lgbt

The Absence of LGBTQ+ Sex Education

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At the start of 2017, our government blocked compulsory LGBTQ+ sex and relationship education. On reading about this decision, and being asked to write on sex education for Anthem, I realised how lacking my own sex education was in the mid-noughties. It is a crying shame that my friends and I were so ill informed back then, let alone as teenagers are now in 2017.

We were taught about biology, not pleasure, and definitely not consent. It was very male centric, with the attitude that ‘boys will be boys’. Girls were taught to allow boys to experience these new feelings and to be kind to them if they get an unwelcome erection in your presence. Female masturbation, however, was an afterthought; described to us using a video of a woman on an exercise bike (which made exercise bikes very confusing for a time). 

Being taught sex education in a Catholic school meant that the word ‘contraception’ was mentioned once in reference to the use of a condom, but no instructions on how to use one. Again sex was seen as a means to an end, that end being babies. We were not taught about consent, what it is to be in a healthy relationship, porn, sexting, mental and physical abuse, and I never once heard the word clitoris.  

I was taught that sex was all about the sperm fertilising the egg, and a woman’s main role was as a mother. This left no room for discovery or intimacy, certainly not if you identified as anything other than heterosexual. We were taught sex education with the same attitude that my great grandmother had about LGBTQ people. When my grandma informed her that there were lesbians in the WRENS (Women of the Royal Naval Service), her mother replied: ‘”Don’t be silly, women don’t do that”. She didn’t even think it was possible. When I had my sex education, sex seemed a far off thing as the boys at my school either annoyed me or scared me. At this point, an attraction to women didn’t seem to be an option. It was not until I was twenty, and watching The L Word that this part of life would make sense to me. Coming out as bisexual in 2016 put a lot of things into perspective, especially how society views sex, and how culture comments on it. I was looking for representations of myself and found them to be few and far between.

When I had my sex education, sex seemed a far off thing as the boys at my school either annoyed me or scared me. At this point, an attraction to women didn’t seem to be an option. It was not until I was twenty, and watching The L Word that this part of life would make sense to me. Coming out as bisexual in 2016 put a lot of things into perspective, especially how society views sex, and how culture comments on it. I was looking for representations of myself and found them to be few and far between.

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On researching the reasons behind this absence in sex education, the common train of thought behind not teaching LGBTQ inclusive sex ed was the worry behind promoting the lifestyle. This thought process is wrong on many levels, the worst being that like all prejudices, it puts one person’s life above another; it teaches that heterosexuality is the norm. I mean, when was the last time someone came out as straight? I have read many articles and watched many videos on heteronormativity, and can see that this is where the absence stems from. From the government right down to schools and parents, people assume people’s sexual orientation, therefore assuming LGBTQ+ are in the minority. This leads to exclusion, and people feeling devalued. I have never understood why when teaching teenagers about sex and education, you wouldn’t teach them about every colour of the rainbow, no pun intended; it is of invaluable importance to their education. If I was an MP, a teacher, or a parent I would want thought-out, informative, joyful lessons on the subject that required more than just an hour before lunch. I would want young adults to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, pleasurable sex, safe sex, attraction, affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community, dating, online dating, and the myth of virginity.

I have never understood why when teaching teenagers about sex and education, you wouldn’t teach them about every colour of the rainbow, no pun intended; it is of invaluable importance to their education. If I was an MP, a teacher, or a parent I would want thought-out, informative, joyful lessons on the subject that required more than just an hour before lunch. I would want young adults to learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, pleasurable sex, safe sex, attraction, affirmation of the LGBTQ+ community, dating, online dating, and the myth of virginity.

As a graduate of English and drama, I would also discuss how our culture views sex; the difference between a sex scene and sex, the difference between pornography and sex. I would teach people where to find LGBTQ+ representation, where to find feminist representation, and what it means to be a feminist, especially when it comes to sex. When it comes to sex we don’t give teenagers (especially teenage girls) the credit they deserve. Your teenage years can be the hardest as a period of constant pressure, questions and uncertainties about all that life can offer. The least adults can do is give them some certainty, and show them that they understand. School is meant to be a place where we learn about the world, about ourselves, and what we can become. I came out at the age of 24 – a whole decade after I learnt about how a sperm fertilises an egg. I had ten years to read all the sexy books and watch all the sexy films, and I had The L Word to confirm my bisexuality. I still think of the joy I missed out on, the stupid things I could have avoided, the days spent questioning and not acting. I think of that anxious lonely girl or boy who doesn’t have the strength to wait ten years. What if one person telling them their feelings are valid, or hearing that ‘love is love’ gives them the permission to start finding joy?

School is meant to be a place where we learn about the world, about ourselves, and what we can become. I came out at the age of 24 – a whole decade after I learnt about how a sperm fertilises an egg. I had ten years to read all the sexy books and watch all the sexy films, and I had The L Word to confirm my bisexuality. I still think of the joy I missed out on, the stupid things I could have avoided, the days spent questioning and not acting. I think of that anxious lonely girl or boy who doesn’t have the strength to wait ten years. What if one person telling them their feelings are valid, or hearing that ‘love is love’ gives them the permission to start finding joy?

 

Words by Lara Scott
Image courtesy of Showtime
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

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Tate Britain Exhibition: Queer British Art 1861–1967

On my first full day living (temporarily) in London, I headed on over to the Tate Britain for the first time, to view their current exhibition, and the first ever exhibition on queer British art. The exhibition is free for members, or £15 otherwise (or £13.10 for all you students out there), and is so much more than an exhibition. 

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I went in around half past six on Saturday, and left almost two hours later. The exhibition is split into six sections, with other events around the gallery including music and spoken word performances. It’s a real celebration, and I expected nothing less.

The LGBT+ community are very present at the exhibition and it was nice to see an institution like Tate open their doors so fully to a community, and to allow fun, bright and happy celebrations to occur. The art itself is fantastically interesting, and successfully tells a story of generations of writers, painters and inspirations whose impact carries through to this day; from varying feminisms to early drag, and even fashion.

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Although the art and its stories are definitely worth talking about, I am not an expert, or even as knowledgeable about art as I’d like to be, and I think the best thing about the exhibition was not the frames on the walls, but the people walking room from room, celebrating their pride and their own history, just by being there. It was the most unique and charming atmosphere I’ve ever experienced inside a gallery.

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When I neared the end of the exhibition, having slowly wandered room to room, reading every plaque, and admiring every painting, sketch and statue, I could hear the thudding bass of an ABBA track in the distance. In the final room, two doors seemed to be illuminated pink from the other side, and I could hear an assortment of Madonna, Lady Gaga and similar. Upon opening the door and leaving the exhibition, we left the history behind, and entered into the bright pink party celebration where love happens, now.

People from all over were just dancing together to great music, and I don’t think it gets much better than that.

 

The exhibition is on until 01/10/17, book here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/queer-british-art-1861-1967

Words by Briony Brake
Images by Tate Britain and Briony Brake

‘Colder Water’: A Review

Sunday afternoons for me are usually spent aimlessly engaging with whatever cheap dialogue is available on Netflix. Yet I was lucky enough to be invited by Antonym Theatre to watch their latest piece Colder Water, directed by Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska, and 2016 Edinburgh Fringe success ‘TWIX’, directed by Cara Withers and Molly Evans.

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Out of the New Cross bubble, and with a £4.65 Voddy and Cranberry, I was ready to absorb the works of Antonym Theatre’s Double Decker: ‘Colder Water’ and ‘TWIX’. Ogden’s writing makes you walk in the characters shoes; no matter if those shoes are pinchy, floppy, or relatively comfortable, I was tying the laces of empathy as I went. Since finishing my second year of studying Theatre Arts, I turn to one of my favourite quotes to best describe pieces such as Colder Water and Twix.

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Laurie Ogden’s work may not focus on the lives of 19th century Russians, but it does focus on employing subtlety. Supported by lyrical monologues and passive-aggressive characters which allows her pieces to act as broken glass to present a unique glint into ordinary lives.  The premier of Colder Water was essentially an extract of an awkward, yet needed conversation between four individuals dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Colder Water’s subtly allows the audience to uncover that there is more to the situation than the conversation currently offers. Ogden explores our society’s extremely problematic values when it comes to dealing with sexual assault; “What were you wearing?”, “How much did you drink?”, “You were asking for it”, “You’re making it up”. All while sexual predators such as Brock Turner and Andrew Picard have the justice system wrapped around their privileged fingers. There is no point denying that the justice system prioritises their voice and the future of the attacker over the victim’s.

Colder Water’s depth of field focuses on Ally (Alice Brittain), Louise (Jess Reed), and Ellie’s (Laurie Ogden) internal perspectives of female connection, layering these women with intense humanity and interest. Ogdens depth of field allows Colder Water to artistically show a ‘social template’ wherein the attacker’s dialogue and privilege is removed. This template is something our society and justice system should be employing.

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In addition to Ogden’s use of subtlety, she liberates and showcases a lesbian dialogue between Ally and Ellie. Other than the series Orange is the New Black or the video game Life Is Strange, I’ve found that most theatre, art, or television I’ve engaged with is (mostly) heterosexual, or includes a gay-male character. Colder Water introduced me to a lesbian dialogue on stage. It was heart-warming to watch as the piece didn’t focus on the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, but rather the everyday lives of a couple, which I found enlightening to watch. Especially Knowing that artists such as Ogden are composing work about homosexual experience without a political drive – in regards to their rights. Again, Colder Water serves as a template for showing that we’re in the 21st century. Lesbian relationships are more than acceptable and shouldn’t be excluded from art and theatre.

Overall, I think Colder Water is pretty neat and has potential to rock the feminisms world! A massive well done to Laurie Ogden and Celine Fortenbacher-Poplawska and the cast/crew of Antonym Theatre! I give you five stars! (literally)

Peace, Love and Cacti

Courtney McMahon

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p.s. not all dialogue on Netflix is cheap

 

 

Words by Courtney McMahon
Images courtesy of quotefancy, Antonym Theatre, Theatre N16 and Courtney McMahon