Patrick Strudwick

Patrick Strudwick

is accepting no excuses for homophobia to be allowed in schools

If it is true that you can judge a society on how well it treats its most vulnerable citizens, then you can judge our government on how well it protects bullied children. Specifically, victims of homophobic bullying. But more than that, you can therefore judge how much the Tory-led regime really is as pro-gay as they pretend.

If the coalition simply did nothing to protect homophobically bullied kids it would be a shameful dereliction of duty. To stand aside as kids are abused makes any institution little better than those guilty of the abuse (see the Catholic church). But the government is not just letting the taunting of gay-perceived youngsters continue; they are enabling it.

A pamphlet called “Pure Manhood: how to become the man God wants you to be” has been distributed among Catholic schools in Lancashire by an American preacher. Here is what it says about homosexuality: “The homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals.” It claims that homosexuality comes from “an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse”.

So, young people are being told that if they have feelings towards members of their own sex, it could be because they were sexually abused. If my child went to any of those schools I would consider legal action. Repressed false memory syndrome – which this kind of literature could trigger - is wildly dangerous, in some cases leading to suicide. This booklet, which pathologises and demonises homosexuality, risks psychologically damaging pupils for life. It could lead to yet more young gay people killing themselves. It is a form of child abuse.

And then there is the statement about gay sex being “disordered” just as contraception is. Not only, therefore, do kids get told they are bad and wrong, but that they also should not use a condom, which could save their life. The government has a duty to protect its citizens from harm. It therefore should keep such evidence-free, hate-filled rubbish out of the classroom. But what do you think their response was?

Michael Gove, the education secretary, said: “The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.”

From this quote alone – which was all the Observer quoted in their article about the pamphlet – one would assume that therefore this means the government is giving carte blanche to faith schools to do what they like with anti-gay propaganda, because the Equality Act allows it. When I looked at the quote in context, however, something even more alarming became apparent: the government will never prevent homophobic bullying because it doesn’t even understand what it is.

These are the next few sentences: “The way in which the curriculum (and thus SRE) is taught, however, is covered by the provisions of the Act. If a school conveyed its beliefs in a way that involved haranguing, harassing, or berating a gay or lesbian pupil or group of pupils then this would be unacceptable in any circumstances and is likely to constitute unlawful discrimination.”

Gove is saying that the content of the curriculum is not covered by the Equality Act, but the style in which that content is taught is. Let’s look at how crass and ignorant this is. Imagine a school handing out pamphlets saying: “Black people’s brains are inferior, they are inherently criminal and are the result of genetic deformities.” How long would it take for this dangerous nonsense to be picked up by white bullies at the school to use against their black classmates? However it was “taught”, this would be fuel for racist abuse. There is no way the government or anyone else would allow this material to be distributed. What’s the difference?

It is typical of this government to focus on presentation. In their eyes, only if a school preached homophobia in a haranguing or harassing way is it unacceptable. What if they preached it in a gentle, soothing way? What if they conveyed their homophobia merely through the odd piece of written material? A sign, for example, saying, “God prefers heterosexuals”. Or a letter to all pupils, just the once, saying, “Homosexuality is sinful”? Or, as in with this case, a one-off pamphlet saying being gay is caused by child abuse? None of these are harassment. But they are poisonous, deadly. Gove and his allies are as ignorant and as guilty as the American preacher.

How aptly named faith schools are. Any parent wishing to send their child to one can have great faith in one thing: if their little boy or girl is deemed to be gay, they have a very good chance of being bullied. Stonewall’s 2007 research found that 75% of gay kids in faith schools are homophobically bullied. This, therefore, means that parents can be 75% more certain that their child will be abused and harassed than they can be in the existence of whichever god is being worshipped in assembly.

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