Another day, another sex-ed controversy. Around the world, teachers, parents and activists remain embroiled in the same old fight over LGBTQ2-inclusive education.
This time, the battleground is Birmingham, UK, where ongoing protests over a new LGBTQ2-inclusive curriculum at Anderton Park Primary School reached a head; last week, police were called when activists handing out ribbons in defence of the school’s decision were pelted with eggs. Headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has also been fielding threatening calls and emails on the matter.
The school has been fending off protesters for months after it upheld the decision to teach a curriculum that discusses sexual orientation, gender identity and same-sex relationships beginning next year. The protests are part of a larger conversation across the UK about age-appropriate sex education for youth — and where learning about LGBTQ2 issues and rights fits into that — as a number of primary schools begin to teach from more queer- and trans-inclusive curricula.
Anderton Park is among other schools in Birmingham to adopt the “No Outsiders” lesson plan, which was created by gay educator Andrew Moffatt. He wanted students to “be proud of who they are while recognizing and celebrating difference and diversity.” It includes the use of children’s books with characters who have same-sex parents, or who feel like they don’t fit in.
But Anderton Park has a predominantly Muslim student population, and many protesters say the new curriculum counters their religious beliefs. “We are a traditional community — we have traditional family values and morally we do not accept homosexuality as a valid sexual relationship to have,” Amir Ahmed, a leader of the Birmingham demonstrations, told BBC. And amid the protests, there has been little (much-needed) conversation about how culture and religion fit into progressive sex education and about the lives of people who are both religious and LGBTQ2. At Birmingham Pride, held last weekend, a contingent of queer Muslims marched alongside Moffatt. One told the newspaper Metro, “‘We need to show that we exist.”
The fight mirrors Ontario’s recent sex-ed debacle. For years, a back and forth between government, activists and educators played out in the province, culminating in the reversal of an updated sex-ed curriculum that included discussions about gender identity, sexual orientation, sexting and consent.
Now, the same battle could be underway in California, where state officials will overhaul the public school sex-ed curriculum and address the specific needs of LGBTQ2 kids. And in Arizona, a 13-year-old trans student is fighting for queer and trans identities to be included in sex education.
For those in Birmingham, there’s little sign of the fight slowing. The department of education mandates that lessons about relationships — including those LGBTQ2 in nature — be compulsory by 2020. That could mean prolonged protests at schools like Anderton Park.
And if history is any indication, more battles — from the UK to North America and beyond — against LGBTQ2-inclusive sex-ed are yet to come.