Trigger warning: This post deals with homophobic bullying and may be triggering for some readers.
In the near future, a “speciality school” for LGBT kids might exist.
Charity LGBT Youth North West in the UK has proposed plans for a school to open within the next three years that will take up to 40 full-time students and 20 part-time places for LGBT+ students.
Being queer can — and generally will — lead to some form of harassment and isolation at some point of life, and the statistics for bullying and suicide attempts are higher in LGBT+ teens than any other adolescent group in the world. The idea behind the proposal is to stop homophobic bullying in schools and protect queer students.
There’s no doubt that a safe haven for these youths could literally be a life saver. But the problem with this proposed “life saver”, however? Is that it’s a ridiculous idea.
Now, I’ve always considered myself one of the ‘lucky’ ones. At school, I never had someone tell me I was less than them because I was gay. Nobody called me names, or hurt me, or told me I’d be better off dead. I didn’t need a bully, though, because I already had myself to do all of those things for me.
I was surrounded from birth by accepting parents, family members, and friends. I have met very few truly homophobic people; and I am lucky enough to have never suffered directly from their hate.
As a gay teen, all of the hatred came from myself.
Here’s how that happened: I was born into a world where everyone is assumed straight until proven otherwise; where being different means being less; where, unless you’re brave enough to out yourself and find a wonderful community to hide you, you have no one but yourself for comfort — and it’s hard to comfort someone you hate.
From childhood, straight couples are on your TV, in your books, on magazines, in advertisements, in music, on the streets, everywhere. Queer people like me are brought up to see a hetero-normative world.
Now, I understand that straightness does appear to be the majority, and that’s okay. I understand that the majority of mass-media, and life in general, is marketed towards that majority. But still, in 2015, there are millions of people in the world who identify as gay, which means there are millions of people who spend their whole lives being told that they are different, reminding them that they are the outer. That, no matter how proud they are of being them, they will never be normal.
These thoughts may seem ludicrous, or exaggerated, or false to you but spend 20 years looking and photos of couples and families who look nothing like the one you’re going to end up having and tell me if you feel like a valued and equal member of society. (You won’t.)
So in a world where LGBT+ people are already separated from others enough, why would you create a school that does just that?
At what point did someone decide that putting kids- kids who already think there’s something wrong with them- into a separate school was a good idea?
Who sat down and thought ‘oh, segregation worked super well for race-based schooling, let’s do it here too!’
Who on earth thought ‘let’s put a bunch of LGBT+ people in one place- there’s no WAY they’ll be at extra risk there!’ (hint: they will be. Between 2010-2013, an estimated 630,000 people were victims of homophobic hate crimes in Britain.)
And I’m assuming that you’ll only be going to this school if people already know you’re gay, because your parents are barely going to let you change schools to an LGBT+ school just for fun. So what about those students who aren’t ready to come out?
Do you leave them to fend for themselves in the ‘normal’ schools?
Don’t get me wrong, here. A safe space for queer teens sounds wonderful. I would have loved something like that when I was younger — somewhere to meet other teens like me, and not have to worry about people having loose lips and saying something I didn’t want said.
That’s why Gay and Straight alliances at schools are great, if you’re brave enough to go to them. (I wasn’t one of those kids. Not all of us are those kids.)
But a separate school to remind these kids, and the rest of the world, that they are ‘different’, and that they need different things, seems ridiculous. That’s not a safe space. That’s a target on the backs of each and every student trying to escape bullying.
So if you’re going to segregate anyone?
Segregate the bullies. Start to actually enforce the existing anti-bullying laws.
Or here’s an idea: have a school for homophobes, where they can learn that bullying, be it physical, vocal, or emotional, is wrong.
Have classes for teachers so they know what to do in situations where they see bullying. Have classes for teachers so they don’t bully queer teens themselves.
Create inclusive programs for LGBT+ students and allies; have classes in sex-ed that teach about safe gay sex, about the different sexualities and genders, about the fact that not every person is straight, and assuming that they are is damaging to them.
Because there is so, so much we have to do to make schools safe and inclusive for LGBT+ students. But segregating them from others, telling them that it is so unsafe to be gay that they have to kept away from other kids, is not going to save anyone.