Protests have broken out across the Europe as the schools move forward with plans to teach students about sexual preferences and gender identities beyond that of cisgender heterosexuals.
The new curriculum will be mandatory beginning in 2020, but many parents are outraged that their children will be taught to view the world through a wider, more diverse lens that accurately reflects society.
The pushback against Parliament to prevent the expanded lessons have been growing more aggressive since they began earlier this year, not just in Europe, but also in the United States, where over 700 children where kept home from school in Rocklin, California last May over the decision by the local Board Of Education to include LGBT history in the curriculum of elementary school studies.
Most LGBT individuals have a similar story. The bullying they’ve experienced as children started in school. It was the first time a great number of us heard anti-gay slurs that other children picked up at home. We were never equipped with the tools for how to deal with such conflicts- we were never educated on our own identities and neither were our attackers, hurling words without comprehending the implications of them.
As a student myself, I was horrifically abused and eventually removed from school at the advisement of the Superintendent who explained to my mother, after countless violent attacks, the teachers could no longer guarantee my safety.
I was an effeminate young child who had developed organically. I was ignorant to my own identity. I didn’t hear the word “Transgender” for the first time until I was in my twenties. I’d spent my youngest years being called a “F*g” and being told “Why do you look like a girl” or “Why are you playing with girl’s toys.”
Educating young people on the diversity of identities and sexualities would have likely saved me from being suicidal by the age of fourteen, overwhelmed by confusion and insecurities, believing I was sick, perverse and incapable of doing anything about it. This is because preachers across a breadth of religions have no problem teaching all children that gay people go to hell; They have no issue taking young, malleable minds and turning them into bigots- or, suicidal children who are fighting their own natural development. Those lessons have cost us thousands upon thousand of lives over the last decade alone, with LGBT youth being disproportionately affected by homelessness, PTSD from chronic and ongoing mental abuse and suicide.
An early, formal education could intercept these frequent catastrophic results. Teaching children who are exist outside the allowed perimeters of identity that they are normal; That they are not alone and have a widespread community as well as a long, deep-rooted history consisting of world-shapers, social pioneers and brilliant minds, some of whom they may see themselves reflected in. If they were equipped with the tools to understand elements of their individualism that has been kept from them, they would grow into healthier, emotionally stable young adults rather than abuse victims, tormented by feeling they cannot reconcile.
Moreover, it would benefit young people who are not LGBT. These children would be less likely to draw conclusion born from ignorance, less inclined to bully someone whose identity they have learned about with other and been given permission to ask questions about, and would be far less interested in abusing other children because they aren’t like them. Quite simply, we would legitimize children across the spectrum of identities instead of leaving them to learn about on the street where they are vulnerable to exploitation by those leveraging their insecurities and uncertainties to damage them.
Children would understand why Uncle Mike has a husband, or their friend Mary has two Mothers. Cis children would be see that the world beyond their front door, outside their realm of familiarity, is full of people who may not look or act like them, but are equally deserving of kindness and compassion. Unlike before, they might understand those people better instead of reacting with hostility or outright rejecting LGBT kids.
We have left LGBT children to be their own teachers for far too long. We older generations can tell you this- and we’ve suffered as a result of having to navigate a thorny path alone, with no compass to guide us, no access to resources that assist with explaining our internal experiences, and religion terrifying us with scolding words and threats of hellfire and brimstone. It simply isn’t acceptable to walk children through their early lives as long as they qualify as straight and cisgender, and if they don’t, expect they should.
Expanding education to include the LGBT human condition, which is no less valid than the heterosexual, cisgender human condition, will ultimately save lives by clearing a pathway to self confidence and personal affirmation.