Gender education

We’ve had issues in the UK for some time now about parents wanting their kids not to be exposed to LGBTQ information at school. Some teachers appear not to be keen either. Today I want to talk about what happens when we let kids grow up thinking that straight if the normal default.

I assume there are a subset of people who believe if you tell your kid that gay is a thing, it will turn them gay. If they don’t know, they’ll be straight. This is a perspective that assumes gay is a deviance that a person chooses, and can choose not to be. There are of course people who can choose – we’re called bisexuals, and we are often made invisible, even to ourselves.

A young person who does not know LGBTQ people exist may go through childhood aware they are out of kilter with people around them. They have no words for this. They will feel isolated, lonely, lost and all kinds of other distress. Eventually they will figure out who they are. Rather than growing up feeling secure and validated, they grow up without that. That’s a cruel thing to do to a child. Our sexual identities start to show up pre-puberty. No one should be frightened by the nature of their childhood crushes.

If queer is so abnormal you can’t talk about it, the suspicion of queerness becomes grounds for bullying.

If you grow up straight, with straight being treated like the only option, you’ll likely give little thought to your orientation. Straight kids don’t have to come out to their parents as straight. Now, if we bring kids up aware of diversity, they may all have to look at themselves along the way and figure out who they are. No one is default normal any more, and no one is the weird outsider, and everyone has to give it some thought – that’s a much more level playing field.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that straight kids who get to grow up feeling normal and never having to come out to anyone are advantaged – and indeed in some ways they are. But it also has a price tag, and that price tag is never having to think about who you are. I think there are a lot of benefits in asking questions. I also think there are bisexuals who are pushed into straight identities because they have no idea who they are. And if straight is normal and queer is deviant and you can pass as normal if you hide part of yourself – this is not a good way to live.

Kids are not led astray by knowing more about the breadth of human possibility. You don’t turn people gay by telling them that gay exists. What you do is save them from having to live either as outsiders, or trying to fake being something they are not. Anyone who thinks heterosexuality is so fragile that it can only be maintained by never letting children know about the other stuff, doesn’t really believe that being straight is as natural and normal as they make out. I wonder, with great discomfort, how many of the most vocal people protesting that kids who know about LGBTQ will be corrupted by it, are in fact bisexual people who have been cultured to hate part of themselves. As a bisexual person, this makes me uncomfortable, but we are the people who can choose whether to get into a queer relationship. It’s not a choice for other people. Just us.

If you are a straight person who has chosen to be straight, because you could have gone the other way, you aren’t straight. You’re bisexual and you’ve made choices.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Gender education

  • Nicola Thompson

    This is SUCH and important post. Thank you for writing about this. You are right on every level.

  • neptunesdolphins

    I am a bisexual person who chosen to be straight. Yes, it is because being straight seems easier to navigate. When I was coming along, sex education was in its infancy as in if you teach birth control, you encourage promiscuity. I had no words for what I was, just slight off kilter in my love of men and women. Was not until I was an adult, that I found out there was a term for me.

    As for learning about LBGTQ issues and terms, I am all for it since it clears up a lot of things.

  • heavenlyrevelationsfromdaddy

    Sexual identity is most definitely formed by the age of 7, way before pre-puberty. I struggled with identity bc of my sexual abuse occurring when I was so small that my little brain didn’t have words to describe the flood of emotions that made me confused and eventually suicidal. I did not feel I had a choice but for me, that confusion could not have come from My Savior if He did indeed create me. I suppose that one would have to acknowledge Christ in order to delve deep into why thinking I was alone and differs was so detrimental, but I have gained much insight through interviewing over 600 homosexuals who like myself assumed I was born that way. I applaud your approach to opening the eyes of some who might not think from another’s perspective and I also know from being there, that confusion is not fair for any child to see him or herself through. Be blessed.

  • zazaxmilesoff

    Thanks for your view on this! I’ve recently wrote on education, so it’s been on my mind a lot. And to me the issue is really, that the group in power in society (white, male, straight) does not want to share their privilege. Information is power, so raising confident, self-determined kids means empowering them to be different. Same goes for raising empowered women. They’ll just come for your sacred spaces and positions of power and will change society to accommodate people like them, to accommodate everyone. That’s scary to the ruling class!

    • Nimue Brown

      Yep, I think that’s very much it. Although I think there are increasing numbers of white, cis, straight men who do not want power on that basis any more, and who are willing to accommodate – but they don’t tend to be the ones benefiting most from the system as it is!

  • David J.

    What a beautiful article.

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