing the LGBTQ+ out of the closet, so to speak and people don’t like it. Yet, for a small amount of people, it’s reality. Why can’t it be discussed in schools? Why can’t LGBTQ+ students feel included? It’s reality. Only for a small amount of people, but still, it’s there.

 

Some people aren’t straight, get over it!

Safe Schools Is… Well… Safe

The review has happened and, the Safe Schools Program is safe, despite fierce opposition from the Right of the Liberal Party. The reviewers from University of Western Australia Emeritus’ Professor Bill Louden, has found that, while the program needs modifications, the Safe Schools as a whole should not be scrapped or de funded.

I get changes were needed. When I looked at various websites to see the what was in it and what everyone was getting worked up about, I didn’t agree with everything that was in it, but overall, I thought it was good.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, teachers, Guidance Counsellors and other staff NEED correct information on ways to support LGBTQ+ students. One of the reasons why I was (and am) a supporter of this is because the program goes beyond the gay/ straight dichotomy. I think it’ll be a useful resource for teachers and other staff who’s students don’t identify as cis – gender, something that was barely talked about when I was at school.

Let me back – pedal just a bit and talk about the high school I went to. It was a great school. The staff were great. I had great support throughout all my trials and tribulations. But sex – education, in particular was very black and white. There was no real discussion about questioning sexuality. There was only two mentions of asexuality… both misconceptions. This is NOT damning the school! I want to make that perfectly clear. It just shows that back between 2005 and 2007 for me, it was very black and white, and, while very, very supportive, none of the KNEW about asexuality and some had a very “well, if your not gay (or haven’t worked it out by 15), then you must be straight” mentality. I’m not begrudging that, I want to make that clear again. I just think that with this resource, the teachers and even Guidance Counsellors may not be so out of their depth when trying to assist someone who is questioning their sexuality or doesn’t identify as gay or straight by the time their fifteen.

 

Another thing that wasn’t talked about was the different types of attraction and how romantic attraction doesn’t always go hand – in – hand with sexual orientation. It would’ve explained a lot. If teachers through professional development can learn that sexual orientation and romantic orientation are not always linked and that there are other forms of attraction, then I think it’ll help them help the students, particularly those who are confused with their sexuality.

I’m glad it’s staying, I really am. People need to know that people are different and that not everyone fits a neat box. Students need to know that they will be supported, without question, by teachers and other staff (most would, I’m sure, I’m not trying tu suggest they won’t). A little reassurance and access to information will go a long way for staff who support students and I truly think it’ll give reassurance to a lot of students themselves.

Safe Schools Program

 

Trigger Warning: brief mention of sexual assault, bullying and harassment. 

I was going to make this post about the stink about the Safe Schools Program, but I want to change direction. (I think the Safe Schools Program did have some good points from what I’ve read on it by the way).

I want to talk about the word that LGBTQ+ critics use all the time, including in this latest row – agenda. “Teachers should teach not push a political “agenda”. This sort of statement really agitates me. Why are we an “agenda”? What is our “agenda”? What is the “agenda” for the whole LGBTQ+ community? For LGBTQ+ students to not be verbally or physically assaulted perhaps. Or not be sick with worry that if you do open up about your questions about your identity, or when you open up about your confirmed identity, you won’t be rejected by friends, family, or, quite frankly, school staff? )These fears are real, by the way. I want to talk about that a bit more later.)

Do you want to know what my agenda, as an asexual person is?

  • For people to be properly informed about what asexuality is
  • For young people to be able to be given correct information about asexuality so that they hopefully won’t spend years wondering what is “wrong” with them
  • For female asexuals (in particular), to not be heckled into dating when they don’t want, or worse, indecently assaulted and/ or raped because of their identity and expression of not wanting a sexual partner
  • For asexuals, both single and in relationships, to not be asked rude or intrusive questions about their genitals, their behaviour in private (e.g. masturbation etc)
  • For asexuals to not be left out of education programs and teachers will be informed enough to support asexual students, as well as (other) members of the LGBTQ+

 

On ABC’s “The Drum”, Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz lamented that all bullying should be condemned and that there is no need for a separate one for LGBTQ+ students and… say, children being bullied because they have red hair. There is a difference with the two. Let me explain.

All bullying should be condemned. And it most often is. BUT, being bullied based on sexuality or gender identity (or perceived of the two), can be harder for victims to speak up about, due to the moral weight often put on LGBTQ+ issues. There is a real fear of being rejected or ignored, not just peers, but, quite frankly, staff as well. I know it sounds silly, and yes, often these fears are unfounded, but the fear is no less real.

Secondly, it’s important that teachers are properly informed about what it means to be LGBTQ, asexual or other minority in a bid to help such students. When I was at school (I graduated in 2008), asexuality was barely talked about, and even though the support I received was great and I’m forever grateful, I was exposed to two key misconceptions when I queried whether I might be asexual: that asexuality doesn’t exist or that asexuality does exist, but is only a phase. Both are not true, at least for the most part (some people may identify as asexual only to identify as something else later on. Some asexual people, though, always and always will lack sexual attraction).

The program says it’s aim is to help teachers support “same – sex attracted and gender diverse students”. I hope this includes students who may think they are romantically attracted to the same – sex, not necessarily sexually attracted. I hope it’ll also extend to teachers being able to help students who are questioning their sexuality/ gender identity beyond Years 7 and 8. This is one of my main criticism of the Safe Schools Program. What about students in 9, 10, 11 and 12? Sure, most students know who they are in terms of sexuality/ gender identity from an early age (about 15), but not all. My struggles with my identity didn’t happen until I was 16.

Contrary to what the opponents have said I have read NOTHING about chest – binding, penis tucking or age inappropriate sexual content. If anyone wants to prove me wrong providing a DIRECT QUOTE from the CURRICULUM ITSELF, I’d love to hear it, because maybe I missed something.

So, that’s what I think about the Safe Schools Program. It may not be perfect, maybe it could be modified, but I do think overall it is needed.