LGBT+ community fights for recognition within primary education

April 12, 2019

LGBT+ community fights for recognition within primary education

AUT student Bryan Law, 21, thinks LGBT+ lessons should be taught in schools at a basic level. Photo: Vanessa Shaw

Opinions are split over the introduction of LGBT+ lessons in primary schools and whether it would reduce bullying.

Mitchell Ackland, who studies media and gender at the University of Auckland, said teaching LBTG+ in primary schools would help people from the community feel more welcome.

LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus. Lessons surrounding LGBT+ are currently taught in intermediate schools around New Zealand.

“I think it’s extremely needed,” said Mr Ackland.

Mr Ackland identifies as queer and knew he was gay from a very young age. He said he was bullied in primary and intermediate school.

“LGBT+ lessons in primary school would have helped because bullying stems from a lack of knowledge.”

Mr Ackland said lessons would reduce bullying and create a more inclusive and safe space in schools.

When Mr Ackland was in year four his teacher separated him from a group of girls and made him spend time with a group of boys.

The boys told him: “We're gonna teach you how to be a real boy.”

Mr Ackland said this was “super traumatising”.

“It was so dehumanising; I didn’t know it was wrong.”

Mr Ackland said a lack of conversation made him feel wrong and excluded.

“It can only be changed by challenging those people who oppose.”

Alannah Watson, a teacher at Upper Harbour Primary School, believes that LGBT+ lessons should not be taught in primary schools, especially to those in younger grades.

“I feel that it is getting children to identify and tick a box that they wouldn’t already have a label on.”

Ms Watson said it would cause segregation between the students because after they learned about their culture, they began to discriminate against students who were not the same as them.

“All of a sudden it was ‘you can’t play with me because you’re not a Kiwi’, or ‘you’re not Chinese’.”

Ms Watson had concerns that the LGBT+ lessons would cause the same issue.

“It could create more stereotypes from a younger age and increased bullying for children perceived as different than others.”

Ms Watson said most parents would not support the idea.

“Parents at the moment seem to wrap their children up and protect them from things they are not sure about or see as risky.”

Bryan Law, 21, is a communications student at AUT and identifies as gay.

Mr Law said it would be good to introduce lessons into primary schools at a basic level.

“Not even lesbian means this, gay means this, even more basic than that.”

Mr Law said it should be approached as a conversation.

“Introduce it as part of a family, what a family can look like.”

He thought lessons would help normalise the LGBT+ community.

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