Alex Blaze

UK Minister takes on "That's so gay"

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 09, 2007 9:10 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bullying, education policy, Kevin Brennan, schools, That's so gay, United Kingdom

From the Telegraph:

Children who call classmates "gay" or "queer" should be treated the same as racists, the new children's minister said yesterday.

Kevin Brennan, a former teacher, said new guidelines would be issued to schools telling them that anti-gay bullying should be punished in the same way as racist abuse in the playground.

I can see where he's coming from, although I'm a bit uneasy about making such simplistic comparisons to racial bullying.

Consider this from the same source:

"We need to create a culture where homophobic bullying is as unthinkable as racist bullying. That culture must be shared across our whole society but I believe schools are the right place to start."

Well, racial bullying isn't over and isn't unthinkable to a whole lot of people (although maybe the British are doing better in that regard than we Americans are - I wouldn't know).

But I can appreciate the sentiment and the fact that he's trying to make an impression on people by drawing such a comparison. It's often hard to make an impression on people not directly affected by such statements to get them to understand that "That's so gay" exists only to let kids know that there is only one valued way to express one's sexuality and gender and to let the queer kids know who's in charge. And as Terrance pointed out last week, the connection between white supremacy and heterosexual supremacy runs deep.

Fortunately the Children's Minister's plan isn't just going to focus on punishment, but also education:

Mr Brennan said teachers must go beyond implementing a "simple zero tolerance approach to homophobic bullying" by trying to stop intimidation and abuse happening in the first place.

This could involve the curriculum being adapted to teach children about the "importance of equality and diversity in ways that are appropriate to their age". He said lessons should also seek to reflect "reflect our inclusive vision of society".

It's going to take a whole lot of education to get people to stop making the snap comparison between "gay" and "bad". But since kids don't just think these things up themselves, a whole lot of education has already gone into creating an environment where this is acceptable.

(h/t reader James)

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I agree with the comparison he is making. I think what he means by this comparison is that the expectations of educators should be the same on both issues. There is a climate of acceptance of using the terms gay or queer to me bad or strange or unacceptable among students, and it persists largely because teachers allow it. Many teachers who would not tolerate the use of racial slurs in their classroom regularly let the use of anti-gay slurs go by without a reaction. As an educator, myself, I have seen it over and over and over and I'm tired of it. And, the climate of shame and fear and ostracization that this creates for LGBTQ youth is unacceptable. The school climate can only be changed if the expectation of homophobic language and behavior being unacceptable is put upon the teachers, just as teachers are expected to be unaccepting of racist language and behavior.

I also agree with the Children's Minister, I feel that using homophobic slurs is the same as a racial slur. When I was in high school (not that long ago) I remember my friends using terms like gay, F*g and all those other hateful remarks, I sat their and put up with it for years. and I dont care what anyone says, hearing the word effected my self esteem.. By the time that I came out, I was fed up with it and I felt I had to do something to put a stop to it.. So I'm excited to see that their is progress being made, hopefully american schools with adopt this philosophy as well in the near future.