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When is a Good Time to Speak to Our Kids About Sexuality?

Coming back to our nation, bullying is still commonplace, and there has been little done to prevent it. Even the anti-ragging law has not been updated to include the mention of sexual orientation or gender identity anywhere. Laws such as Section 377 have been used as an excuse to invalidate the need for sexuality education. However, people are still in a state of denial that we need to act in a state of urgency when it comes to addressing the mental health of growing up queers.

Harish Iyer |

Updated:May 23, 2018, 4:59 PM IST
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When is a Good Time to Speak to Our Kids About Sexuality?
File photo of LGBT pride march. (Image for representation only)
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Today, on International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we inherited Section 377 that criminalises non heterosexual sex between humans from the British. However, it is interesting to note that the British themselves have moved ahead to even recognise gay marriages. I would like to rely on our old colonial rulers for the same. Last year, the University of Cambridge published a research on homophobia, transphobia and biphobia faced in schools. The research findings revealed that 45% of LGBT people were bullied for their gender identity or/and sexual orientation. 86% have heard phrases like “you are so gay” and around 40% of LGBT students have not been taught anything about LGBT issues in school.

Coming back to our nation, bullying is still commonplace, and there has been little done to prevent it. Even the anti-ragging law has not been updated to include the mention of sexual orientation or gender identity anywhere. Laws such as Section 377 have been used as an excuse to invalidate the need for sexuality education. However, people are still in a state of denial that we need to act in a state of urgency when it comes to addressing the mental health of growing up queers.

Presently, I know of some schools that have introduced “safety education” “personal safety education” as a part of their school curriculum. Sex education is a part of these headers. The reason they do so is because parents and guardians may object to sex education if it is so explicitly mentioned. As far as political views are concerned, in a nation where our elected representatives watch porn in the Assembly, it should not be surprising that sex education programmes are taking forever to be implemented. Sexuality education is another ball game altogether.

I applaud the government for the Saathiya app that is aimed at adolescents, and mentions that it is okay to have same sex attraction. However there needs to be more focused approach towards educating children.

Sia (name changed), 25, was reprimanded in high school for writing a love letter to a fellow classmate of her own gender. Chances are, that if she wrote this love letter for a guy, she would have still been rebuked and be told that there is a good time for everything. However, this time she was told that it is shameful that she wrote a letter to a girl. She was told it was unnatural.

As she grew, there was a deep sense of hatred towards her sexuality. She did well in her studies, because she used her studies as a form of revolt. When she turned adolescent and then an adult, her anger also increased. She became a more reserved person, trying to deal with her sexuality. Depression caught up with her eventually and one day she tried slashing her writs. It took her several more years and many therapists to accept her sexuality. Her family, is actually very accepting of her sexuality, but it took her many years to come to terms with her own sexuality. Things would have been better and she would have been saved several years of depression if her school did not take action against her that would make her believe that she is doing a sin for getting attracted to the same gender.

When it comes to boys, many of them, especially those who are “feminine”, get bullied in school and amongst peers. Bullying is often seen as “harmless pranks”. There is no protection for these children either in school.

In fact, as “feminine” boy, my PT teacher would regularly tell me that I need “be a man” and “hit the ball like a man” and “stand like a man”. I always fell short. I had no one to complain to, simply because even those who I could complain to at home and at school were all telling me the same thing – be a man. Looking back, I feel bad for my classmates, because today they are etched in my memory as a bully, and sex and sexuality education for my peers in school would have stopped them being a bully.

It is often said that children have the purest of hearts. Discrimination is a taught trait. Schools are not just temples of learning, they are also temples of unlearning. It should be the responsibility of every institution to help children unlearn the prejudices. And that can happen only when children are told that they can grow up to be the truest version of themselves and are told that all kinds of love and all kinds of genders deserve respect and natural. No, sexuality education will not turn children LGBT, but if they are LGBT it will give them courage to embrace themselves and if they are not queer, it will encourage them to not be a queer-phobe.

This IDAHOBIT, I hope that we start from our roots and ensure that queer phobia is eradicated forever and children understand that they need to respect the person for who they are beyond who they love and what gender they choose to be addressed as. ​

(The author is an LGBT rights activist. Views are personal.)

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