Of Indoctrination and Liberalism: A History of Homophobia in Education

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The recent Parental Rights in Education bill passed in Florida, USA is just the latest in a long line of
homophobic legislation and policies in and around schools and education. This piece attempts to
trace the history of international and local legislation surrounding LGBTQ+ issues in educational

Educational institutions are regarded as the bedrock for development and windows to the world for
young, impressionable students. Educators are trusted by parents and tasked with the enormous
responsibility of guiding, instructing, and leading bright minds of the future. So, who decides what a
child should be taught to equip them with the necessary cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence
to thrive in society – the parents, the teachers, or the government?
With increasing open discourse on historically ‘inappropriate’ themes, particularly LGBTQ+ issues, it
is only natural for such discussions to make their way to classroom settings. However, this liberal
and unorthodox approach to learning has caused widespread alarm among parents and legislatures
internationally. Parents have expressed disapproval and even hostility towards educators trying to
make inclusive learning spaces, saying it goes against their ‘personal beliefs’. Right-leaning,
conservative legislators have weaponized this vitriol to push their own agendas in school
curriculums, severely limiting the scope for necessary discussions to take place.

International Scenario
Recently, in Florida, USA, Governor Ron DeSantis expanded the scope of the Parental Rights in
Education bill which essentially bans lessons in sexual orientation and gender identity up to grade
12. Topics such as these which were part of courses on reproductive health have been made
optional for students. Critics have called this the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ which aims to limit or outright
prohibit open conversations on LGBTQ+ positive issues.
At least 15 other states in the United States are considering bills in the current legislative session
that target Queer Clubs in schools, faculty’s and students’ use of gender pronouns, gender-neutral
washrooms, trans students in sports or restrict curriculum, instruction, and library books that
feature queer themes. Educators are being forced to adhere to students’ genders assigned at birth,
not openly discuss matters of sexual orientation, and cannot state their personal attributes or beliefs
on a host of issues including race, religion, and sexuality.
In 2014, in Birmingham, UK, an assistant head teacher designed the ‘No Outsiders’ programme
which sought to educate children about protected attributes under the Equality Act such as sexual
orientation and religion through age-appropriate literature. Storybooks were to be used to introduce
students to ideas of diversity and equality. However, the programme was halted in many schools as
there were widespread protests by parents stating that it goes against their religious beliefs and not
to ‘pollute’ their children.

Dire Consequences
These homophobic legislations or protests often stem from parental fear that educators are
‘indoctrinating’ students in liberal ideas or social justice. There are concerns about teaching ‘sexually explicit’ topics to young children and often homosexuality falls under this umbrella. There exists a
belief that openly homosexual teachers, social workers, and counsellors can encourage sexual
deviation in children. Ideas of ‘perversion’, ‘promotion’, and ‘exploitation’ of children’s innocence
have been widely used in homophobic contexts.
However, this refusal to acknowledge the diversity within communities from the grass-root level can
have detrimental effects on budding learners. Ignoring gender dysmorphia and questioning sexuality
can prove to be psychologically harmful. It serves to boost a sense of internalised homophobia and
isolation among queer students. Furthermore, children with LGBTQ family members, friends, or
children who do not know any LGBTQ people within their near circle are fed the idea that it is
inappropriate to even acknowledge homosexuality.

Closer Look
Moving on to a more microscopic view of the sentiments on queer issues within Delhi University, the
varsity has often been hailed for its progressive student body. Recently SFI organised a Pride Parade
in North Campus which saw active participation from members of the queer community and allies.
However, there are very few colleges in the university with a formally recognised Queer Collective.
There is often hesitance or hostility from the admin to legitimize such collectives despite there being
demand from the student body. Reasons such as ‘this is a minority religion / women-only institute’
or roadblocks such as ‘get permission from your parents’ are presented.
Gender studies within the curriculum are often limited to women’s struggles and refuse to
acknowledge a wider spectrum of gender identities. Despite UGC guidelines preventing
discrimination on the basis of sexuality, there exists a glaring chasm where LGBTQ+ discussions
should take place.

Education is an essential element in combatting homophobia. Therefore, healthy discourse on topics
such as sexual orientation, gender, and sex and its nuances goes a long way in educating the youth
and eliminating bias that has been handed down over generations.


Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

Read Also: The Need for Queer Collectives in Colleges

Bhavya Nayak
[email protected]

Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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