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French minister wants school texts to reflect queer lives

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — France’s minister of women’s rights says school textbooks should be reviewed to ensure they are inclusive of sexual and gender minorities, English-language newspaper The Connexion reports.

In an interview with gay magazine Têtu, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is quoted as saying that “today school manuals persist in remaining silent about the gay, lesbian and transsexual orientation of certain historical figures or authors, even when it explains a large part of their work.” Vallaud-Belkacem specifically cited the work of poet Arthur Rimbaud. 

The minister’s statements drew strong reactions, The Daily Telegraph reports. Secondary school teacher Yves Delahaie wondered if Vallaud-Belkacem had opened a schoolbook lately, noting that any self-respecting biography of Rimbaud wouldn’t hide his homosexuality, which Delahaie called “a cliché of French literature."

"In the same way, one doesn’t study Plato or Socrates without speaking of homosexuality (or even pedophilia) among the Greeks in sixth-form classes,” Delahaie continues. “But is it really necessary to know about Rimbaud and [Paul] Verlaine’s idyll to grasp the meaning of ‘Le Dormeur du Val’?

"It is not our place to posthumously ‘out’ historical figures, if anything because they did not choose to talk about it in a public way themselves,” he adds.

Bruno Beschizza, national secretary of the rightwing opposition party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), was also critical of Vallaud-Belkacem’s suggestion, saying she is giving herself “the right to censor out children’s schoolbooks to impose her vision of the family.” 

Vallaud–Belkacem countered by saying that French children who may be discovering their homosexuality “cannot identify with anyone and thus consider themselves abnormal. It is this suffering one should take into consideration.”

The Connexion also reports Vallaud-Belkacem as saying it would be “useful for gay couples with children to be shown in the government’s general communications campaigns, so as to make the fact they exist more ordinary.”

Image: Portail du Gouvernement

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