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Aug 20 2013

Say, I’ve seen this strategy in action before…

A damaging, irrational pack of nonsense is rebuked by politicians and slapped down by the courts. Proponents of the idiocy then step back and start surreptitiously (and sometimes openly) smuggling it into the classroom — if they can’t get their way now, they figure, by corrupting the next generation and keeping them ignorant, maybe they’ll be able to get their way later.

That’s straight from the creationist playbook. That’s what they’ve been up to for decades. So I’m completely unsurprised by what’s going on in the UK, where anti-gay policies perpetrated by that awful person, Margaret Thatcher, were defeated years ago…and now they’re being reinvigorated by injecting them into the schools.

Ministers, Opposition MPs and gay rights activists united to express anger and alarm over the disclosure that academies across the country had adopted policy statements that echoed the notorious Section 28 brought in by Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago.

The legislation, which was overturned by the Blair government, banned teachers in lessons from “intentionally promoting” homosexuality, a form of words that critics denounced for discriminating against gay pupils.

Campaigners have identified more than 40 schools across the country that stress in their sex-education guidelines that governors will not allow teachers to “promote” homosexuality, or are ambiguous on the issue.

So familiar…we’re on the right side of history, but the good guys all naively cheer when the right laws are enacted or overturned, thinking that now the problems will go away. That’s never true. Laws don’t change people’s minds, and our opposition knows that — and they’ve got these potent institutions, the churches, that they can use to promote extra-legal policies and attitudes and try to steer the populace back into the Middle Ages.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Antares42

    Completely obvious but I’ll say it anyway:

    banned teachers in lessons from “intentionally promoting” homosexuality

    Russia says Hi!

  2. 2
    Antares42

    It’s absolutely baffling to me what “promoting” homosexuality would be in the first place. “Homosexuals are just as much people and citizens as hetero- or whatnotsexuals, and deserve the same basic rights and freedoms.”

    That’s not “promotion”. That’s common sense.

    I have yet to see the activist, in Russia, the UK or otherwise, that claims homosexuality was better than other forms.

    And besides, it’s not like you could “catch the gay” from your friends anyway, so all those concerned about “tradition” can calm the fuck down.

  3. 3
    notsont

    How exactly does one “promote” homosexuality?

  4. 4
    Rey Fox

    It’s the usual trap where they try to sound reasonable and middle (we just don’t want people promoting homosexuality), when really any acknowledgment that homosexuality exists is considered “promotion”.

    Indeed, Russia says hi.

  5. 5
    Eamon Knight

    @2: “Homosexuals are just as much people and citizens as hetero- or whatnotsexuals, and deserve the same basic rights and freedoms.”

    If that was all there was to it, some of the opposition would probably go away. But I expect that in a school situation, there’s also likely to be (and should be, IMNSHO) a message given to adolescents, “….and if you are more attracted to your own sex than to the opposite one, that’s OK. You’re still a good person”, which is unacceptable to a lot of parents, and would be deemed “promotion” (because if you don’t mention the possibility, it can’t happen). It’s a manifestation of the attitude “Some of my best friends are [fill in the blank] — but I wouldn’t want one in the family”.

  6. 6
    Jackie

    This makes me want to pass out pamphlets that read: Homosexuality! Try it today!

    And what if people did? What would that change? In what way would that be a bad thing?

    Fucking bigots.

  7. 7
    Antares42

    “….and if you are more attracted to your own sex than to the opposite one, that’s OK. You’re still a good person”, which is unacceptable to a lot of parents, and would be deemed “promotion”

    Since when is “that’s OK” a pro-motion? It’s at most an equi-motion, a no-biggie-motion.

    I can see how some parents would object, but then again, we should (the UK gov’t should) not be bending over for their bigotry.

  8. 8
    magistramarla

    That’s why GSA groups scare the shit out of administrations.

  9. 9
    Eamon Knight

    @7: Since when is “that’s OK” a pro-motion? It’s at most an equi-motion, a no-biggie-motion.

    Don’t ask me — I’m just guessing (and hopefully not straw-manning) what certain other parties might say.

  10. 10
    anchor

    @#3:

    “How exactly does one “promote” homosexuality?”

    That threw me too. Then the obvious came to me: the “promotion” of homosexuality is, by their reckoning of the word, any policy that exercises tolerance.

  11. 11
    Gregory Greenwood

    It is altogether too much to expect that a stake had once and for all been driven through the black heart of Section 28 – it is still a firm favourite of homophobic arsehats throughout the UK, and periodic attempts are made to revive it.

    It is one of the many, many reasons why I despise the Conservatives. Even when Cameron apparently speaks out in favour of marriage equality, he makes it clear that he is doing so because he thinks the institution of marriage is this grand, important thing that should be spread as widely as possible, rather than out of any commitment to fighting bigotry or championing gay rights because it is the right thing to do.

    As Antares42 observes @ 1, I am sure that Putin would approve of this development…

  12. 12
    Gregory Greenwood

    Rey Fox @ 4;

    It’s the usual trap where they try to sound reasonable and middle (we just don’t want people promoting homosexuality), when really any acknowledgment that homosexuality exists is considered “promotion”.

    Indeed. This type of homophobe simultaneously want to don the mantle of the ‘reasonable middle ground’ (and are very quick to play the martyr to freeze peach if anyone calls them on their obvious bigotry), while also advocating for a borderline eliminationist rhetoeric that paints homosexuality and gay people as something so corrosive to society, so adominable, that children must be protected from the mere knowledge that gay people even exist. With a mentality like that, it is hard to see much clear water between their position and that of the real hardliners who want to re-criminalise homosexuality.

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    Jackie: The COLOSSAL TOWERING VAGINA! @ 6;

    This makes me want to pass out pamphlets that read: Homosexuality! Try it today!

    And what if people did? What would that change? In what way would that be a bad thing?

    Fucking bigots.

    I know what you mean. It all boils down to the oft repeated homophobic myth of ‘gay conversion’ that is so prevalent among elements of the political right. The idea that there is some grand conspiracy to brianwash people into being gay. They assume that these heinous ‘gay cure’ therapies actually work, and so it follows to their minds that if a homosexual person can be somehow converted into a heterosexual, then a gay person can also ‘turn’ (you know, like in vampire mythology – I somehow doubt that this choice of term was entirely coincidental) a person who would (or, in the nasty authoritarian worldview of the bigots, should) otherwise be straight.

    Trying to explain to such people that you can’t simply choose your sexual orientation anymore than you can choose something like how tall you are is an exercise in futility.

    And as you say, even if a large number of people took the hypothetical leaflet’s advice, it is not as though it would be a bad thing. Those who fall at a 1 on the Kinsey scale (a crude measure, I know, but you get the picture) would simply find that it didn’t do anything for them, and that would be the end of the story, though it might possibly broaden their minds a little in the process. The interesting part is that all these concerned homophobes seem to labour under the curious notion that teh ghey secks is irresistably addictive to pretty much everyone, and that, once tried, few people would ever bother with teh strait secks again, and so society would collpase into anarchy and cannabalism, or something.

    I was once told imperiously by one of these idiots, once he found out that I was straight, that I was lucky that I was a heterosexual, and that this was only the case because ‘responsible adults’ had prevented gay people from ‘getting at me’ while I was still young and impressionable. He seemed completely incapable of grasping the notion that my sexuality was not imposed upon me by other people, and that while I happen to be attracted to women rather than men, that doesn’t mean that I feel any fear of, nor emnity toward, people whose orientation differs from my own.

    He was perhaps the most throroughly immunised against rational argument of any of the bigots I have actually met in fleshspace. Though that still only makes him a small fraction of a Timecube – the internet, of course, sets a rather higher bar for such things…

  13. 13
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    I remember explaining to someone that if you’re not into the same gender, no amount of making it safe for queer folks is going to “tempt” you. You won’t be tempted, because you’re not into that. It was a very odd conversation.

    All this “promotion” is saying is that if you are LGBTQ, you’re not a bad person, and that it’s okay. But hey, what’s a few more queer kid suicides when adult homophobes need to rest easy?

    Every now and then, I find myself pleasantly surprised that I survived adolescence. I really didn’t think I would.

  14. 14
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    FFS. I’m glad to see that apparently our government has sprung into action *snort* and is going to do something about it, but that does little to diminish my anger that these arseholes exist on the same planet as me, let alone the same country.

  15. 15
    Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory

    The “promotion” is also a main way of discriminating against out queer teachers. Because being visibly queer or visible proof that being queer doesn’t actually make one an evil demon from Hell is “promoting” an “unhealthy lifestyle” in the eyes of these fucks.

    I’m willing to bet at least one non-vital organ that when the high-up suits discriminating against me at my teaching job were rationalizing that shit the thought “oh, we’re no bigots, we just don’t think an educational facility should be promoting homosexuality” came up at least once.

    It’s unfortunate, but the Anita Bryant/Margaret Thatcher “queer people can’t be allowed to be teachers, less children catch on its not actually Hitlerism/Satanism” shit sandwich is still alive and well in a lot of the English-speaking world. Which might be one of the chief reasons I teach while firmly back in the closet these days.

  16. 16
    Scientismist

    Extreme deja-vu all over again! It was 35 years ago this Summer that we had this battle in California. It was known as the Briggs Initiative, or Proposition 6 (I still have my “no 6″ button displayed above my desk). Prop 6 would have required the dismissal of any teacher who was openly gay, or who openly supported gay rights in any way, even outside of school. It would have been patently unconstitutional if passed, and even the conservative saint Ronald Regan couldn’t stomach it. To this day I refuse to patronize Carl’s Jr. (the hamburger chain), because Carl Karcher was the biggest financial supporter of the measure. Reading the excuses given for such measures in the UK, and in Russia, is frightening, because it shows that such “Briggotry” is still close to the political surface.

  17. 17
    rodderati

    This is unfortunately a vastly inflated story and PZ, your statement “Proponents of the idiocy then step back and start surreptitiously (and sometimes openly) smuggling it into the classroom” is almost certainly gross overstatement of what’s happening here.

    The British Humanist Association (BHA) did a trawl of school websites looking for policy references to Section 28. Anything looking Section 28-ish they added to their list. Including school policies which, paraphrasing, say “Section 28 doesn’t stop us teaching that there is anything wrong with homosexuality so we will”.

    Evidence? The following policy statement is identified as “High Concern” by the BHA: “There are no restrictions on teaching about lesbian and gay issues. Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 does not in any way prevent the objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom nor the counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality.” Yet the BHA raise this “Of high concern” simply because it references Section 28, not because of the substance of the policy.

    Accusations of poor admin will stick stronger that accusations of ideology smuggling.

    The ultimate irony is that two schools which the BHA have raised concerns about are Stonewall Champion Schools. The BHA confirmed this on a facebook post.

    So while the BHA has successfully raised an issue and made headlines, unfortunately the data they’ve used for it is questionable.

    There are a small number of schools identified where I think there should be concern, but overall I think the BHA have done themselves no favours with this ‘research’ and will and irritated a lot of very good and dedicated educators.

  18. 18
    NelC

    It’s funny, but I heard a Russian spokesman on the BBC today, talking about how necessary it was to protect the children from any exposure to homosexuality, lest they make the wrong decision, and it lead to naked men dancing in the streets. Or something, the chain of paralogia wasn’t clear to me. He also claimed to know a lot of gay Russians who supported the anti-gay laws (of course). And declared that all right-thinking nations must believe the same things, specifically calling out several European nations including the UK as sharing the same attitudes to homosexuality as Russia. Mind you, he also seemed to have learnt in school that Big Ben had been renamed by gays, or something. Bizarre.

  19. 19
    NelC

    Oh, and this Russian spokesman also corrected his interviewer when he used the word “gender”, claiming that it had been invented by homosexuals. Comedy gold.

  20. 20
    Ani J. Sharmin

    Laws don’t change people’s minds, and our opposition knows that — and they’ve got these potent institutions, the churches, that they can use to promote extra-legal policies and attitudes and try to steer the populace back into the Middle Ages.

    People who promote discrimination seem to have a love/hate relationship with laws. They’ll cite the law to claim that different types of discrimination are no longer a problem (like citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as evidence that racism is no longer a problem) but at the same time, they’ll be against equal rights. Then, you’ll have people who think that any civil rights laws are the government going “too far” but that laws that are discriminatory are fine (e.g. government giving marriage licenses to couples regardless of gender is going “too far”, but the government giving marriage licenses to only heterosexual couples is not). Laws that aim to limit the harm people can do based on their discrimination, or programs which aim to educate, are considered bad; laws that help discriminate, which help continue special treatment, are considered good.

    Really, these laws about not “promoting” homosexuality are their way of delaying the age at which people hear about the existence of LGBTQ people. Because if kids know that we exist, it may seem totally normal to them, and they won’t discriminate. But if they don’t hear about it, and then maybe they will see it as weird. Because educators, confused as to how to talk about homosexuality without being accused of “promoting” it by some bigoted parent, may not mention it, the way that some teachers are reluctant to teach evolution properly. So, then the kids will only get the anti-LGBT message, without any pro-equality message.

    I think the people supporting these laws against “promoting” homosexuality hope that kids who are LGBTQ won’t have the words or information to give voice to what they are feeling … and will just “play straight” for the rest of their lives, not being able to identify what they feel. It’s not so much about stopping the spread of homosexuality to more people; it’s about forcing people to stay in the closet to their family and friends and even to themselves.

    Then, there is the added irony of people who claim that school curricula that promote Christianity are really just teaching about it, while claiming that school curricula that teach about LGBTQ people are promoting it.

  21. 21
    cartomancer

    For non-British readers, the word “academies” in the citation is a significant one. It’s not just another word for schools in general, it refers to a specific type of institution:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_%28English_school%29

    Basically, “Academy Schools” (of which there are about 2000 in Britain at the moment) are a special kind of semi-independent secondary school where the vast majority of the funding comes from local government (i.e. taxpayers), but the local government education authorities are not in charge as they are for normal schools. Instead each Academy is run by an independent board of its own directors, very often with a token financial contribution from private business that confers on said business a hefty stake in the running and ethos of the place. They only have to teach the very core of the National Curriculum and are free of most of the usual rules, regulations and standards that normal schools have to abide by. Including, it would seem, most of the equality and diversity regulations. Needless to say people like the fundagelical used car slimeball Peter Vardy have seen this as an opportunity to create schools teaching creationism and the like at the taxpayer’s expense.

    The scheme has been universally decried by Britain’s teachers, teaching unions, and most people whose political leanings are to the left of Genghis Khan, but that doesn’t stop the Tories thinking they’re a wonderful idea (because, hey, surely the more stuff in the hands of big business the better, right? And who cares if it all falls apart – our kids go to Eton anyway) and trying to turn as many schools into them as possible. One hopes that when this aberration of a government finally collapses we’ll be in a position to wipe away such nonsense.

  22. 22
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    This is actually an attempt to restore the historical norm in the UK. It’s less than fifty years since homosexual acts were legalised in the UK- less still in Northern Ireland- and the assumption of the 1967 Act was that homosexuality might be legal now, but it wasn’t approved of and was tolerated faute de mieux. The astonishing thing is how far bigots have been forced onto the defensive and have to find excuses for their repellent beliefs.

  23. 23
    cartomancer

    In terms of numbers, academies now account for about 10% of all British secondary schools, while Private Schools account for about 7%. This means that over 80% of our schools still have to abide by the national guidelines (and those academies are an unknown quantity, since many – perhaps most – will follow them by default or have something even more robust in place).

  24. 24
    John Horstman

    Okay, so here’s the deal with the whole “promotion” of homosexuality thing. It’s a meme in the anti-gay bigot crowd that goes back as far as gay identity has existed (and actually earlier, though back when the focus was on ACTS and not IDENTITY, ‘temptation’ and ‘seduction’ tended to be the words of choice). It’s based on the idea that gay sex is inherently ‘unnatural’, and thus the only reason anyone would engage in it is coercion (or at the very least social pressure). While there are some people who actually still believe this, it’s often used disingenuously to silence any acknowledgement of gay identity or homosex or calls for tollerance or acceptance of gay people, a la Russia.

    That said, it is absolutely possible to actually promote homosexuality:

    Gay sex is awesome. Everyone involved tends to have greater similarity in sexually-responsive body parts, so the odds of one’s sex partner being totally clueless and inept are lower. The majority of gay people are cisgendered, so they were likely exposed to more similar gender socialization, including gendered views of how to best conduct sexual relationships. Gendered differences in relational behavior are a significant source of conflict in relationships, so one can expect lower levels of conflict in gay relationships. Finally, except in the case of a fertile cisgendered person having sex with a fertile transgendered person, there is no risk of unwanted pregnancy, which is a source of worry and stress for many heterosexually active people. In short, if one doesn’t consider the still-broadly-hostile social context, there are a number of objective advantages to homosex over heterosex. Because of that, people should try homosex and/or gay relationships – they might be suprised to discover that they prefer homosexuality.

    That’s what actual promotion of homosexuality might look like. Of course, it wouldn’t need to involve *actual* benefits of homosexuality over heterosexuality (the bisexuals, pansexuals, asexuals, those without human-oriented sexualities, and anyone not fitting into a gender binary are conveniently erased from such a discourse), but I thought that might be a better demonstration for those confused about how promotion of homosexuality would even be possible. Granted, I’ve only seen culture-jamming queer radicals ever actively promote homosexuality just to stick it to the bigots, so fear of ‘gay recruitment’ is entirely irrational, but it’s irrational because it doesn’t really happen, not because it’s impossible.

  25. 25
    richardh

    And declared that all right-thinking nations must believe the same things, specifically calling out several European nations including the UK as sharing the same attitudes to homosexuality as Russia.

    I’m just back from Iceland. The estimated turnout at Reykjavik Pride this year was of the order of 100,000 people. OK, many of those would be visitors, but the population of the entire country is only 300,000. Their idea of “right thinking” is “hey, this is about human rights and solidarity, we all have someone LGBQT in the family, why would we not support them?”

  26. 26
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @John Horstman

    That post made me chuckle :) I’ve occasionally wished I was gay (when I was younger and largely unaware of how bigoted some people can be, and generally after an argument with the girlfriend) for exactly those reasons. Without meaning to diminish the effects of the bigotry aimed at homosexuals, it’s undeniable that there are some advantages :)

  27. 27
    Antares42

    @John Horstmann:

    Academic point well taken, but…

    it’s irrational because it doesn’t really happen, not because it’s impossible.

    …I’m most concerned with what does really happen. And even given your example of promotion, it would still only work for people who already are inclined towards such activities. All the promotion would do is to encourage them to actually act on impulses they already have.

    And -consent always assumed- there’s nothing wrong with that.

  28. 28
    woodworm

    [UK educator and long-time supporter of the British Humanist Association]

    Section 28 (1988-2003) was a vile piece of legislation. It was never actually applied in law: not a single council was prosecuted under it. In fact, lawyers at the time said that it was virtually unenforceable. (What the hell is ‘promoting homosexuality’ anyway?) The conservatives knew this, but passed the law anyway. The law was symbolic: nobody was actively pursued under it, but it just acted as a nasty little figurehead to remind gay people that the government regarded them as second-class citizens. Nasty, shitty law.

    When it was repealed, Cameron voted to keep it. He has since apologised, but hey. Maybe an opportunistic Zeitgeist-sniffer rather than a genuine convert to equality.

    I don’t fully understand rodderati’s post at 17, but it looks like some kind of anti-BHA agenda to me. The fact is that the BHA are trying to root out the remains of creationist agendas and homophobic bigotry in schools. They found 44 schools who had vestiges of Section 28-like wording in their policies. Most of these schools have been embarrassed by this (hell, even the Daily Mail was shocked by it), and have retracted and committed themselves to equal and inclusive policies. In other words, old wasp carcases rather than fresh eggs. BHA clarified this in a statement today.

    The ‘academies’ and ‘free schools’ are worrying, because they are privately-funded and they can partly escape the scrutiny of the regulatory bodies. (Cartomancer at 21 is spot-on.) But still, anyone preaching homophobic shite in a UK school lesson would be fired. Or sacked, as we say over here. If the bigots are making noise, it’s because they’re losing the war.

    tl;dr: yes, it’s shit, but it’s old dried shit and not fresh shit.

  29. 29
    peanutcat

    ““intentionally promoting” homosexuality”

    Y’know, I have NEVER understood what that means. I’ve been a proponent of LGBT rights for years, and as a straight female, I have NEVER felt the need to turn lesbian.

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