LGBT lessons, sexual/religious identity, and jalapenos (jalapenos are the important part – sort of).

by richardhutton

By Reza Abbasi

 

I’m bisexual; and a lapsed Christian.

Also, right-handed – if it’s of interest. It bears scars from a lifetime of origami.

Being Bi – and right-handed, for that matter – is not something that I chose to be; and certainly wouldn’t have done during adolescence, given how awkward it made life.

I didn’t really accept it until quite recently; when I realised it was a blessing, in its way.

Kind of. Give or take.

 

My reasoning is thus: potentially, you could love anybody. And also be turned down by anyone, as well. So, it sort of balances out.

In a way, therefore, I play a key role in maintaining the equilibrium of our cosmos; without which the universe itself would cease to exist. I find that quite reassuring.

But anyway.

 

My handiwork, this.

 

I kind of knew from a fairly early age that I wasn’t straight – after watching an episode of Eurotrash; of all things.

Specifically, a segment on the Israeli Eurovision contest singer, Dana International; who I thought was quite gorgeous. Then I found out she was trans; and also still gorgeous.

Which got me thinking. And thinking was a rare experience for me, in those days [1].

I had hoped it was just a phase – only it wasn’t. And, in time, I grew to not so much accept it; as ignore it, then repress it, and pretend it wasn’t really there at all. Then kind of accepted it. Then got bored; and watched a movie instead.

 

Dana International: where it all began. She is, though, isn’t she?

 

There weren’t LGBT lessons when I was at school – which was a fair while back; but not that long ago, relative to the sum of humanity’s existence. Perhaps because Section 28 still applied [2].

Instead, there were biology classes – devoted to the subject of sexual reproduction. With diagrams depicting urethra; and explaining where the seminal vesicle is located.

Just the ticket, if you ask me. But clearly, times change; and this is no longer considered adequate.

Ultimately, this has seen a number of schools introduce LGBT curricula – which, in turn, prompted a series of hostile protests; from a number of Muslim parents, and a few Christians, concerned about the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle among students [3].

 


The type of explicit, homoerotic material actively promoted in schools, before Section 28 was repealed.

 

So are these fears well grounded?

Is it possible to merely read one or two books about different relationships between men and women; then be converted to the whole rough and tumble of frivolous same-sex passion?

Well, consider the fact that after no more than one history lesson about Yorkshire’s Viking heritage, I lived as a seafaring oarsman for a full six months. Even now, I find the temptation to indulge in piracy, or build settlements, almost too inviting [4].

 

Our Viking heritage: an average day in Yorkshire.

 

This is largely beside the point, however.

LGBT education is not really about promoting any aspect of homosexuality: be it romance, legislation, or fabulous moustache parades – for men or women alike.

Instead, the aim is to encourage acceptance of difference; and discourage bullying.

Much the same can be said of religious education.

Irrespective of somebody’s own personal identity, learning about someone else’s upbringing and beliefs helps people to better understand one another; rather than having contempt for the differences between them.

Which does not seem particularly unreasonable. More reasonable than encouraging children to torment each other, at least.

 

I also think there are parents who are concerned about the prospect of their own children growing up, and being gay, not because they want them to be miserable and repressed; but because they care about them, and want them to be happy.

Only they’re afraid that homosexuality means they won’t be.

That instead of falling in love with somebody, and enjoying a fulfilling family life, it will pave the way for an unchaste and debauched lifestyle: of Bronyism, tart repartee, exquisite interior design, effetely-sipped coffee, and dubious fashion choices aplenty.

Well, maybe. Sometimes. For a while.

In the same way that religiosity sometimes leads people to dress in a fashion which seems strange; and express viewpoints that others find barbed. Or do far worse things.

But not very often.

 

Not me, but Sylvia does bear a distinct likeness, to be fair.

 

It should go without saying that not everyone who is Muslim will be identical; and that holds equally true for anybody who falls under, or onto – or over? – the LGBT spectrum.

Same-sex attraction does not betoken promiscuity, any more than heterosexuality precludes it.

In my case it means being rejected by men, as well as by women. Which is less colourful than it may sound.

So, moving on.

 

I’ve had one sexual partner in life; and I’ll leave the sordid details therein to peoples’ own imaginations (you wouldn’t believe the kind of things they were into, incidentally) [5].

They were a social worker, who helped in the rehabilitation of addicts. They had a banjo, as well, which I tried to teach them how to play [6].

Or, to look at the issue another way: I am the most boringly ordinary person who ever lived. My personal rainbow would comprise seven shades of grey – and, on days of particular excitement, maybe a strand of beige.

Religion, race, sex, and sexuality are not all that there is to anyone. You can have all of these traits, and still be as mundane as me – if you try [7].

 

The great spectrum of mundanity.

 

Homophobia and racism are two sides of same dehumanising coin. If you add sexism, that would make three sides of the coin – although I’ve never seen a three-sided coin, admittedly.

Maybe a different comparison would be more helpful. And that’s where chilli peppers factor in (I told you they were important).

I used to dislike jalapenos, on the grounds that they were gross, and unpalatable; and ruined any plate of nachos they adorned. I eat them with pretty much everything, now.

That’s how I roll [8].

 

Oh yes.

 

People can change. Be it their views, tastes, ideas, or identity. It happens.

There will be people of any age, but especially when young, who realise they are gay, bi, trans – or any variation thereof – at some stage.

It’s a change that can’t be altered; and happens of its own accord. It’s not a temporary phenomenon, they’re not ill; and it’s not due to any failing for their parents’ part.

Unlike growing up listening to Celine Dion records, which – let us be brutally honest here – would suggest that something has gone wrong somewhere.

However.

Some children have two mothers, or two fathers – at times due to their parents’ orientation; and at others, because their parents divorced, and re-married.

Not all families are the same – and plenty of seemingly normal households are dysfunctional; or downright weird [9]. None of which necessarily stops people caring about each other.

 

Islam teaches the concept of Adab: the need to have courtesy and respect for other people. And to regard them as relations – if not in faith, then at least in humanity.

Likewise, LGBT lessons teach the same thing, in their way. Namely, that being mean to people who are different doesn’t really make the world a better place.

Regardless of what branch of humanity anyone belongs to, we probably all seem slightly odd to someone else. But whatever differences exist between people, we still have more in common than divides us.

Like a shared experience of being whinged at, for supposedly proving a subversive minority; while not usually being that interesting.

Or being placed under pressure to give up our own identity, in order to fit in, somehow.

And the same capacity for being hurt, by those who are afraid of difference. Which is what seems destined to generate so much needless misery among people, when they can’t help but be different [10].

I think love and empathy are more worthwhile than hatred, or fear.

They’re more fun, too.

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

[1] If you’re not familiar with Eurotrash, it was a highly sophisticated comedy series: immaculately researched, impeccably scripted, and intellectually rigorous.

The quality of its presentation was matched only by the sheer breadth and scope of its informative content.

Just the kind of high-quality cultural programming I used to watch, as a teenager.

 

[2] Section 28 of the Local Government Act began in 1988, and forbade the promotion of homosexuality in state schools. It also proscribed teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. It was finally ended nationwide, in 2003.

Its reasoning had been much the same as that of the present furore – only rooted in the supposed preservation of Christian identity and family values, rather than their Islamic equivalent.

I belonged to various Christian youth groups – which were not quite at the cutting edge of education on the subject of sexual development. Instead of diagrams, we got proverbs.

At school, most homophobic bullying centred on heterosexual boys being horrible to each other on the knowingly baseless grounds that they were gay, somehow. I don’t think you need to be directly on the receiving end of bullying to be affected by it.

 

[3] It has been suggested that the No Outsiders programme is linked to the UK government’s Prevent strategy – and is treating Muslim pupils as a potential danger; therefore triggering the current response from their parents.

That is not supported by any currently available evidence. Instead, the belief seems to stem from a presentation made in 2015; rather than the No Outsiders programme itself.

Nor is it the actual focus of the points being made by the protesters, which are overtly centred on LGBT lessons; rather than any other aspect of the programme – such as disability equality.

Suffice to say, the two men leading the demonstrations do not have children attending the schools in question.

It appears that the parents protesting against the No Outsiders programme believe it is designed to undermine their own religious identity and personal values; but that does not appear to be applicable.

Instead, two sets of people who are often treated as second-class citizens in British society, seem to be at loggerheads; in a dispute over contemporary British values. Which is both a bit sad, and kind of funny, if you think about it.

 

 

[4] Admittedly this is standard behaviour among the men and women of Yorkshire.

Only, instead of marauding, looting, feasting – and pillaging – our endeavours are mostly devoted to tutting, and complaining about the cost of things.

Some stereotypes are accurate. Acutely so, at times. This is one of them.

 

[5] Mainly reading books, and going for walks. Really quite disgraceful.

 

[6] I didn’t actually know how to play one – I just made it sound like I did. Picture thrash-metal banjo, and you’re about there. There are even people who play death-metal tambourine, as it happens.

 

[7] It takes time, and effort; and it’s not worthwhile – but it can be done.

 

[8] It’s tangential, but I also used to find Scotch bonnet chillis too hot. Not anymore! I use them to make vegetarian chilli all the time now.

While it may incur wrath from a few antediluvian types – who are more than a smidge stuck in their ways (not that I judge) – I would recommend experimenting with chipotle paste, too.

This can be expensive; and some disparage it as nothing more than a mere lifestyle choice – encouraged by illicit cookery books. But it is worthwhile, in my opinion. And my opinion is correct.

 

[9] The Royal Family, for instance. You really don’t get much more conformist and simultaneously warped than them.

 

[10] I think some misery in life is needed, because where would goth music be without it? Nowhere. That’s where. Nowhere at all.