Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parenting is easy as long as you remember it isn't about you.

**Disclaimer: part way through this will turn into a RABID RANT, because this is THE topic that pisses me off the most. Freedom. Also, I swear, get over it.

So today there is an article in the local internet rag about a father who is upset about the content of a sexuality education class his 15 year old son was in. I'm the mother of a 15 year old girl, so in many ways I should be able to relate to what his concerns are. And maybe I could, but the article isn't very well written - in a namby pamby 'sitting on the fence is too hard we're not even going to do that, here's some vague things people said', kind of way. 

Firstly the father says that he was not informed about the class. Sadly it isn't made clear what exactly he was not informed of, so I'm going to have to do a little dance around the topic. Because on the one hand if he was not informed of the class AT ALL, then that is a horrendous breach, since parents are supposed to have the option to remove their kids from classes that may go against their beliefs, or go beyond a level they are comfortable with their children being exposed to. I would be VERY surprised if he had not been informed at all - a school can get itself in strife over such slips. It's much easier for me to believes that he just assumed that the content would be what he considered 'normal', and when it turned out that it wasn't, he spat the dummy. If that's the case I have little sympathy. If there are topics you are concerned about that MIGHT come up in a class it's a good plan to find out if they WILL so that you can make an informed decision over whether to allow your child to take part or not. And yes, that is what I did. 4 years ago when my then 11 year old was taking her first sex education classes. Because it's a very, very important topic - no matter what you believe. I might have a couple of 'tut tut that wasn't very sensible's for the school, because what came up is a touchy subject for a lot of people - they might have known SOMEONE was going to get their knickers in a twist. (Yes, I am going to get to what came up, eventually.)

I could be wrong, maybe the school just totally failed to mention that there were going to be sex education classes - it is possible, after all at this stage I ASSUME there will be sex education classes for my daughter. I no longer worry about it, because I know that my kid is a sensible and mature young lady. Maybe the school thought everyone would realise that obviously there would be some sexual education in the syllabus. In which case, naughty school. 

So here is where it starts to get really complicated. The 'problem' is that the classes given by Rainbow Youth involved a lot of Gender Identity discussion, which apparently took a course that left this father worried that his child was being indoctrinated. Now before all my rainbow friends start jumping up and down yelling homophobe, and, oh THIS old story, and the like (which was more or less exactly my first thoughts) consider for a moment. We get angry about people telling kids that Straight is 'normal' and that anything else is wrong, or weird or other worse things I don't care to open up. So what if someone was doing that from the other side? Suggesting that not questioning your sexuality is weird. Or wrong.  That 'assuming' your Straight is bad. I'd be just as mad with that, and that seems to be what they are suggesting was happening. 

It's difficult to judge though, because while it sounds like they do have some legitimate concerns, it also sounds like this is more of a 'why can't these people just stay in the closet' sort of thing and that I do take issue with. Here I am taking issue...

Because the bullying of people over their sexual identity has to stop, bullying of any kind is bad, but this is taking LIVES. People are being driven to suicide which is quite horrific enough but also people are being MURDERED over this. And it's bullshit. We all have a right to our own sexuality and I am yet to hear ANY argument that makes any kind of sense on the homophobic side. "Why can't they just keep quiet about it?" WHY THE FUCK SHOULD THEY HAVE TO! Heterosexuality is in our faces all day, every day. Why can't they have their moment? If your rights were being stripped because of some arbitrary 'rule' you'd want to stand up and fight too. This is no different. They wouldn't have to stand up and yell, "We're here, we're queer. GET OVER IT" if we were giving them equality. Homophobes chuck a spaz over a kiss between same sex lovers in a tv show, the same hissy fit is not thrown for a heterosexual moment.  If you can't stand back, shut up and get over it, maybe it's your morals you should be looking at. All this wasted hate for something that is simply none of your damn business. If you shut up about it and let people live equal lives then it'll stop being in your face. Grow up and realise you're the problem. 

I can see this turning into one of those times when the people I want to listen to me (they aren't going to anyway, but I can dream) are going to be sitting in their corner saying to themselves 'oh the mean Atheist is hating on our religious freedom' NO I AM FUCKING NOT. I am hating on your hate. Listen to your own doctrine and turn the other damn cheek. Follow your messiahs teachings and extend the hand of love and forgiveness (OK the forgiveness might actually offend some people, but at least you'll be trying and the polite will let it slide). I am not obliged to believe the same things as you, and I am not asking you to believe the same things as me. I am asking you to sit down and shut up. I am asking you to allow others to live with the same freedoms you have. And I am telling you that anything else is unreasonable. What if I turn around and say that you can no longer attend church because I believe that the God that you follow is an abomination created by greedy, selfish humans? What if I get enough people to agree with me and it becomes law? That is what you are doing. That is why I will not shut up as long as you keep taking these freedoms away from others. 

I'm not an Atheist by the way. I'm an Agnostic. I will remain so as long as a) there is no proof either way & b) there is no religion that I can bring myself to follow. I simply CANNOT believe in the kind of God that most religions seem to think we have.

Right, I've had my little explosive rant, back to reality...

So, I think that if more than this one kid felt like they were being pushed into one train of thought then this should be investigated. I think if the suggestion that the worst homophobes are usually gay, actually was being presented - without factual back up, then that should be looked at. If there are genuine concerns over the standard of teaching then they should be addressed. Because a one sided presentation isn't acceptable from either side. The boy suggests that there are others in his class who felt pressured by the presentation, if that's the case then they do need to investigate how the information is being presented. 

Personally I very much approve of open discussions about gender identity, I think that making people aware that different does not equal bad is an important step towards creating equality. But I also understand that many parents would rather that their children not be having discussions about sexuality beyond the safety of home. I will say that parents who may feel that they don't want their children to take part in discussions that they must surely know are becoming more and more commonplace, need to take a more active role in finding out what is going to be taught. There is very little point in coming along later saying 'I didn't know you were going to be teaching them about THAT', if you didn't bother to ask. If you care that much about what your child is going to learn, why didn't you care enough to check? The father says, that he doesn't feel this was appropriate content to be exposing 14 and 15 year olds too - I disagree, this is the age where the bullying gets out of hand, this is almost leaving it too late. As my brother would say 'assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups. At least one someone made an incorrect assumption here. But I think that so far, no one is really looking at what I would consider to be the REAL issue. 

I'm not even sure what the real issue is, except that it isn't anywhere in this article. No one asked the school why the father didn't know about the class. No one asked the father why he didn't find out what sex education would involve if there were things he might not want his son discussing yet. Rainbow Youth were not asked what they would do about these allegations. These are the questions that I want answered.

Parents need to face the reality of the day. Discussions about sexual identity are becoming more and more commonplace, if you don't want your kid to hear about it in a classroom, prepare for the idea that they ARE going to hear about it from their friends. Prepare for the concept that sometimes in a school environment your children will hear things that you might rather they didn't, rather than getting your back up and tilting at windmills, take the opportunity to talk to your kids about your opinions on the matter. At 15 your child is well on the way to becoming an adult, show them a little bit of respect and discuss things with them. Like a grown up.