ANYTHING. If we had any worries or troubles we were to speak to them. Sounds good right? No matter how liberal your parents or guardians might be there are some things you just can't tell the person who used to change your nappies and read you bed time stories during your days of clear skin and comfort in your body. A teacher you respect is a good candidate for a confidant.
This is the part of the story where I wish I could tell you I stood up and said what an irresponsible thing to say that was. How it endorsed the rampant teenage boy homophobia rife among most schools (in my experience lesbianism is not contemplated [other than by young gay girls of course] until college) and completely shat from a great height on the message of understanding he'd promised the teachers would provide. But I didn't. I sat on my stool (oh yeah, my form room was a science lab) silently until it was time for first lesson.
Years later I saw this popular boy walking down the street with his boyfriend. He'd been honest and frank that day and hadn't been given the honour of time or tolerance. That's my fault.
I should make clear this is not an attack on Catholic schools incidentally. I suppose it is rather on my own Catholic school - every time I drove passed during driving lessons I would stall because I was too busy fighting a knee jerk anxiety whilst simultaneously thinking "burn" as I looked at the building (drivers amongst you will know I should have been looking at the road). But I recall this because, while it is not the worst incident of homophobia in school by far, it is a sign of how we deal with sexuality and identity in school.
We don't deal. The most frightening thing about growing up is realising nobody has the answers but we can still provide tools to get through life. The new draft of the National Curriculum is missing "gender identity" which was included in February 2013. It now reads: "Teachers should take account of their duties under equal opportunities legislation that covers disability, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation." (page 8)
Anything resembling Section 28's attitude should surely be pointed out not as an alarmist strategy but as a necessity
Simon Blake, the CEO of the fantastic charity Brook, writing about the massive inability governing bodies et al might have in identifying a good SRE curriculum, warns in a blog however that calling Section 28 may not contribute to a healthier sex education: "Whilst this is far far less than ideal and shows how much more needs to be done I still think it is unhelpful to describe these policies as reintroducing Section 28."
I do not have the SRE education experience Blake has, but for our children's safety we need to be sure we are providing them with language and tools to negotiate sexuality and identity. Anything resembling Section 28's attitude should surely be pointed out not as an alarmist strategy but as a necessity. I want the words cis and trans* to be in everyone's vocabulary and identity to be a topic we are able to properly discuss.
And I want those appointed as authoritative listeners to have the language and capacity to help.