Inclusive education – Why LGBTQ+ resources for primary schools are vital
My teachers weren’t allowed to talk about same-sex relationships and I didn’t even realise I was gay. Inclusive representation changes everything, says Amie Taylor…
- by Amie Taylor
“No, no, no. That’s a prince!,” an eight-year-old boy in the front row cheerfully heckled as we reached the wedding part of our LGBTQ+ friendly show for kids in a London primary school.
We were at a crucial point – the two princesses were about to get married. I paused the show. “It’s a princess. They’re both princesses.” He chuckled and said, “No, it’s a prince!”.
“It’s definitely a princess,” I assured him. “How do you know?” he asked. “I made the play,” I replied. This answer seemed to satisfy him. He shrugged and allowed us to continue.
Later, back in the classroom, we were making shadow puppets as a follow-up activity to the performance. As always I took the opportunity to circulate and chat to the kids about the show.
“What was your favourite part?” The same boy piped up again, saying, “The romance.” I had to hide an almighty grin. Half an hour ago there was a question as to whether two princesses could even get married.
I made the play, Once Upon a City, in 2018, with funding from the Arts Council. I’ve since toured to theatres, festivals and schools all over the UK.
Over the past couple of years I’ve seen how accepting children are of the LGBTQ+ community.
As soon as you explain that some women marry women and some men marry men, there’s never an issue. And there’s an added joy when you meet a child at the end, hopping up and down on one foot, desperate to tell you that they have two mums or two dads.
Some people argue that EYFS or KS1 is too young to start this work, but I wholeheartedly disagree.
Children are presented with a range of narratives, stories and movies featuring heterosexual relationships from a very young age, so it’s vital for them to see same-sex relationships too, otherwise we are telling them that these relationships are different, ‘other’ and in some way shameful.
A major catalyst for me to make this work was growing up without any LGBTQ+ representation or role models. Knowing the impact that had on my life, I wanted to bring representation to at least a handful of children in the next generation and make their journey a little easier than mine.
Growing up under Thatcher’s Section 28, which stated that local authorities and maintained schools couldn’t promote the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality, meant that none of my teachers were legally allowed to talk about LGBTQ+ people or same-sex relationships.
There was very little representation on TV or in books. What little I did see about gay people was often negative or stereotyped. The result of this was that I didn’t realise I was gay until I was in my mid-twenties.
I didn’t hide my sexuality; growing up without representation meant I simply hadn’t realised I was gay.
The introduction of compulsory inclusive sex and relationship education is a huge cause for celebration. I know first-hand the difference this will make to children who grow up to be LGBTQ+, and those that have same-sex parents, a trans family member or a gay aunt or uncle.
This year I further consolidated my theatre work for children by writing a book for teachers who may not be LGBTQ+ and need a little extra support.
It contains stories, worksheets and drama activities to make delivering inclusive RSE both easy and really, really fun. I genuinely believe that inclusive representation changes everything; it shows all children their potential and not just a small cross section.
Having strong and successful role models allows pupils to find their true identity sooner and to feel proud of who they are.
I believe the earlier they see those role models, the better. It also builds acceptance and allyship from non-LGBTQ+ friends.
When I ask children at the end of a show what they’ve learnt, frequently the answer is that ‘two women can get married.’ I can’t wait for the day when we have nothing to teach children anymore, because it’s just a given.
Amie Taylor is a writer, theatre maker and author of The Big Book of LGBTQ+ Activities (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). Follow her on Twitter at @amieamietay.