Why we need safe schools for LGBTI kids and LGBTI people

*TRIGGER WARNING* There is queerphobia and general garbage humans

Ok, this is going to be long, because there has been so much media, much of it good, about the Liberal Party’s and the religious right’s attack on the Safe Schools Coalition.  I also have my own thoughts about the negative commentary as a card carrying bisexual, and someone who remembers being bullied at school for being different.  Also, I know a lot about how biphobia and homophobia affects bisexual people, and a fair amount about homophobia and transphobia and the effects on lesbian and gay people, and trans people respectively.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, called a review of the Safe Schools Coalition and the work they do at the behest of some of his incredibly conservative party members on Tuesday (23 Feb).

But some Coalition MPs have been agitating against the program, saying it raises sexual issues which are inappropriate for teenagers and young children.

Senator Cory Bernardi told the ABC the program was seeing children “being bullied and intimidated into complying with a radical program”.

Senator Bernardi has called on the Government to withdraw funding for the program.

“It’s not about gender, it’s not about sexuality,” he said.

“It makes everyone fall into line with a political agenda.

“Our schools should be places of learning, not indoctrination.”

Interestingly, on 11 February, general arsehat and all round garbage human, Kevin Donnelly, wrote an article in his role as a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, claiming that, “Safe Schools Coalition is more about LGBTI advocacy than making schools safer“.  The most interesting thing about this article is that the first three-quarters of it are relatively factual and sensible. Talking about what Safe Schools does, and only if you dislike LGBTI people would you find any of those facts an issue.  For someone who is a senior research fellow, Donnelly really does need to learn how to write.  To save you reading the whole article, this is the end:

On the other hand the official government and education department policy is to ask schools to fully support the Safe Schools Coalition and its cultural-left agenda; one that is still controversial and far from settled in terms of the broader community.

Yes, Donnelly thinks that LGBTI people’s existence and our human rights are “far from settled in terms of the broader community” despite the huge community support for LGBTI people, and huge community support for marriage equality.  Of course, Donnelly doesn’t back up his allegedly self-evident claim, because there is no evidence to back it up with.

A few days later (15 Feb), the ACL came out and asked that the State’s repeal their anti-discrimination laws so they can argue the case against marriage equality.  Shadow Attorney Mark Dreyfus put it best:

Now I think it’s really important to pause for a moment and consider the following points before I link to and summarise some more news articles and other commentary.

Apparently, in this day and age, it is worse to call out a garbage human for their behaviour than it is for them to act garbage.  There are many arch-conservatives complaining that being called a homophobe or a bigot is somehow the worst ever, versus them calling into question my and my fellow LGBTI sibling’s humanity, existence and safety.

Also, LGBTI people’s existence is not up for debate. LGBTI children’s existence is also not up for debate. Our human rights, and our right to safety, environments without bullying, and participating fully in society is not up for debate.

Those who believe that LGBTI people shouldn’t exist, or that talking about LGBTI people in front of children means that there is an agenda to recruit children (this is one of the most illogical arguments out there), are wrong.  When those people also hold positions of power, they are also very very dangerous.

You will also see the argument from some adults that schools shouldn’t be teaching children about sexuality because that is the job of parents.  I completely disagree with this argument because a) parents send kids to school to teach them about everything, not just some things, and b) parents are often terrible at teaching children about sexuality, which is why schools do it.  Safe Schools isn’t about teaching too-young children about sexuality. It’s about talking about differences, acceptance, and understanding.

Unless you shelter your children from the world outside your front door, they will see non-straight couples, they will see non-monogamous people, and they will see trans and gender diverse and intersex people .  You might not have the language to teach them about it in a way which means that your child will be respectful, understanding and accepting of these people (and if you’re a garbage human, you certainly won’t), and this is where schools come in.  If your child is same-sex attracted, gender diverse and/or intersex (SSAGDI), then you want to make sure that they will be safe at school.  Many kids know very early if they are gender diverse, and I knew when I was 10 that I wasn’t exactly straight, but I didn’t have any words to explain what I was.

Calling for an end to a program that reduces bullying at school because you don’t like those people who it aims to protects, basically sends the message that LGBTI people’s safety is unimportant, and that bigot’s concerns are more important.  Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and co in Parliament think that their distaste for the LGBTI community should in particular be taken out on SSAGDI children because they’re easy targets.  These white men are garbage humans.

Now I have a beautiful video to share with you, especially for those who need to grow some empathy, about being a young, same-sex attracted and/or gender diverse young person.

Now let’s address Bernardi’s claim that Safe Schools is about indoctrination versus learning.

“It’s interesting that Senator Bernardi has said the Safe Schools Coalition is pushing propaganda and a particular ideological position within our schools,” [Greens LGBT spokesman, Senator Robert Simms] said. “The only organisation doing that is the chaplains program funded by the government.”

The federal government has committed $243.8 million to the chaplaincy program from 2014-2018.

In comparison, the Labor government committed $8 million of funding over four years for the Safe Schools Coalition in 2013. (Buzzfeed)

It does seem that Bernardi (as one of the most garbage humans) wants to find whatever words work that will convince people to drop their support for Safe Schools.  He’s tried suggesting that it’s indoctrination, but what about Marxism?

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.” (SMH)

There are still arsehats out there who will react to the dog whistling that Bernardi is engaging in, and will suggest that SSAGDI children are less than human, and should have less rights than children who are gender conforming and appear to be straight.

In the same article from the SMH, the following facts are presented:

The Safe Schools Coalition was not pushed upon an unwitting education system by “gay activists”. It was set up in Victoria in 2010 in response to requests from teachers to help them support a growing number of LGBTI students who were wrestling with their identity.

It has the backing of beyondblue, the Australian Secondary Principals Association, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council of State School Organisations.

Adding to teachers’ concerns were alarming statistics from La Trobe University’s 2010 Writing Themselves In study which revealed 75 per cent of LGBTI young people had experienced physical or verbal homophobic bullying. Eighty per cent said the abuse happened at school.

These students are up to six times more likely to attempt suicide and self harm than their peers. For this reason, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has championed the program, last year fulfilling an election promise to spend $1 million rolling it out in every state secondary school.

And why did a Safe Schools teachers’ resource, publicly launched in November by a federal education department executive amid zero controversy, reappear this month as a breathless front page “exclusive” in The Australian under the headline “Activists push taxpayer-funded gay manual in schools”?

One word: plebiscite. As the nation prepares for a costly and unnecessary poll on marriage equality, the key objective for extreme right-wingers and religious groups is to create a culture of misinformation and fear.

They know that with 72 per cent of the public supporting the right of same-sex couples to marry, it is a vote they will likely lose. So they are going all out to muddy the water. And it’s working.

This is important.  If you are against bullying, and against suicide, then you should be embracing a program like Safe Schools that will work on reducing both of those things.  I don’t even these queerphobes.

Remember, these garbage people think that LGBTI people shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else, and they will stop at nothing to impose their cultural order on everyone.

These garbage humans also think that sexuality is a choice, despite the fact that they probably never chose to be straight.  As a result of this belief, they think children will choose to be second-class citizens who are more likely to be bullied, more likely to attempt suicide, and be unable to have their same-sex relationships recognised formally by the state.  Sounds great.  This is also yet another illogical argument.

And of course, those who manage the Safe Schools Coalition are under attack from the far right:

It reminds me very much of the propaganda we’ve heard about Safe School’s work this week. Bernadi and his Australian Christian Lobby mates claim that Safe Schools is converting kids by promoting a lifestyle and “bullying children into complying with a radical program”. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Parents, teachers and anyone who has had anything to do with the development of the program knows that Safe Schools promote messages of tolerance of diversity, celebration of difference and acceptance of gender and sexuality for young people. In the last few weeks Safe Schools staff have been the target of hate mail and violent threats. This in a country that proudly calls itself secular, multicultural and a bastion of human rights.

Hate speech is not acceptable anywhere – in our schools, parliaments or communities. We have strong evidence showing that our young LGBTIQ people are increasingly exposed to horrific violence in their homes and schools and that they are targeted because of their difference. We also know that those experiences impact on young people’s ability to form healthy adult relationships and make safe choices. Gay men and lesbians experience violence in intimate partnerships at similar rates to cisgender heterosexual women, for trans and intersex people international research suggests the rates are even higher. (Daily Life)

I note the author completely erases bisexuals when it comes to intimate partner violence.  Bisexual women are more likely than straight or lesbian women to face intimate partner violence (source).

Those against Safe Schools claim that it’s imposed without parental input, and that if parents were involved then there would be less schools actively involved in the program (and more young SSAGDI children at risk).

Only one school has pulled out of the Safe Schools program as a result of pressure from concerned parents, the program’s organisers say, despite comments from conservatives who say parents do not want the anti-bullying initiative.

The Safe Schools Coalition says that parents and the school community are consulted before a school decides to take part in the program.

“Only one school in Australia that had registered with Safe Schools has reported deregistration from the program as a result of parental concerns,” a spokeswoman said.

The former frontbencher Eric Abetz said on Tuesday night he was voicing the concerns of the “mums and dads all around Australia” who do not want the program in their children’s schools.

“I trust that it [the review] comes to a landing which will listen to the views and aspirations of the mums and dads of Australia who, when they get the opportunity, vote with their feet and don’t want their schools participating,” Abetz told ABC TV. (The Guardian)

Let’s remember, that SSAGDI children have parents, and those parents love their children (for the most part, some of them are also garbage humans), and want their children to be safe, happy and accepted by their peers.  Parents of SSAGDI children want Safe Schools, and I know of parents who have researched schools and interviewed teachers, administration and principals to find the right school for their SSAGDI child.  Those parents want to do the right thing by their child, and Safe Schools makes that possible.

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), and garbage humans who think that the ACL are preachings god’s message in Australia (eugh) have been sending letters to Parliamentarians condemning the Safe Schools Coalition.  They aren’t using nice language, but they will loudly complain when someone calls them out for being garbage (see point above).

Emails sent to MPs encouraging them to oppose the LGBTI friendly Safe Schools Coalition describe homosexuality as “unnatural”, compare it to murder, warn God sees gays and lesbians as an abomination, rail against “heterophobia”, and claim lesser evils than the program have caused civilisations to end.

The disturbing content the campaign has produced emerges a day after the Federal Coalition agreed to review the Safe Schools program after complaints from the party’s right forced Education Minister Simon Birmingham to ease off previous statements of stern support.

New Matilda has seen a relatively small portion of the thousands of emails sent to NSW state MPs but they reveal a deep seam of open homophobia, paranoia, and confusion at the heart of the movement opposing the Safe Schools Coalition.

Many of those who have contacted MPs opposing the program insist they support anti-bullying campaigns to help LGBTI students and that they are not homophobes, but argue Safe Schools goes too far, and introduces children to age-inappropriate material. A closer look at the emails, however, tends to cast doubt on how genuine those claims are.

Much of the correspondence seen by New Matilda argues that there are bigger issues than homophobic bullying in schools which should be focused on instead. Others say it is simply not an issue worth tackling.

“Please do the cost benefit analysis,” a parent implores. “For the potential benefits in relation to a very small percentage of kids who are bullied for not being heterosexually oriented, the cost in damage done in exposing all kids to information that normalises unnatural behaviour is simply not worth it.”

In the Federal Parliament yesterday, Coalition MP Andrew Hastie said he opposed the program because “it is ideological big government reaching into the lives of ordinary Australians”. Senator Cory Bernardi told his party the initiative indoctrinated children “with Marxist cultural relativism” and has previously argued it would make them “advocates for the homosexual cause”.

The grassroots backers of Bernardi and Hastie are being a little less subtle. In fact, so worried are they, many saw the Safe Schools Coalition as contributing to the final decline of civilisation as we know it.

“Any society that can countenance such evils has reached an advanced stage of auto-destruction,” one email concludes. (New Matilda)

I don’t know how to reach these people and get them to see the harm that they are causing.  I know I can sit here at my keyboard and rant about how wrong they are, how misguided they are, and how they really aren’t loving their neighbour as themselves, but none of that will actually reach them.  In the end, it’ll probably be an LGBTI neighbour or relative that helps them change their mind.


Adults who would have benefitted from programs like the Safe Schools Coalition have written articles and blog posts detailing how horrible they found their school years as a result of the bullying they received for the perception that they weren’t straight.  Richard Davies posted on twitter a comment made by a friend:

Shannon Malloy who is a journalist with The Daily Telegraph wrote, “‘You’re going to die, poofter!’ And that’s why we need Safe Schools” (and don’t read the comments on this piece for your own sanity).  Doug Pollard, another journalist, wrote, “Seven Years Of Fear“.

The Huffington Post Australia draws our attention to what is at stake:

LGBTI people are between three and fourteen times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual Australians. One in six young LGBTI people have attempted suicide. One in three have self harmed.

Among teenage boys, 40 percent wouldn’t want a same-sex attracted person as a friend, sixty percent had witnessed first-hand someone being bullied for their sexuality, and a quarter believe calling someone a “homo” or “dyke” is OK. Up to 80 percent of LGBTI teens have experienced homophobic language at schools and one quarter had experienced physical abuse at school, according to some studies.

One in five lesbian, gay or bisexual Australians are currently experiencing depression, more than triple the national rate, while one in three experience an anxiety condition. These are statistics collected and collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, depression organisation beyondblue, Suicide Prevention Australia and various reputable universities across the country.

This is what the Safe Schools Coalition program looks to address and mitigate, through educating young people at schools about LGBTI issues, promoting tolerance and understanding, and giving resources for young LGBTI people to find help and counselling if needed.

Reynolds said impacts and effects of bullying and homophobia in schools and in the media were not always as obvious and awful as suicide and self-harm; that such effects can manifest in eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression. She said she supported the Safe Schools Coalition as a key part of addressing such issues at an early age.

“It’s about making school environments as accepting for all young people as possible, so it stops pointing out differences and lets [young LGBTI people] feel included. Safe Schools has such a long list of programs and ideas that can be picked up depending on regional areas and differences,” Reynolds said.

In closing, some good news, or at least some news to make the world less bleak than queerphobes are currently making it.  Jill Stark reported on twitter that 362 academics have signed a letter in support of Safe Schools.

And more than 40 religious leaders have signed a letter urging the Prime Minister to abandon the Marriage Equality Plebicite:

The leaders fear the campaign surrounding a plebiscite would cause harm to the LGBTI community, silence people of faith, and cause unnecessary division among broader Australian society.

“A volatile, public and politically-charged debate could both distance leaders from lay people, marginalise faith communities from broader society and alienate LGBTI individuals within religious communities,” the letter reads.

Regarding the LGBTI community, the letter says: “After decades of legalised discrimination, and ongoing social stigma, LGBTI Australians will face an angry, drawn-out debate, one likely to multiply existing disadvantages and stigma.”

There are good people out there.

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