I’ve held fire blogging on this article in the DomPo yesterday because I wanted to see if the issue – same-sex partners at school balls – was picked up by the Sunday Star Times.
It hasn’t been, so here goes. The article quotes Rainbow Youth, a group for non-heterosexual young people:
Rainbow education officer Serafin Dillon knows of four Auckland colleges that do not allow same-gender ball partners unless pupils sign contracts stating their sexual orientation.
She would not name the schools but said their policies were discriminatory and breached the Bill of Rights.
According to the article, the Human Rights Commission agrees this is discrimination.
I’m kinda amazed at this story, and very much hoping we hear more. What do these ‘contracts’ look like?
“I confirm that I am in fact lesbian/gay/bisexual, and that I have sex with my ball partner”??
Do straight students have to confirm they are having sex with their ball partner too?
Do the schools think the contracts will act as potential money spinners later? You know, sort of a ‘Jane Smith becomes a top judge, but we know she’s a lesbian ha ha?’ Because I have to say, anyone brave enough to come out at school is unlikely to go back in the closet again later. While coming out is something queer people do over and over, not just once, it gets easier with practice.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teenagers. According to New Zealand’s suicide prevention strategy (my emphasis):
The higher risk of suicidal behaviour amongst GLB young people may reflect a series of factors that together increase the occurrence of mental health problems and thereby suicidal behaviour in this population. Some research suggests that social prejudices, homophobic attitudes, victimisation and harassment increase the vulnerability of GLB young people to mental health problems.
Do schools think contracts will help reduce prejudice, homophobic attitudes, victimisation and harassment? Is there another contract, for straight teenagers perhaps, along the lines of:
“I promise not to bully anyone signing the other contract” ??
I am wondering too, about how flexible the contracts are. Are you, for example, allowed to say you really fancy this one girl, but you also kinda like the boy you play tennis with? Or do you have to button yourself into the straitjacket of identifying forever with the person you took to the school ball at age 17?
Personally, I would find that a little terrifying – the boy I went to my school ball with was funny, cute, smart and a very considerate lover. But he certainly wasn’t enough to base my whole sexual identity around.
Kudos to the DomPo and Lane Nicholls for the story – my only criticism would be the need to keep the language inclusive – not all non-heterosexual people are ‘gay’ as the article assumes.
Bisexuality continues to be left out of both straight and gay agendas, and I don’t think I can say that any better than Ani Difranco so here she is: