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.

 

 

 

 

Safe – Schools’ Program

Anti – bullying program “Safe – Schools” has made headlines for it’s alleged extreme approach to tackling homophobia and transphobia. Not surprisingly, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), aren’t happy about the emphasis on LGBT+. And while I’m not a  fan of the ACL… maybe this time they have a point.

One of the issues that the ACL have raised concerns, particularly on the way the Safe Schools program is affecting primary schools, with programs that include binding the chest to emphasise gender change, I guess. Frankly, when I first read about that, I thought it was an extreme exaggeration. But, after reading one comment on the bottom of http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/safe-schools-program/, I kind of understand their concern, if it’s true.

In my opinion, anti – bullying programs should be based on just that – anti – bullying. Maybe talk about homophobic and transphobic attitudes and emphasise that they will be condemned at the school if reported. Secondly, (I’ve touched on this before), teachers and counsellors should be equipped to support LGBTQIA+ kids, with (hopefully), the acknowledgement and respect of kids who identify or suspect their asexual. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do think that the majority of counsellors, including ones I’ve personally dealt with, have had their hearts in the right place, but asexuality wasn’t really discussed as a possibility, nor was it talked about at school in general. I’m talking back to 2005 and 2007, so things may have broadened a bit in terms of understanding of sexuality. Apart from the issue of contraception use and safe – sex practices, I really don’t see the point in schools (particularly primary schools), having to emphasise on sexual practices by same – sex couples. If it’s bought up in a high – school context, or is a part of the overall PDHPE sexual development and health discussion about contraception/ avoiding STIs etc, then I can understand. Just throwing it in people’s faces without taking anyone’s feelings into consideration is just going to end in tears.

I fear that this sort of action will only backfire on those who they are meant to protect. The reason why is because of the heavy emphasis of sex and body parts (e.g. breasts), rather than an overall look at LGBT+ as human beings, rather than sexual or gender stereotypes.

Thirdly, is the concern I have is about the possible alienation of people with genuinely held different values, particularly those from a conservative beliefs. How can they support a so – called “anti – bullying” program when concerns are not heard? What if someone is generally uncomfortable, particularly if the curriculum is explicit or focused on politics rather than anti – bullying. In my opinion, Sydney’s Burwood Girls’ School turned out to be a total farce. Concerns from parents were practically ignored, according to the Daily Telegraph and students, ironically, feared of being bullied if they didn’t want to watch the film or participate in events taking place in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). So, kids were worried about not participating in a supposedly anti – bullying event in fear of being bullied? How’s that supposed to work?

Look, talk about bullying (broadly), talk about homophobia and transphobia, support kids across the LGBT+ spectrum, (incluidng asexuals), but please, please, DON’T be so divisive that it drives people away from wanting to be involved in anti – bullying efforts. Keep the politics out of it and focus on the kids.