It seems ironic, and absolutely infuriating, that in the same week as the anniversary of the repeal of Section 28, the British government have decided to cut funding which seeks to eradicate, or at least alleviate, LGBTQIA+ bullying in British schools. The BBC report that ministers have admitted that those identifying as part of the community are more likely to be the target of bullying in school, yet have also decided to pull the funding. Unbelievably, it seems that the money was stopped in March 2020.
The funding allowed for free workshops for teachers, parents, and probably most importantly, students. How on earth are we going to become more of a tolerant society if funding like this is cut? This is almost harking back to the dark days of 1987, when Margaret Thatcher, inexplicably said:
Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.
Is this what our government wants to return to? As if the community aren't discriminated against enough. Even earlier this year, the 'Equalities' minister, Liz Truss, plans to restrict access to vital healthcare for trans children. And apparently, she wants to rename her department, the department for freedom. No. It's about equality, being treated equally and fairly in all aspects. It doesn't help that she has people working on her team who voted against equal marriage.
Without the support of the anti-bullying programmes, how on earth are teachers going to support our children if they have no support themselves? Teachers already have enough on their plate without having to worry about how to support LGBTQIA+ youth.
So, why am I writing about this?
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, a former teacher and a current ELT writer and editor, it's something I've thought about a lot, but until recently, I've only started thinking about how I can make a change - and this is all thanks to Beth Cox, her Foundations to Inclusion course and my peers who are taking the course with me.
I mainly work in assessment and examinations, and I initially wanted to be able to represent the LGBTQIA+ community in the materials I wrote, but I realise that this is going to have to come from the bottom up - the roots of language need to be inclusive and diverse (not just for LGBTQIA+ - believe me, there are many more underrepresented and marginalised groups who also need this - but this post is focusing on one aspect). There are ways that ELT publishers and writers can incorporate more diversity into their materials - a lot of the publishers, I'm sure, are worried about losing money because there are various markets who will not accept LGBTQIA+ materials, or even any mention of it. These are (probably) the places that discriminate the most, where being gay (for example) is punishable by prison or by death.
This is unacceptable.
In any world.
If ALL publishers incorporated (hate the term, but...) risky material, then these markets would not buy them - but to be honest, do you really want to pander to a homophobic, transphobic, biphobic (and any other -phobic) society to sell a few books??
What about the citizens of those countries who identify as LGBTQIA+? Surely they cannot be ignored by their overseas communities, so maybe we should try to push inclusivity to those cultures who have previously shunned it - maybe we should try to lead by example to show that being LGBTQIA+ is nothing to be scared of, to be ashamed of or to be misunderstood. If it's not the time now, when is the time?
I realise that this post is suggesting that we need to change the beliefs of millions of people, hundreds of cultures and thousands of policies. And that is a big ask. But it's a question that needs asking, because if not now, when?