Family First and Lily Allen

When Family First made it clear Rainbow Youth was in it’s sights, it took precisely seven days for a story to appear in mainstream media about a parent not liking Rainbow Youth.  If that wasn’t enough to make you wonder, how about the fact that the story appeared on Stuff, rather than the Herald?  Rainbow Youth deliver services in schools in Auckland, not the lower North Island which is Stuff’s domain. This reporter didn’t find the story in her local beat, someone fed it to her.

Let’s deconstruct.  After a brief introduction about a father being concerned his son is being exposed to material he doesn’t like, we get:

The teenage boy said two of the presenters introduced themselves to the class as lesbians, one who was attracted to transsexual girls, while the third said he had been a woman attracted to women but became a man “with a vagina”.

The teenager said the first lesson was “OK” and the message was that there were multiple gender identities. But he felt the second lesson was “quite weird”. It looked at homophobia and how society treated people labelled as “other”.

It’s fortunate we have the last sentence.  Because let’s try this another way:

The student said two presenters introduced themselves as heterosexuals, one who was attracted to girls, while the other said he was a man “with a penis”.

None of the Stuff paragraph works unless we’re quite excited about lesbians and trans men, and really not sure if they should be in our classrooms.

But of course, both queer and trans identified people are already in our classrooms.  Studying, teaching and stuff.  There’s other queer and trans identified people on television, making music, writing blogs, playing sport, having huge followings on social media, in our families.  Because we are everywhere.

And talking about people’s genitals?  So brave for the Rainbow Youth presenter to put himself out there to help kids who are not sure why their body doesn’t fit their sense of self realise there are a whole heap of gender fluid options available – but since when is talking about people’s genitals in a newspaper article “in quotation marks” anything less than “othering”?

Then Stuff say:

“I think they were trying to say that being gay is all good but to me and quite a few of the people in my class, it came across like they were saying ‘it’s great and you guys should follow on with it’.”  His father assumed, “rightly or wrongly”, that sex education would be more generic and mainstream not “the weird and wonderful of the world’s sexuality”.
“I don’t think that is the right thing to be exposing 14 and 15-year-old kids to.”

Lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transpeople and intersex people are not “weird and wonderful”.  We are just people.  Rainbow Youth are helping queer and trans teenagers be safer and less likely to hate themselves by modelling our existence.  Rainbow Youth are helping heterosexual cis-gendered young people learn the world isn’t as simple as homophobic and gender policing people would have you believe – and when that’s your parents, the learning might take a little longer.

The father who’s worried about “exposure” to queer narratives needs to get out more.  But the dog-whistling here is all about the fragility of heterosexuality and traditional gender norms.  What happens if our kids start wanting to change genders, or kiss genders other than the ones we want them to?  Is Rainbow Youth teaching our kids to be queer?

This is hatred, endorsed by a sleeping media.  Why is Stuff printing these views without investigating where they come from?  Why are they printing these views without pointing out what we know about queer youth experience – that it’s hard being queer?

Family First have nothing to do with my beautiful queer and logical family, or my beautiful straight and biological family – and I wish they would stay the hell away from young New Zealanders learning how to make our world a more humane, caring and joyful place.

I’m not into dog whistling, I’m a little more, well, out there, so Family First this is for you:

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2 thoughts on “Family First and Lily Allen

  1. Thanks, this is a very sensible piece. My son, who is 17 and who has Asperger’s, came out as gay a couple years ago. I have always been totally supportive (as have all our family) and looked around for some kind of club he could join as he’s pretty socially isolated due to his Asperger’s. Rainbow Youth run a club for LGBTQ youth, called GQ, and it is the most brilliant gathering, with the most fantastic facilitators and other attendees, and often interesting guests as well. My son still goes every fortnight, and the club has provided him with a peer group of other LGBTQ kids who he would otherwise never have met, and thus never felt part of a like-minded community unless GQ existed. I hate the thought of Rainbow Youth losing funding, and Family First is such a misnomer for what seems in fact to be a hate group – it certainly doesn’t speak for my family. Thanks for your regular articles: great writing.

    • Thank you Vivienne, your story neatly illustrates how important Rainbow Youth are – I’m so glad your son has connections with people who value him as he is, outside his biological family. We all need that. And lovely to hear your love and care for him too 🙂

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