When I first started trying to be LGBT+ inclusive in my lessons I was really concerned that it might prompt a lot of off-topic and probably negative comments from the children in my Year 6 class. We were learning about possessive apostrophes and I tentatively put the following on the board as a warm-up discussion:
Where should we put the apostrophe?
The girls cloakroom
The childrens playground
I stepped back and held my breath, waiting for the silly comments, the sniggers and the inevitable disruption and NOTHING HAPPENED! I literally couldn’t believe it.
At that stage, I was very new to inclusion work. We had nothing inclusive stuck up in the classroom, There'd been no inclusive assemblies and we'd just briefly touched on inclusion in one PSHE lesson. Surely, they’d never handle this, I thought. How wrong I was. The class quietly got on with the work and we discussed exactly where the apostrophes should go and why we’d put them there.
I think growing up and starting my career under Section 28 (the law that silenced discussion around LGBT+ issues in school) had given me such a strong sense that I ‘shouldn’t’ be talking about these issues in school. The children (aren’t children awesome!) showed me otherwise. They showed me that just dropping in references to LGBT+ lives and showing they’re just another way to be a human, was more than fine for them.
Now, I’m a huge fan of the drop-in for ALL TEACHERS, ALL SUBJECTS. There are so many easy examples we can include.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Sara went to the cinema with her two Mums and her brother. Adult tickets
cost £5.50, children’s tickets cost £2.50. How much did it cost for them all to watch the film?
• One of the people who really influenced Martin Luther King was Bayard Rustin. He was a black, gay man, inspired by Gandhi to believe in the power of non-violence. Do you think non-violence is a good way to get across your point of view?
• Professional footballer Jake Daniels said coming out as gay and having the support of his team-mates, made him feel so good it helped him score four goals in his next match. Why do you think this support helped him so much?
• Marie vit à Paris avec ses deux papas.
When we include positive references to LGBT+ lives in all aspects of our teaching, we indicate to children that LGBT+ people are just as much part of the world as everyone else – that LGBT+ people live as diverse and varied lives as everyone else and that being LGBT+ is just another way to be a human.
Sometimes I’m asked why we should need to make these references – that we are drawing attention to something when we want everyone to be treated the same without reference to differences, but by talking positively about the rich diversity of LGBT+ lives we are helping to counter hundreds of years of silence. Silence sends an implicit message that ‘this is something we don’t mention’. Active references to LGBT+ lives send a message to all children that being LGBT+ is something positive, something completely normal and something that we can talk about with pride.