After pressure from his conservative and far-right colleagues, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has launched a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Safe Schools Programme – a voluntary scheme that educates children in late primary and high school about homosexuality, trans-sexuality and gender diversity.
Toby Halligan writes for Mamamia about what school was like for him as a young man discovering his sexuality – and how a program like Safe Schools saves lives.
Watch below to see what the Safe Schools Programme is all about. Post continues after video…
Being a kid can be really hard at the best of times. Being a gay or trans or inter-sex kid though, is an entirely different experience. You almost never see yourself reflected in the world. You don’t turn up in cartoons. You don’t turn up in most stories you’re regularly exposed to. You rarely see yourself reflected in TV shows. Unless you have gay parents or your parents have a large number of gay friends, you may never meet an openly gay person until you’re much older. Which means that the possibility that you MIGHT be gay may not even occur to you.
I know that things have changed since the mid-80s but that’s what happened to me. My parents were lovely, caring people, quite open-minded, and growing up in the suburbs of Canberra was, generally, quite a pleasant, placid experience. But there were virtually no gay people, at least none that I was aware of.
The effect that has is it’s lonely. Intensely lonely. As you hit puberty and go through the attendant changes that comes with, it’s also intensely confusing. All of this by the way is before you’re exposed to homophobia. Because once you’ve gotten used to kids around you using the word “gay”, or “faggot”, or “queer”, or “poof” as a swearword, the thought that might be one of those things is deeply uncomfortable.
Sometimes those homophobic moments come from teachers. I attended an Anglican high school and while some of my teachers had an open mind, we were taught, in Biology class no less, that homosexuality is “unnatural” and “immoral”. This had a profoundly hurtful effect on my fellow gay students and I, but it also affected all students. We all learned that gay is officially bad.