Sunday, 17 May 2009

IDAHO - a Manx perspective

Today is IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia), a chance to annually take stock of local or international battles to rid our communities of a blight on humanity. On the Isle of Man few community leaders are openly homophobic any more, but compared to the UK we’re still rednecks.
Take Liverpool or Belfast for a comparison. In both cities the council openly supports gay pride and IDAHO events. In the Isle of Man the nearest we got to a gay pride event was in about 2005, when the local gay group (now pretty much defunct) held a coffee morning with local employers and government officials at which they tried to lay out the current situation.
In schools the situation is similar. We should take heart that during the public debate about equalisation of the age of consent one of the strongest reprimands to the dimwit lay preacher posing as an Education Minister at the time came from sixth formers at a local school. On the other hand, it was the only secondary school on the island where an evangelical Christian isn’t at least second or third in charge. The situation is now so bad that when the island’s only C of E primary school advertised (strictly speaking illegally, incidentally, in Manx law) for a ‘committed Christian’ head teacher they had to settle for a sheep from one of the island’s two most extreme evangelical flocks instead.
So, determined on this day to find someone Manx doing something positive on the issue, let me direct you to a letter written by a veteran gay activist who at least grew up over here to the UK’s Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls.
George Broadhead’s family kept a large and classy boarding house in Douglas in the ‘bucket and spade brigade’ era. He moved away to university and, as many bright folk do, did not return. But he did go on to help found GALHA and be involved in many of the classic gay rights struggles late last century. While officially ‘retired’ as secretary of GALHA (a post he held from the start) he is still very active.
George was also, I think, the first Manxman to openly declare himself gay in a Manx newspaper. That was during a quite nasty era leading up to partial decriminalisation in 1991. It was so bitter, and the resentment so long lasting, that even I’m still blacklisted from involvement or employment by some major public sector and voluntary groups. My ‘crime’ was just to say then in local print that decriminalisation would indicate Manx civilisation was not an oxymoron.
On behalf of the Pink Triangle Trust, George recently wrote to protest about further exemptions to faith schools which will let them get away with preaching superstitious poison about sexuality.
The full text of that letter reads:

‘As a gay educational charity, we were shocked to learn that the new government plans to compel all schools to teach sex education will allow faith schools to educate pupils in line with their religious beliefs.
It seems that a get-out clause for faith schools will permit them to present sex education “in line with the context, values and ethos” of the schools and clearly this will permit them to tell pupils (in line with the teachings in their holy books) that lesbian and gay sexual relationships are morally wrong.
Homophobic bullying plagues the majority of our schools and shocking levels of bullying are meted out to school pupils and teachers who either are gay or perceived to be gay. That is the conclusion of a wide-ranging study carried by the gay equality organisation Stonewall. The study found that nearly two thirds of lesbian and gay pupils reported instances of homophobic harassment and significantly this figure jumps to 75% for those attending faith schools.
When this survey was issued, you yourself pledged to stamp out all forms of bullying in schools.
It is surely unacceptable that a large proportion of our schools should be allowed to tell their pupils that same-sex relationships are wrong with the inevitable consequence that anti-gay bullying will increase.’

As of the publication a few days ago of the latest issue of G&LH, there had been no reply from Ed Balls or his office.
For more on the letter, go to!.htm.
But why stop there?
The entire issue is, again, a rich mix of well argued opinion, vital information and humour. So just read it all at .

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