The government inquiry into the Safe Schools programme has really got my goat up. As much as I try to remain calm in all walks of life these days, I seething at this and the attempts to shit the programme down by hook or by crook.
Now it may seem strange, given I finished my formal education nearly 25 years ago, that I would be so cut up about this. But it’s not just about the school years, it’s about the ongoing affect of not having something like a Safe Schools programme.
Before I started school I knew who I was. I knew who I identified as. I also knew that it was wrong, that I was sick, that I could never say anything to anyone, and that if anyone ever found out, then any harm that came my way, was entirely my own fault. I hadn’t even started school and I already knew that I shouldn’t exist.
All through my schooling I had this burden hanging over my head. When I got called phobic things, my head went into overdrive wondering if they actually knew, or if they had somehow found out. What was it I was doing wrong? Did I pick up my pencil the wrong way. Did I answer a question in a way that was unacceptable? Did they notice how I was ashamed of my body when getting changed for gym class, and how I dare not look at others, in case that awkward split second where I accidentally made eye contact with someone else was read as me trying to pick them up. Every single moment I spent at school was filled with worry and doubt, and the fear of when the next bashing would take place simply because I was “odd”. All these things made me hate being at school. All these things made me despise education, the learning process, the interaction with my peers, and it certainly showed in my grades, which lead to even more issues on the home front. My childhood was not filled with opportunities to soak up information and explore the world around me and become a better person. No, I was living day by day in absolute fear, having to sweat out the small things, having to make sure that closet was firmly shot, the doors bolted, and nothing could get through, because if it did, it would be a fate worse than death.
Safe Schools is not about teaching how to pick up people of the same sex. It is not about showing kids 17 different ways to bump and grind. It is not about converting kids to same sex attraction, or to question their gender. It is about one thing, and one thing alone, education.
Education that being different from others is ok. Education that others being different to you is ok. Education that words and actions can have an affect on people not just at the time they are spoken, but for the rest of their life. People may say that it’s just kids being kids, and it will all wash off like water from a duck. Yet here I am all these years later and I am still fearful of people I went to school with, despite not having seen them for 30 years. Oh how I wish people had been educated in my day, so they wouldn’t have done and said those harmful things. Oh how I wish I had learnt to be able to accept myself, so that I could have gotten on with the stuff that mattered in school.
Reading today about some of the achievements of Safe Schools has been heartening. A school which I know has had LGBTI phobic staff in the past, is now lauding it’s students for telling off another school’s students that homophobic remarks are not welcome on the footy field. Of schools where a primary student will now be attending as the boy they are, and all the students celebrating with a cake, before getting on with learning and no big deal about any of it, just pure acceptance. Where students now feel as though they are welcome at school, and are now shining at learning. Where young people are no longer suicidal simply because they know they have somewhere in their life that is safe.
I have to say, regarding that last point, that is one thing that has really annoyed me with all of this. Reading the articles about the Safe Schools programme, and seeing at the bottom of the page the links to LifeLine, Kids Helpline, and Headspace. It has to be there because these kids are under attack simply because they exist, and it is making them suicidal. People against programmes that aid LGBTI kids often blurt out the old classic “Think of the children”. Well why on Earth don’t you do the same thing and stop putting your own prejudices ahead of these children, and their human right to exist. Seriously people! Do you really think that some kid being LGBTI and feeling safe is less important than your worry that people like this exist, and because of your worry that they exist means they should think being dead is the better option?
You know, if your little Johnny gets told by little Timmy that Timmy finds him attractive, surely little Johnny should be comfortable enough to say that while he is thankful for the compliment, he doesn’t have the same feelings for little Tommy, but that’s ok, they can still be friends. You know when your little Johnny grows up and is out partying with his drunken mates, he isn’t going to go bash someone because they look Gay, because they have known all through their schooling that Gay people are no threat at all to him. You know, little Johnny may end up successful, and may end up running his own business, employing a lot of people. At some point in that business, when one of the employees makes an absolute arse of themselves by being LGBTI phobic, little Johnny will know that’s bad for his business and will have the knowledge, the education, and the experience he needs to deal with it appropriately. In other words, your kid will grow up to be a far better person that you will ever be. Or is that really offensive to you, and how you think the world should be, simply because you lack the knowledge, the education, the experience to not be an arsehole?
Safe Schools is not about harming kids. It is not about making kids think they are Gay. It is not about breaking down the very fabric of society as we know it. The programme is simply a way to let every kid know they are valued, regardless of if they are LGBTI or not. It is about making society a better place at a grass roots level, not just for the school years, but for lives. The same way we have educated ourselves about so many issues over the years, this is just another example of that happening, so why would we want to stop it? Gee I really wish this had existed when I was at school. I know it would have made a huge difference to my life, and to how I am today as a person.