Sexual orientation on the syllabus

This month, our guest bloggers are several A level students, coordinated by their teacher. They tweet @msnotmrsormiss

The writer of this piece, JN, is 17 and studies French, German, English language and sociology.

Content warning: this post contains examples of homophobic language.

The UK is, generally speaking, one of the best places to be gay in the world. Despite this, and the supposedly large amount of work being done to eliminate homophobia within schools, there is still a large amount of prejudice, not only directly towards the LGBT community, but those who fit the stereotypes of gay men and women, particularly concerning perceived masculine and feminine traits. The words “gay” and “queer”, used as pejorative terms, are still part of the lexicon of many young people. In 2012, Stonewall published a report of research undertaken by Cambridge University, which found that 55% of all lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experienced regular homophobia, and 99% of those interviewed had heard the word “gay” used as a pejorative adjective. This can also be seen when it comes to women who are perceived to have masculine traits, and are therefore labelled as “dykes” or “lesbians”. This supposed offence against gender normativity is used as a vehicle for hatred in our society.

This study mirrors my own experience. I have witnessed, occasionally, my heterosexual classmates become abusive and rude when an LGBT person so much as looks at them or talks to them. Some of my fellow students feel that it is acceptable to use the terms “gay”, “queer” or “faggot” in everyday situations, without directly alluding to the LGBT community at all.

This is due to the lack of education surrounding the LGBT community in schools and how to act respectfully around people. I have never had a single lesson on how to respect the LGBT community, which I believe would be beneficial for the whole school as it will vastly improve the school lives of those students who are discriminated against based upon their sexuality. This is because queer politics has never been included as part of the exam syllabus – even in current affairs-based subjects like politics and sociology. Teachers who are increasingly under pressure by our education system to help their students attain higher and higher grades will never teach extra subjects that will not appear in the exam; this incudes gay rights. But as feminism has retained its place in the A-Level politics courses, why shouldn’t gay rights and queer politics be included? Both movements are concerned with equality and gender roles, and as feminists dispute the link between biology and destiny, LGBT people are harmed by society forcing gender roles and heteronormativity upon them. Gender roles are often enforced by wider society on same-sex relationships: think of all the people who say to same-sex couples, “Which one of you is the man/woman in the relationship?” This is down to an ignorance in our society, caused by a lack of education.

Should schools put education in place against homophobia and transphobia, it will also help those who are struggling with issues of sexuality to feel more comfortable, and those being bullied, as the stigma around being gay would lessen significantly.

The image is by David Morris. It shows an anti-LGBT bullying poster on a wall. At the top it reads “Every year thousands of students in colleges and universities are bullied for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans”, followed by four photographs of people’s faces, followed by text reading “STAMP BULLYING OUT!”. The poster is green and black. It clearly continues and only the top part is shown.