Written by Daisy Leverington

Voices

Let’s teach our kids about consent, freedom and choice

The Tories have once again voted to block reform of SRE to be LGBT+ inclusive. Daisy Leverington calls bullshit.

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Last Thursday, a group of just 10 Conservative MPs voted against the inclusion of LGBT+ inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools, which has been put forward by the Labour party.

That’s just 10 people who didn’t really fancy it, who don’t believe teaching kids about issues which directly affect them is of any use. Ten adults whose decision pushes inclusivity and reform back a significant amount, who put a barrier up to progress on LGBT rights, online bullying and the massive issue of consent.

Immediately afterwards, groups such as the Women’s Equality Party and a number of LGBT+ organisations and charities went to work to back the reform. Groups who believe we owe our kids more, who believe the information our young people should be able to access needs to be clear and relevant and taught in an appropriate manner.

The Conservative MP for North Dorset, Simon Hoare, has said that the amendment does not afford enough protections for faith schools, stating that there might be concerns about the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.

Oh please. We aren’t advocating streaming webcam sex into the eyes of five-year-olds while letting off glitter cannons and passing around sweets during morning prayer. We’re not providing book vouchers to anyone who puts their hand up professing to be gay.

So what exactly are we protecting kids from? And what happens when they inevitably encounter someone with different preferences to them, or if they grow up to discover that they themselves are along the huge spectrum of LGBT+?

“My daughter will encounter a huge array of misogyny and homophobic writing and imagery. Depriving her of the appropriate knowledge of how to cut through the bullshit is simply ridiculous.”

Online abuse and bullying isn’t something many of us grew up with, so we need to empower young people to challenge it and speak up for themselves and stand up to anyone perpetuating it. Normalising the calling-out of homophobia and empowering kids to be themselves protects them far more than banning the education of hugely relevant issues. If my daughter grows up to be gay, where can she go to access resources which make her feel accepted and normal and important?

Health and wellbeing in education is as vital as learning the alphabet. Keeping our children safe and protected is far easier when they are in possession of facts and confidence than if we pretend that STDs and consent don’t matter.

I’ll champion my daughter’s right to access sexual healthcare, as my mum did for me. I grew up in a pre-internet, pre-Google world, and so the problem pages of girls’ magazines and the odd bit of period talk were all the tools I had to form opinions and keep my mind open.

Our kids have access to every facet of the internet and all its murky representations of sex (the act) and gender. I can’t imagine not telling my daughter how best to cope with the things she will see as she grows up. She will encounter a huge array of misogyny and homophobic writing and imagery. Depriving her of the appropriate knowledge of how to cut through the bullshit is a simply ridiculous concept to me.

However, it’s all very well for me to sit on my soap box and write about how I’ll bring my up own kid, but what about the kids in faith schools who won’t have access to information at school or at home? Not all homes will be as open about the facts. This means the 10 MPs are putting a lot of stock in kids’ own maturity when it comes to sex – which isn’t something kids are particularly known for.

children in a classroom
If glimpses of porn on a mate’s mobile are all they see, that’s how they will believe sex looks. And at the moment it looks heterosexual, it looks abusive, it looks dominant, it looks unlike any sex I’ve ever had.

It’s shaved and waxed and teaches them not a thing about the emotional impact of throwing yourself around a gym changing room with all 12 members of the high school baseball team. It fetishises the young and straight. It’s not real. We need to teach kids what IS real.

Let’s aim to make LGBT+ education as mainstream and accepted as any other subject. After all, we spend hours teaching our kids about things they may never encounter in their lives (oxbow lakes, anyone?) so why not practical issues of consent, freedom and choice? It’s not an issue of promotion any more than teaching chemistry promotes a lifetime of cooking meth.

To arm young people with the confidence to counter online pressure and challenge homophobia in a reasoned and knowledgeable manner is the least we can do for them. Denying children access to facts in the guise of religious protection is to gaslight fear into impressionable heads, and fear is what causes the greatest persecution and alienation of any minority.

Let’s do the right thing by the people who will one day run the world, by teaching them about the huge and normal spectrum of preference and how to stay safe within it.

@daisyjoy

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Written by Daisy Leverington

Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.