Journalist Gareth Hutchens wrote an article published today titled: “Leave sex lessons to straight teachers, writes Pyne’s reviewer“. It explores a book written in 2004 by Dr. Kevin Donnelly (and commissioned by Liberal Party-aligned Menzies Research Centre¹) where Dr. Donnelly penned:
“The union argues that gays, lesbians and transgender individuals have a right to teach sex education … and that any treatment of sexual matters should be ‘positive in its approach’ and that school curricula should ‘enhance understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’. Forgotten is that many parents would consider the sexual practices of gays, lesbians and transgender individuals decidedly unnatural and that such groups have a greater risk in terms of transmitting STDs and AIDS.”
The article explores what seems to be his fundamental belief that ‘only heterosexual teachers have a right to teach students about sex’. As I write this, I recall the first thing I read this morning was news of the passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman; that news shocked me. (I’ve become belatedly aware of his fight with addiction, but his image as a hard-working actor prevailed). However, not anywhere near as shocked as I was to read this article. It is utterly appalling me that someone so charged with shaping the education of our country’s next generation could propagate such complete and contemptible ignorance.
I understand that some members of society struggle to accept people who identify as LGBT. It can be uncomfortable & challenging to accept things we don’t understand; things that initially seem so far removed from our own personal realm of experience. I felt much the same way studying History; many elements of our past beggar belief, some more than others. However, I have the fortune to have been raised by people who have taught me the difference between enduring a new concept, and encompassing it in who I am. Yes, I did grow up knowing people who didn’t share my ideas of gender and sexuality, and knowing them was my chance to begin understanding differences in preferences, attitudes & perception on many levels.
Of course, not everyone grows up with the same influences, educators and opportunities to experience what is human uniqueness. I have always been acutely aware & grateful of the opportunities given me. So, where some miss out on such opportunities, here it falls to community leaders & educators of all kinds to assist in our understanding of our society. I feel very strongly that these leaders & educators have a responsibility to teach openly, honestly, and factually. When it isn’t over-complicated, it isn’t difficult. When my 8 year old daughter asked me recently what ‘gay & lesbian’ meant, I asked her how she felt about a particular boy she had mentioned (at length) recently. Her smile was enormous, infectious; she looked dreamily over my head and told me she thought he was pretty awesome. I asked her to imagine that she felt that way about a girl. What did she think of that, I asked?
“Ah, well I can’t imagine feeling that way about a girl.” She replied. Fair enough.
“Well, some girls do. And some boys feel that way about boys. That’s all there is to it, it’s not complicated.”
“When I grow up, do you think I will like girls?” was her long considered reply.
“I have no idea – but I will love you and be proud of you”.
And that was it. She completely accepted the premise. Her understanding of relationships and human sexuality will obviously grow, but the simple premise that we don’t choose who we love was immediately obvious to her. And that was completely okay in her books! I’ve rarely been more proud; it’s a big concept for a young mind to start taking in.
So – why is this so ‘complicated’? Why aren’t educators comfortable with using simple, clear language like this? It’s complicated in our big grown-up society because, quite frankly, historically we’ve completely fucked up the social conversation, and are still doing so today. I won’t even touch what religion is doing to the issue. Shame culture, ‘fixing’ gays – it’s appalling that such a fundamental piece of human psyche – what attracts us to each other – could or should be considered ‘adjustable’.
Most appalling of all is that an intellectual leader in our community can’t read the histories & do that math on this himself. I utterly defend your right to believe what you want when sitting under your own Hills Hoist, but any community that continues to discriminate out in the street is completely unsustainable, and this starts with education, and that starts with people like you, Dr. Donnelly. Your suggestion that ‘only a heterosexual may teach our children about sex’ is insulting in the extreme to educators. For example – an educator doesn’t teach a child the deep and personal intricacies of playing a piano. They give the child the tools they need to play, and leave the passion and the connection to emerge & flourish itself. Recognising & encouraging that passion, of course, is the mark of a good teacher – and if any teacher discouraged my daughter from loving piano in a certain way because of their own preferences… well, would you stand for that, Dr. Donnelly?
Sure – it’s a rather simple little allegory… but why over complicate it.
¹ Source: Gareth Hutchens, WAToday.com.au article