Daniel’s point of view – the Birmingham protesters’ ban
Daniel McManus is a 35 year old deaf gay man who is outspoken on his Facebook page on what is close to his heart through personal experiences; LGBTIQA+ equality. He was mainstreamed at Dingwall Academy in Scotland and is now working in finance. He likes health and fitness, cooking, LGBTIQA+ issues (obviously!), international cinema, writing, reading, and outdoor activities.
Daniel wanted to express his opinion on the recent protests at two schools in Birmingham that has been going on for 6 months as some parents and others in the community were concerned that the equality programme that explains different types of modern families being introduced went against their religious beliefs and felt that it promoted LGBTIQA sexuality. Due to harressment against parents and staff at these schools, the council imposed a temporary no protest zone around the schools, and this was made pernament on 26th November by the Birmingham High Court as the ruling Judge Mr Justice Warby stated that the injunction “does not amount to unlawful discrimination against the protestors” and added the protesters had “misunderstood and misrepresented that is being taught at the school” and that the lessons were not promoting homosexuality”
The government has made LGBT education compulsory in the RSE curriculum in all schools as planned from September 2020, so parents will not get a veto then.
THE BIRMINGHAM ANTI-LGBT PROTESTERS SHOULD LEARN FROM SECTION 28
Repealing Section 28 in the early 2000s was one of the greatest achievements for LGBT rights. Enacted in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher, the former UK Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative political party, the anti-gay legislation banned councils from funding any kind of publications, plays, and films, showing LGBT content while teachers weren’t allowed to teach about gay relationships in schools. One of the reasonings for such legislation, Thatcher asserted, was that “children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life. Yes, cheated.”
Such was the attitude prevalent at the time simply due to ignorance, fear and bigotry. For 15 years, this had a detrimental impact on the lives of LGBT people across the country. As a teenager who was also deaf, I was struggling to comprehend what I was going through when puberty hit. Bear in mind that there was no mobile phones, no Internet or social media. All the information that the public received was through the television, radio or newspaper – the medium most inaccessible to the majority of deaf LGBT people. And the tone of this media at the time was an insidiously homophobic one against which the LGBT community was utterly powerless to fight.
In high school, my peers noticed I was ‘queer’ but I did not understand the meaning of such slur. ‘Gay’, ‘poof’ and ‘bent’ were the other terms that were so casually thrown around the classroom and clearly targeted at me, yet I had no idea what those words meant. Nobody explained them clearly to me, but I had already surmised that they had negative connotations. Despite having eventually realised that I was attracted to persons of the same sex, for the entirety of my school life I still grappled with my sexuality. I was convinced that there was something wrong with me and at one point I didn’t even want to be a ‘poof’.
The endless bullying and mockery eventually took its toll on my mental health. Yet, I was still completely in the dark about what this strange, bewildering part of me was and why it was happening to me, let alone whether there was anyone else out there who was like me. Growing up in the rural Scottish Highland town with no one to turn to for advice, I had an immense hunger for knowledge. So when I finally got a new computer and I was connected to the Internet for the first time, I was astonished by what I came across in cyberspace. The first word I wrote in the search bar was simply ‘gay’. And when the results came up I was utterly overwhelmed. I was only 15 years old.
At 16, I was forced to come out to my father after he discovered a handwritten letter from a gay deaf friend of mine while tidying up my bedroom. I was at school at the time. In the letter there was a lot of discussion about being gay. Suffice to say that my father didn’t take it well. He talked about his fear of gay people, about the dangers of AIDS and ‘queer-bashing’. For these reasons he didn’t want me to be gay. Fortunately however, in the end he eventually came round and accepted me and hugged me.
Now I’m 35 years old. Although it has been almost 20 years since Section 28 was repealed, the wounds from that painful period never really completely healed. Indeed, mental health remains a major issue in the LGBT community, even among the youths today because many teachers are still reluctant to talk about LGBT issues, either because they feel it’s inappropriate or a taboo. Because of this, I was still desperately ignorant about STIs and HIV/AIDS well into my early 20s. I once went to the sexual health clinic in a panic after kissing another man because I thought I had caught AIDS from him. I often wonder what my childhood would have been like had the schools been allowed to discuss gay relationships, whether in sex education (to be fair, even straight sex education was atrocious!) or in casual classroom conversation with any teacher. Incidentally, my guidance teacher once told me to just stop being gay because “it isn’t natural” after I had come to him for advice on how to stop the bullying. As a fully grown gay adult, it’s inevitable for these painful memories to flood back from time to time, especially when I read the news about homophobia.
So when the news arrived that a judge made the decision to permanently ban the protests held by a group of angry anti-LGBT parents outside a Birmingham school, I was elated. I was elated because it shows that Britain has come a long, long way from Section 28. The parents, mainly of Muslim faith, were demanding an end to the equality lessons at their children’s school because teaching children that LGBT people merely exist goes against their religious beliefs. They’ve spent the last 6 months tirelessly promoting hate speech by waving anti-LGBT banners, spreading deliberate misinformation and refusing to be educated about what was actually being taught at the school. Forcing the school to censor a section of society because it doesn’t fit in with their religious worldview is neither acceptable nor a right.
So these parents would do very well to reconcile their religious beliefs rationally in order to be compatible with the secular values upheld by the pluralistic society in which we all inhabit by discarding their outdated homophobic views. And understanding that the only agenda that we LGBT people have for their children is for them to be taught that respect and acceptance, not hate and bigotry, are the only way, and for any LGBT children present to be told that it is okay to be who they are. Mental health, as previously mentioned, is a major problem right now in the LGBT community, and suicide is still blighting lives so these lessons being taught in school are literally a life-saver and that, without a doubt, is a priority. After all, what would these parents, for whom religion they keep preaching to be about love and acceptance, do with their children if they turn out to be LGBT?