By Adam George
Natalie Forssman, a first year Spanish and Italian student at Cardiff University, has started a petition calling for the government to make LGBT+ sex education compulsory within the national curriculum. The petition currently has over 11,000 signatures and is waiting for the government to respond. Gair Rhydd spoke exclusively to Natalie to discuss her reasons for starting the petition and what she hopes to achieve.
Last week the Education Secretary, Justine Greening, announced government plans to make sex and relationship education (SRE) compulsory in all schools in England. This means that all children from the age of four will be taught about safe and healthy relationships as a part of the national curriculum. Children will also be taught, from an appropriate age, about sex. However, these lessons will only focus on heterosexual sex and relationships and Natalie believes that this “alienates the LGBT+ community.”
We asked Natalie what she hopes to achieve with the petition and she told us that it is all about equality and inclusivity.
“I am hoping, with the increasing amount of signatures and campaigning, that the government can consider implementing LGBT+ inclusive education into the curriculum.”
Many campaigners have criticised the government for not committing to LGBT+-inclusive SRE in all schools. It can be seen that the omission lets down the many LGBT+ pupils throughout the country that require positive support in order to develop into the healthy adult that they deserve to be. In continuing to separate, single out and ignore the needs of LGBT+ pupils, the government is cementing the stigma, self-doubt and bullying that is already present.
Natalie told Gair Rhydd that she set up the petition after speaking to a lot of LGBT+ people and discovering the lack of education they have received.
“I have many friends, and have spoken to many LGBT+ people, who have told me that they went into their first sexual experience (often losing their virginity), not knowing what to do.”
Natalie continues “I personally feel that it is extremely unfair for LGBT+ youth to experience a wealth of awkwardness regarding their sexual health and sex lives, when already many have to deal with prejudice and homophobia.”
It has been two weeks since the petition passed 10,000 signatures, ensuring a government response. However, this response has not yet been received and Natalie admits that she is “worried that the Conservative viewpoints will clash with my ideals.” It is a well known fact that many Conservative MPs oppose same-sex marriage and believe that gay sex should not be encouraged. Natalie argues that the petition itself doesn’t actually ‘encourage’ gay sex but just aims to ensure participants remain safe.
“We are ensuring that if and when LGBT+ people have sex (which will occur regardless of the opinions of the Tory Party), they engage in safe sex which provides them the best chance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.”
The Cardiff first-year believes that introducing LGBT+ SRE would benefit everybody. She believes that due to a lack of education, young members of the LGBT+ community often delay visiting sexual health clinics due to embarrassment. Natalie is aware of the dangers that this poses and also believes that it is causing an unnecessary strain on our NHS.
“Delaying STD checks can result in serious illness, which at the end of the day, nobody wants – not the individual, nor the NHS, nor the Tories who have to fund emergency sexual health treatment.”
You can find the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/183574