LGBTQ+: Schools are a battleground against our rights

The international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is a good time to acknowledge that all three are in our schools, writes Tabitha McIntosh

The international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is a good time to acknowledge that all three are in our schools, writes Tabitha McIntosh

19 May 2022, 5:00

Seven years ago, the UK was rated the most LGBTQ+ friendly country in Europe. When the 2022 rankings were released this month, we had fallen to 14th place. In that same period, the number of recorded hate crimes against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity doubled in England and Wales. We simply cannot assume that our schools are safe from this rising swell of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia: it is coming to our classrooms, and it is coming for our staff and our students. It’s already here.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first London Pride in June this year, the government was due to host ‘Safe To Be Me: A Global Equality Conference’. Instead, the event (meant to showcase and promote “positive international action on LGBT+ rights”) was cancelled in March after a disgraceful week in which the government’s pledge to ban conversion therapy was abandoned, only to be partially reinstated a day later with transgender Britons excluded.

It turns out that it is not “safe to be me” after all. And every day it is getting less and less safe to be LGBTQ+. As Stonewall co-founder Lisa Power told the BBC, “Things were moving forward, but I’m afraid in the last few years they’ve gone backwards. [Phobia] is rising, I’m afraid, and it’s rising faster for LGBT people and particularly trans people.”

Crucially for everyone in education, the classroom, the curriculum and the school library are the key sites in which anti-LGBTQ+ agendas are currently taking shape across the Atlantic world. In the United States, what began as an anti-transgender moral panic has expanded to include the rest of the LGBTQ+ rainbow.

In Florida, the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill makes it illegal for teachers to mention any sexual or gender identity other than cis heterosexuality. At least 15 other states have passed similar bills, including Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana and Alabama. In Kansas, teachers are forbidden from simply putting up signs to say they are LGBTQ+ allies. And just last week a court in Texas ruled that the state could proceed in its plan to investigate parents and doctors who provide gender-affirming care for trans young people. If I lived in Corpus Christi instead of the Chilterns, my transgender teenager and any other children in my home would be taken into care while I was investigated for child abuse.

Every day it is getting less and less safe to be LGBTQ+

If you think it couldn’t happen here, if you think that the bad old days of Section 28 and state-sanctioned discrimination are behind us, you are grotesquely mistaken. The current wave of transphobia, homophobia and biphobia is taking shape in one of the oldest and most vicious forms of anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda: accusations of sexual grooming.

Across the country, LGBTQ+ inclusive RSE (relationships and sex education) is increasingly under attack from organisations that portray it as a form of psychological child sexual manipulation.

Olly Pike, creator of Pop’n’Olly, an LGBT+ educational resource for children, parents, carers and teachers, has been targeted by pressure group, Transgender Trend for, in their words, teaching “queer theory and gender identity, based on an adult activist agenda”.

Author Simon James Green had his World Book Day visit to John Fisher School cancelled in March after the Scottish group Catholic Truth launched a campaign to stop the school from hosting him, claiming students would be “misled into accepting as normal and good” homosexual “behaviour”.

The group Men At Work C.I.C has started building a database of educators who support self-ID for trans people.

And the special adviser to the secretary of state for education is a man who left teaching in 2019 to set up the Campaign for Common Sense, an organisation that is relentless in its targeting of Stonewall, the transgender children’s support group Mermaids, and any other form of gender-affirming care for young people in schools.

We’re sleepwalking back into Section 28. Everyone who lived through it the first time round is warning you as loudly as we can, and too many of you are not listening. Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: it’s time to start listening.

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  1. Andrew Stanley

    Tabitha is absolutely correct and teachers must not sleepwalk into Section 28v2, which shows every sign of being worse than Mrs Thatcher’s version. Just yesterday we had Zahawi repeating the ‘adult human female’ definition of ‘woman’ popularised by an activist who advocated men ‘carrying’ (guns) into women’s restrooms because of their perception of the transgender women in bathrooms ‘threat’. Also yesterday, Johnson’s first reply to Starmer at PMQs was a transphobic dog-whistle. This movement against LGBTQ+ rights is funded by the extreme evangelical right, and deserves scrutiny from Prevent – their methods are dangerous. Some six years ago, a closed parents’ support group I belonged to was infiltrated by an anti-trans activist who had spent a while establishing their credentials. After attending physical meetings and joining a closed discussion board, they proceeded to publicly identify families and young people, putting them at risk. Trans people are the canaries in the mine, as they progress to attacking the LGB&Q (don’t be intersex by the way, you have to pick a side) and move onto abortion rights and policing femininity.