What is the right time to introduce to young adults about diversity and sexual orientation becomes a major concern for many.
Feminist and activist, Purnima addresses various issues on gender, sexuality and education. She suggests ways that can be incorporated in our education system and methods of sensitising the elders and parents when it comes to educating the young adults on LGBTQs.
The most important question that then follows is, ‘What is the right time to educate children/youngsters on LGBTQs’.
With it arises another dilemma, ‘is it at all possible to go ahead with this kind of teaching?
Creating awareness and educate the young adults on LGBTQ
Sex education has been a part of school curriculum for the last few decades. It is a good thing that during such classes even small kids are taught about very important aspects of touch and feel-good and bad, about owns safety, about safe sex and so on. Yet the question that often sets us pondering is ‘Will it ever be possible to teach children about LGBTQs’.
These doubts are bound to occur as the majority do not perceive LGBTQs as being ‘normal’, which is why they shy away from discussing such issues with growing children (read adolescents). Actually our education system has turned so structured and so very affected by our social system that it is the same set pattern of books that the children are exposed to year after year.
Purnima suggests that there are possibilities that awareness can be created even through mainstream education just by tweaking a little within the textbooks—When it comes to contents, illustrations and stories and characters, we can start breaking away from stereo-type set-patterns. Elaborating on the prevailing patterns in the textbooks, Purnima points out how everything revolves around a conventional structure especially when it comes to people and their stories. So we have a set idea that defines a family and that would definitely include, grandparents, parents and a boy and a girl. These notions are set very early in school life.
While there is no harm in introducing a family with such set-patterns, the children should also be apprised of existing facts that may include a single parent, same sex parents and adoption. To elucidate her point, she aptly uses ‘our hand’ as a symbol and says there are so many diversities in there as well. We know about it and expect different elements as we talk or look at our own hands. In the same way, she goes on to explain, diversities within a family should be introduced in the textbooks which will, with time, be accepted as ‘normal’. This way we do not need to talk of queerness separately. People will know they are off the so-called ‘normal’ situations.
Understanding diversities will help understand LGBTQs
If a boy likes to wear skirts and not trousers, but the text books say only pants-we can see that a certain spectrum has not been touched upon at all. Only textbooks alone will not help! The school administration should have a broad mind-set—activities and curriculums should be open to choices that helps adolescents learn about the different possibilities and spectrums of a society. It should be in the natural flow of regular education not be jarring or separate at any point.
Parents and care-givers can also be educated in meetings. Awareness should be created among them so that they too are sensitive towards their children’s needs, including sex-orientation.
Support for LGBTQ within family and from counsellors is very important
Once there is support within the family, possibly from an uncle, an aunt, a grand-parent, an elder or younger sibling, sometimes a neighbour, the child can open up without any reservation which in the long run will not create doubts or insecurities. Often if a child mentions anything that is not perceived as ‘normal’ by the society the family gets ruffled to the extent that the child is compelled into not discovering one’s needs be it at the physical or emotional level which can turn out to precipitate into worse scenarios in the long run.
Often out of social pressures or confusion driven by poor education parents rust to mental health clinics and consult psychologists or psychiatrists. Purnima with her own exposure in her work says, “Counsellors have their own anxiety-they too don’t want to be misunderstood-so they are not often clear what and how to address the parents/teachers/ children in situations.
Understanding the transgender community
Moving to issues faced by the transgender community, Purnima says even in this group, sadly, there too exists an hierarchy. This community is more stigmatised and more conscious of their bodies as well because they do not fall into a typical man or woman body type as gays and lesbians (despite their orientation). There are two main diversities among the transgender: one is the male to female type which is very visible and pretty much common and the other is female to male is not visible as much. Within that spectrum, we should talk categorically of trans-gender-men and trans-gender-women but all the time the two are clubbed together and referred to as trans-genders, this clearly reveals the hierarchy among them.
Things are moving, people are being educated and enlightened about the diversity (LGBTQ community in our country). That is all that can be said for now as we continue to endeavour to make things work in their favour in the coming years, hoping for the best.