By Imogen Killner
Following recent protests outside of schools in Birmingham about the teaching of LGTBQ+ issues to five year olds, BBC’s Question Time debated the morality of educating young children about the topic. Question Time has since been criticised for debating the question.
If we define ‘morally’, “with reference to the principles of right or wrong behaviour”, we are led to assume that the question requires deep thinking about the principle of teaching young children about humans. When discussing LGBTQ+ issues, talking about sexuality is the tip of the iceberg. It is required to teach children about loving whoever they want to love, to be an ally, to be comfortable in their skin, to not confine themselves to a gender identity if they don’t want to, to not feel the pressure to fall in love at all, and so on (even the broadened teaching of sexual health to older children should be a necessity). Whilst it seems obvious, I am constantly reminded of the normality of enforced straightness in schools by children’s fiction, games, and even pretend weddings in the playground. It all adds to the otherness of inclusivity in sexuality and identity.
Whilst it is vital for such issues to be taught, the debate concerning the ‘morality’ is unnecessary. Taking away the labels of the LGBTQ+ community, we are left with human beings. Likewise, people of colour are human beings. As are people with disabilities. As are people who are religious. The morality of teaching young children about religion is never questioned, particularly if the school confines to a religion. The morality of race and disabilities is, also, never questioned, as there is nothing to discuss in terms of moral existence. So why should the discussing of LGBTQ+ issues be considered ‘immoral’ in the first place?
Debating is healthy. Opinions are healthy and valid. What is not worth debating, however, is the morality of an individual’s existence. The BBC prides itself on its guise of impartiality, but the underlying tones of homophobia in the question are unavoidable. Whilst it isn’t blatantly obvious by the use of slurs or stereotypes, the questioning of the morality is a microaggression of institutionalised homophobia. The debate has existed for decades, and has constantly been enforced by an older generation who unknowingly, or knowingly, sexualise LGBTQ+ people, particularly the gay and lesbian community. The mere act of same sex couples kissing in a children’s cartoon is considered blasphemy, but considered normal for a straight couple. The idea that a child will come out as LGBTQ+ after being taught about such issues is an immoral view; when I learnt about shapes I didn’t turn into a triangle. Perhaps the real debate that needs to be questioned is whether systematic and internalized preconceptions about LGBTQ+ issues need to be challenged to adults?