Saturday, November 8, 2008

Homophobia in Education


This poster appeared on UK billboards for two weeks in February 2008. Click here for more information.

Stonewall is one of the leading organizations working towards equality and justice of lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the UK. Founded in 1989, it is well known for its thoughtful and effective campaigning and lobbying. Their “Education for All” campaign was launched in January 2005 to address homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools in the UK.

Their message: Education for all is a call to action…
“Homophobic bullying causes permanent damage to young people and blights the School and Colleges where it takes place. Making all young people – regardless of their sexuality – feel included and valued is a major opportunity for the educational system to transform the lives of a significant number of pupils and students.”

The efforts of this organization and their creative and thoughtful campaigning paves way for the much needed awareness on sexuality to reach Schools and institutional spaces - otherwise perceived to be safe and inclusive of all. According to a recent study in the US, gay and lesbian students are 3 times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; Chicago Public School District survey, 2003). To address this, public school officials in Chicago recently recommended a “gay-friendly high school” as a way to target students who feel they have been victims of bullying for their sexual orientation. The Chicago Sun-Times also quoted a member of the school’s design team as saying that students at this school shall be taught about “gay and lesbian historical figures” as their role models.

It is currently being debated whether a separate educational environment is truly the best solution. Even homosexual activist groups in the area are opposing this move on the grounds that it amounts to separate but equal treatment. As a precedent, a similar school but one exclusively for LGBTQ students, the Harvey Milk High School, was created in the East Village, New York City in 1985. The then State Conservative Party Chairman M. Long had criticized the creation of the school, asking “Is there a different way to teach homosexuals? Is there a gay math?”

Between measures adopted by organization such as the Stonewall in the UK and those being proposed here in the US, I think it may be helpful to critically reconsider the latter – or all such recommendations that seek to set up separate domains of learning for groups identified by their sexual orientation. In my opinion, education is a great leveler and educational spaces should provide for one and all a safe climate for personal growth and development. I am more inclined to spread awareness from within all inclusive educational environments than fight for the establishment of nouveau ghettos-in-the-making or the so-called “gay-friendly” schools. It may help to think along the lines of subaltern counter-publics and reach out to one and all. As a member of the A-Team in my University, we are committed to this endeavor - an environment inclusive of all.

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About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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