Posted by: J M | January 24, 2011

R is for ‘ram it down my throat’

It was with some interest – and indeed a state of mild depression – that I read this piece by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail, which raises concerns that aspects of gay life could be introduced into schools’ curriculums. The examples given are fairly innocuous: students could learn about statistics referring to gay people as a percentage of the population  or in geography consider why homosexual people leave rural areas for the city, but to read this somewhat pointless diatribe, one would think that schools are being encouraged to ask little boys to kiss each other open-mouthed or handing out dildoes to teenage girls. One ludicrous example even lambasts the possibility that science students could be taught about male animal species who take care of their young rather than females, which doesn’t seem quite like a gay trait to me, unless human widowers left to look after a family following their wife’s death instantly acquire a predilection for penis.

The main issue with all this hullaballoo over gay lifestyles being spoken about in schools, that the popular press likes to say this is ‘promotion’ rather than information or education. Children aren’t learning about homosexuality in an effort to understand it, apparently – they are instead being ‘bombarded’ with gay promotion to such a degree that young boys immediately go home and ask their mother if they can have a Barbie doll for Christmas and start crying to Judy Garland records. Homosexuality can’t be promoted; it doesn’t have room among all the propaganda about heterosexuality we have to deal with.

The thing is, I would fully expect for a few years that any class given homosexual examples in questions like the ones set out above to laugh and giggle at the prospect of same-sex couples. There will probably be a ripple of disgust among some members of the class. That such a thing is inevitable is sad and the only way to make sure that it doesn’t carry on through future generations is to make sure that non-conventional lifestyles can be openly discussed so that in turn they do become conventional. Nobody saying that being gay is amazing and the best path to go down. But if it is the only path available to you, which it is to most gay children, then you should be reassured that it’s OK and that society will accept you. We’re a long way away from that at the moment.

The wilful misunderstanding of the press to interpret any mention of gay in an educational context as being a huge celebration of ‘gay is great; try it today!’ is a very unfortunate one. The people who believe in this want to stop any conversation about being gay, in the hope that refusing to normalise it and make it relatable will somehow make it disappear. If only that really worked; I’d never talk about Melanie Phillips again if it made her vanish into thin air. Sadly, she’s still around and as long as she is, her behaviour needs to be challenged.

The thing you hear most from these newspapers and the ‘bottom half of the internet’ who leave comments underneath articles is that gay issues are being ‘rammed down their throats’. This reinforces the idea that all gay people are militants who go on marches and scream oppression if they don’t get their own way, subjecting poor Joe Public to witnessing their unspeakable acts. Strange isn’t it that while nobody wants it rammed down their throat, so many of them keep stirring and provoking anger. It’s almost as if they like it.

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