Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bisexuals go back to school

You'll see them here, there and everywhere - kids in their new school uniforms, hyped up for the new term. It might be hotter in London than it was a month ago but no matter: it's time to knuckle down to work.
And of course, for some it will be hell.
As reported in Pink News, Stonewall is conducting a survey of young people to see how extensive homophobic bullying is, and the forms it takes. Early results indicate it's every-bloody-where.
The people I know who work in schools and colleges (ie with kids up to 19) report that anti-gay feelings among the young people are extraordinarily widespread. One teacher, working in an inner-city college, told me that the kids were very keen indeed to know whether he was gay, being gay seeming to encompassing every kind of badness. Actual same-sex behaviour wasn't all that they were concerned about: they were very keen on being ultra-masculine or feminine, and they wanted everyone else to be like that too. Another is aware that several of her students are gay but this is a secret that stops with her. Essentially, she protects them from their classmates.
Then of course there's the wide use of the word "gay" as an insult by young people, even on the BBC (DJ Chris Moyles on Radio 1, which was widely reported). But "gay" couldn't be seen as an insult unless being gay was also thought of as something dreadful. After all, no one says, "oh this book is blue-eyed/ vegetarian / flowery. Even liberal adults who don't seem homophobic sometimes say it.
This kind of homophobia in young people seems to have got more entrenched if anything, perhaps because queerness in general has a somewhat higher profile these days. When I was at school, girls were occasionally called "lezzers" but no one really believed they were as no one had ever actually met, or seen, or heard of, a real lesbian.
But I also read a piece recently about how more high school girls (this is in the US) are "making out" with their female friends in order to entice boys. Some of them, allegedly, are as young as 13. It seems likely to me, though, that these girls are completely heterosexual and just doing it for the boys. If you were really keen on another girl, it seems more plausible that you would feel very nervous about being outed, about being rejected.
However, the same piece also claims that gay teenagers are coming out younger. It says that schools with gay/straight alliances make it easier for youngsters to come out. We don't have them in the UK, I don't think, but it seems clear that in progressive or liberal schools, young people are more likely to be accepted whatever their sexuality, and will therefore be able to come out. A boy at my own son's school did precisely that, making an announcement at school assembly. Apparently no one was particularly surprised or bothered. And people using "gay" as an insult were considered downright unsophisticated.
So, if you're a queer student, there's a lesson for you. Make sure you go to the right school. And for that, you need to have the right parents, live in the right catchment area, and make sure there aren't too many religious zealots around.
Good luck! I really hope you don't need it.

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