Beasts of Gor hits UK schools

I was gob smacked to discover that the sex-education pamphlet, recently sanctioned by Michael Gove the Education Secretary, for use in all Catholic secondary schools in Lancashire is not only homophobic,  contains incorrect assertions (that gay mens’ life expectancies are smaller than heterosexual men) but also contains a description taken straight from John Norman’s classic sci fi novel Beasts of Gor (which is in turn taken from the 1881 account of the US expedition in the Arctic to find the Franklin papers) about how to kill a wolf.  Huh? You may ask?

The pamphlet in question is written by American Evangelist Jason Evert, who also brings his expertise to bear on contraception (whilst he  admits that the rhythm method of contraception- based on a woman’s fertility cycle doesnt work, he instead promotes  Natural Family Planning -er… also based on a womans fertility cycle…. and only used by c. 2% of sexually active Catholic women in America) and who, on homosexuality, tells us; “‘The homosexual act is disordered much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals”

The pamphlet itself  is entitled ‘Pure Manhood: How to Become the Man God Wants You To Be’.  Taken with Michael Gove’s other recent dealings with sexual orientation ( see A New Clause 28 below) it seems as though anything is allowable – falsehood, even sci fi – in order to pursue an anti-gay agenda in schools.  When tasked by the TUC that the pamphlet was homophobic  his reply – in a time when trans and gay students are still severely bullied – is telling:

The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.

However, Mr Gove  – as sexual orientation and gender including gender re- assignment are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, the way in which a school deals with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans pupils is covered by the Act.

  • It is illegal to discriminate against, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil with reference to; admissions; in the way in which education is provided; in access to any benefit, facility or service and /or by subjecting them to exclusion or any other detriment.
  • It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their relationship or association with someone else of protected status e.g. a gay parent.

It will be interesting to see if any test case occurs around this.



 

 

A New Clause 28?

So there is a clause in the new funding agreement for Academies and Free Schools that will ensure that children are;

” protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children”

And, it also bans the use of ‘inappropriate materials’ in schools.

And, with a breathtaking disregard for the echoes of the infamous Clause 28 of the Local Govt Act 1988 (that banned Local Authorities from ‘the promotion of homosexuality’ and the notion of ‘pretended family relationships’),  it is also listed as para ( or clause) 28 of the document.

Coincidence?  Insensitivity?  A breathtaking disregard for the past?  A message to those who would like to see Clause 28 ( a là 1987) return? Or a storm in a teacup?

According to Matthew Sephton Chair of LGBTory “It’s a total non-story….Funding agreements under the last government had exactly the same wording. It’s in the Education Act 2000 section 148 and the exact wording is copied into the funding agreement.”

Unfortunately, Mr Sephton this is both inaccurate and a bit disingenuous –it is actually drawn from the SRE guidelines  and a look at both clauses show the differences:

Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, July 2000

Pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. But the Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore pupils should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances.

The new guidelines signed off by Michael Gove:

Free School Model Funding Agreement and Academy Model Funding Agreement, July 2011

“The Academy Trust shall have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State on sex and relationship education to ensure that children at the academy are protected from inappropriate teaching materials and they learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children.”

The second one has all references to the recognition of ‘strong, mutually supportive relationships outside marriage’ and even ‘stable relationships’ removed and the insertion of ‘inappropriate materials’ is worrying. Who gets to decide what is inappropriate? Could it be used to ban the mentioning of same sex relationships?

Clause 28 blighted people’s lives; it closed down many worthwhile organisations and stopped others from applying for funding; it stopped books magazines and teaching materials about LGBT people from being used in schools and it put many teachers and Local Authority workers in fear of coming out in their employment by opening them up to false accusations based on their sexual orientation.  It set back equal rights for gay people or others with ‘pretended’ family relationships for decades and has left LGBT issues still as the most misunderstood on the Equalities spectrum and ‘gay’ as a derogatory word in schools.

Let us hope this is not the first step onto the slippery slope of inequality in schools again.

 

 

Grim News 1st Dec 2011 – World AIDS Day

Reading the papers today I was interested to see Hilary Clinton’s anticipation of an AIDS-free generation ; ” As the world scales up the most effective prevention methods, the number of new infections will go down, and it weill be possible to treat more people than are becoming infected each year…” This would be inspiring  – were it not for  few inescapable facts. Whilst the advance in use of anti-retroviral drugs has helped many people with AIDS survive, it is still on the increase ( 2.7 million people each year for the last 5 years) and now the global austerity measures threaten the gains that have been made.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is to call off its latest funding round. The fund currently supports some 70% of all funding for anti-retroviral drugs in developing nations and many of them are anticipating a consequent surge in AIDS related deaths and new infections. At present,  less than half those needing treatment for HIV are getting it. (According to Prof Diana Gibb of the UK Medical Research Council).

Additionally, I cannot help but reflect on the damage that hatred & homophobia which lead to the classifying of AIDS as a ‘gay disease’ has done. Back in the 1980s  when the first cases of AIDS appeared –  it was amongst gay men and didn’t they pay for it! The prejudice against gay men at the time meant that  the opportunity to eradicate it or at least mitigate the spread by taking care of those with the disease and by research and education were all but missed. AIDS patients were often left in their beds in hospitals with food being pushed through the door by frightened nursing staff. Churches refused to bury those that died.

Today I read that the AIDS clinic in Kiev has been asked to close its doors to its 1,500 patients because the monastery next door does not want ‘homosexuals and drug users’ on their land (they own the land the clinic is situated on). Apparently they, and the President of the Ukraine (who gave permission for the closure order) would prefer a hotel on the spot.

Until homophobia,  poverty, the stigma attached to sex workers and the inequality that gives women no control over their sexuality is tackled we will never have an AIDS free generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bigots from the woodwork…

Earlier I mentioned the death of Elizabeth Taylor and her support for LGBT rights and for people with AIDS. It now seems that her funeral will be picketed by members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church whose enlightened comments have previously targeted Matthew Shepherd – victim of a homophobic murder ( “He is rotting in hell”),  gay people in general (“God hates fags”) and anyone they can associate with supporting LGBT rights. In their  latest vicious outpourings they refer to Elizabeth Taylor as a “…proud whore who is now in hell…”

In Ancient Egypt there seems to have been a requirement ( for the soul to pass on) for at least one remaining living person to grieve their passing. Well all I can say is there will be many people who grieve Elizabeth Taylor. I doubt that the same can be said for any one hate filled member of this so called Church.

 

23rd March 2011 Elizabeth Taylor – “’She Lived’

And so Elizabeth Taylor has died. She will be remembered  – not only for her brilliance on screen but also for her loyalty to her friends – including gay friends such as Montgomery Clift and Rock Hudson (the first major celebrity to come out as someone with AIDS).

Elizabeth Taylor was a beautiful woman and played beautiful women in films such as Giant ( with Rock Hudson & James Dean),Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or   Reflections in a Golden Eye  but she was also unafraid to play cantankerous, slovenly, grumpy or eccentric women. Her portrayal of Martha opposite Richard Burton’s George in “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was mesmerising  – the edge of hysteria and sheer viciousness of her character gained her a richly deserved Oscar for best actress in 1967.

In recent years her ill health prevented her from attending the fund raiser in Cannes for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (which she founded in the 1980s when AIDS was a hugely unpopular cause) but it continues without her.

Elizabeth Taylor was not afraid to buck the trend in her private life, her acting career or in her support for people with AIDS, -– she will be remembered by many with that same loyalty and with admiration.

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