Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Doing justice to disability: 

the upside of TEDx’s Stella bungle

The social media storm of blowback around the TEDX initiative in memory of Stella Young is as unfortunate in some frames as it was predictable if you like me had been working in the so-called ‘disability sector’ for some time. Lessons learned in this exciting and truly revolutionary space include the security of understanding that true person centredness which has a robust listening frame without prejudice for each individual living their own whole lives are instructive. As is indeed the position of generous grace required for us all to recognise the barriers shared by all persons with disability regardless of the particular condition or so-called impairment with which they come. There is much attitudinally to be left behind from the old systems for Australians to step into the space of active and sovereign citizenry for any person who lives with disability. One of the first steps to be of course recognising that the person is whole and their life experiences add always to the complex and rich mosaic of diversity in our common wealth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Making schools safer and more welcoming for LGBTQI students

IDEAS publishes this as part of the creative commons license provided by the Conversation. Should any issue be raised in this that is important for you , a family member or person with disability Call us for Free on 1800 029 904.IDEAS has free live chat on our website at www.ideas.org.au.  

Family  Planning NSW is also a great resource on 1300 658 886.

Heterosexual students don’t benefit from not knowing about homosexuality. from www.shutterstock.com.au

The Australian Curriculum is largely silent on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersexed (LGBTQI) students and only discusses sexuality explicitly in the health and physical education curriculum. Other key curriculum areas do not make explicit mention of sexuality and gender diversity, and if it is not mentioned in the curriculum documents, teachers will be reluctant to teach it.
Much debate has surrounded the implementation and review of the national curriculum, including its political, cultural and religious agendas. However, the reality for LGBTQI students is that the curriculum oppresses and silences those who don’t conform to heterosexist ideals.

Sexuality isn’t just for adults

To consider LGBTQI people are of all ages is to acknowledge that young people possess a sexuality and have a gender identity. To think of young people as sexual beings is often taboo.
Information about adolescent sexuality, particularly homosexuality, remains largely ignored in schools. Young people are denied access to the most evident parts of gay and lesbian culture – particularly bars and social clubs - with legal, social, financial and political barriers that prevent any legitimate participation by young LGBTQI people.
A wide range of research, including the report Writing them In, indicates that heterosexism continues to dominate the hidden and explicit curricula of Australian schools. This reinforces and perpetuates homophobic oppression, reflecting wider societal attitudes to sexuality and gender diversity.
Heteronormativity, the presentation of heterosexuality as the “natural” manifestation of human sexuality, remains prevalent in Australian schools and in the curriculum. Many elements in society are reluctant to address or even acknowledge teenage sexuality, particularly homosexuality.
This has implications for young people. At a time when they are first aware of their emerging sexual desires and while they attempt to forge a sexual identity, they are often presented with little accurate information about sex. This is particularly true for same-sex-attracted teenagers.

If they can’t learn it at school, where can they?

Young people need affirmation that their desires and feelings are natural and “normal”. If they can’t learn about their sexuality in a safe environment where the messages are targeted, they may turn to the internet. Not all of the material they’re looking for online is appropriate for someone of their age, or encouraging that what they are experiencing is natural and okay.
Young adult imaginative literature, historical resources and inclusive texts in language classrooms provide safe places for discussions about homosexuality, sexual diversity and gender variance.
The recently implemented Australian curriculum remains largely silent about sexual diversity. When it is mentioned explicitly, sexuality is largely delegated to the biological. The physical health and development curriculum mentions sexuality, but only in terms of sexual health, reproduction and the physical aspects of sexuality.
Within this context there is little room for the myriad expressions of sexuality beyond the biological and physical. The emotional, spiritual and lived experiences of LGBTQI people and the contributions they have made to society are nowhere to be found in the curriculum.
It is therefore necessary for schools to provide information and a supportive environment for this transition from being assumed to be heterosexual, to self-identifying and being recognised as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, to be as painless as possible. A multicultural curriculum enhances opportunities to promote understanding about difference.
However, there are barriers that prevent open dialogue about LGBTQI issues in schools. These include religious, moral or political objections; limited numbers of openly LGBTQI teachers and students; limited opportunities to interact with openly LGBTQI people in school activities; and stereotyped hysteria about recruiting young people to homosexuality.
As a supposedly progressive and liberal society, we need to discard our prejudices to ensure that all young people are protected and safe at school. Homophobic violence remains a significant issue in Australian schools.
Discrimination is based on a lack of understanding of sexual diversity. The only way to eliminate discrimination is through open discussions about sexuality inclusive of sexual diversity, and the promotion of tolerance and inclusion.
In rural Australian communities, where resources for same-sex-attracted youth are limited, stretched or non-existent, schools may be the only safe place for such discussions.
There is no benefit for heterosexual students to remain ignorant of homosexuality, and for same-sex-attracted youth to feel isolated and marginalised.
Regional, rural and remote Australia have unacceptably high statistics on youth suicide, drug and alcohol use/abuse and mental health issues related to sexuality and gender diversity. These alone are clear indicators that discussion of sexual and gender diversity in the Australian curriculum and schools can’t be ignored anymore.