Even music and drama classes neglected to reference queer culture…


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From 3:AM Magazine:

It was during the hangover years of Section 28 (an amendment to the Local Government Act of 1988 which banned the promotion of homosexuality in the classroom in England and Wales until 2003) that I attended a comprehensive school in Derby, a former industrial town-turned-city in the English Midlands. Looking back, it was an odd time to be a queer school pupil, attempting to find my place in a vast, confusing world and conscious of the difficulties I knew people like me could face. All of this was likely influenced by the fact that my hometown was far from cosmopolitan. Even today, queer culture lives and breathes more deeply in our capital cities, and so growing up in a small, unremarkable place where that culture is inaccessible was a challenge. But in school, that peculiarly artificial environment, I was entirely aware of the difference between myself and my peers, and the curriculum only worked to enforce the divisions and hierarchies at play.

Although Section 28 had, by this point, been repealed and discussions of sexual- and gender-difference were technically legal, nothing changed magically overnight. Teachers were not all of a sudden willing to broach the topic of queerness, after having spent the previous fifteen years being reminded that it was illegal to do so. Looking back now, I know that what I sensed then was a fear, very much alive among staff, that sexuality was still a taboo subject. And, as such, my educational experience was framed in a certain light. One which didn’t leave much space for me to fully explore, understand or articulate my own identity.

In lessons, the concept of queerness would seldom be a topic of discussion. In fact, there was little mention of sexuality or gender identity in any arts or humanities class. The civil rights movements of the twentieth century weren’t discussed in history, few queer authors were studied in English literature. Even music and drama classes neglected to reference the queer culture that texts on the curriculum responded to. This absence of queer culture from the curriculum massively contributes to the way in which queer school pupils view themselves, and equally influences the way in which the rest of the classroom views them. If we intend to make school a wholly inclusive experience for all, then it is paramount that the topic of queerness plays a more prominent role in the arts and humanities syllabus.

“Queering the Classroom”, Elliot Ramsey, 3:AM Magazine