Words by Ella Wylynko
On the 12th of July 2017 The Daily Telegraph released an article titled ‘Fat Chance Of Being Healthy.’ Alongside drugs, alcohol and obesity, the layout of the article mistakenly suggested another reason why teenagers only have themselves to blame, was their same-sex attraction.
With 16.8% of teenagers openly admitting they feel attracted to people of their gender or other genders, we surely have a health crisis! It’s undeniable that LGBT+ kids have higher rates of mental illness, specifically depression – 50% of transgender teenagers have attempted suicide! But being queer is not inherently a mental illness, and they only correlate highly due to the stigma and discrimination teenagers are faced with, particularity in schools. Although a representative of the Daily Telegraph apologised, stating it wasn’t meant to be received that way, they already further cemented existing ideologies.
Pointing blame isn’t going to end the suffering, but schools are a vital component in a teenager’s understanding of themselves and others. A time of socialisation, self-discovery and fundamentally, education. Currently religious schools can legally discriminate against teachers and students who are queer. Combine religion and same sex education and the product is virtually no LGBT+ sex education occurring in schools.
When schools fail to acknowledge a fundamental part of someone’s character it perpetrates the idea that it is inappropriate, wrong and inferior. People aren’t born homophobic, like people aren’t born racist. Eighty percent of homophobic bullying occurs within schools. If LGBT+ related issues aren’t normalised inside education systems, discrimination and unconscious bias will continue into adulthood. Prejudice and exclusion are the key factors of LGBT+ youth mental illness, suicidal actions and thoughts.
In a society so obsessed with safety, rules and regulations how can kids stay safe, if they aren’t taught anything in health class but heterosexual relationships? Information overlaps as sex is essentially sex, despite the position, and honestly what does it even mean to be a virgin?
Relationship sex must be differentiated from the sex and gender of a person. Most people are cisgender (whether they are aware of it or not) – their gender identity assigns with their biological sex, but some people fall outside of this box. This is separate from sexuality, which is a spectrum of who you are attracted to, from no one to any person of any gender. Schools should have a responsibility to provide a safe space for kids to understand themselves and learn to respect others, protect themselves from STD’s and not marginalise people. Discrimination can be direct verbally and physically, but underneath indirect bigotry is faced, as LGBT+ youth second guess peoples’ thoughts, over analyse and acting according to others’ expectations. This can greatly affect their happiness, increase anxiety and decrease overall wellbeing. When kids feel alone, isolated and empty, suicide can feel like the only viable option.
Education of LGBT+ issues should be integrated within schooling, rather than making a separation between ‘them’ and ‘us’. Kids should be taught to never make assumptions about sex, gender identity and sexuality.
NB: The author did not supply an image for this piece, we chose a humdinger ourselves.