It was Pride month across the world in June and the LGBT+ community had big publicity in the UK but not all of it was welcomed. It started early in June on a London bus when Melania and Chris, a lesbian couple, were verbally and physically attacked by four teenagers due to their sexuality. Towards the end of June, two boys, aged 12 and 15 attacked and stabbed a married gay couple in Liverpool in which the police are calling ‘an appalling and unprovoked homophobic attack’. Sadly, these are not isolated cases. The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service both report an increase in homophobic and hate crimes and if you listen to any news programme, the public perception is that hate crimes are getting worse, not better.
You would think that in 2019, the UK would have risen above persecuting people for their sexual orientation or gender identity but in fact Home Office figures show that since the EU referendum in June 2016, hate crime figures have risen sharply. Pride month has gone ahead as it has done since 1970 with an aim to raise awareness of the LGBT+ community and the issues it is facing around the world but also to come together in peaceful protests, parades to celebrate and events to educate the public.
The Pride community is not the only community that is protesting. Well documented by newspapers, TV magazine programmes and the scrolling news channels, a Birmingham community is divided by LGBT+ teaching at a local primary school which has resulted in months of protesting and eventually in a High Court Injunction against the protesters. Both sides of this argument are passionate, and it started with a teacher at the school who created the LGBT+ project to bring awareness to the Equality Act 2010 and to allow children to ‘be proud of who they are while recognising and celebrating difference and diversity’. This resulted in a petition from a concerned parent claiming the teachings contradicted their faith. Further talks were held which broke down and the resulting protests outside the school gathered attention and people from outside the community, including people who did not have children at the school.
As a fostering house, we have children from all ages who stay for a few weeks, months or end up living with us until they are in their teens or adults. We have a strict no bullying policy and we openly endorse a charter of acceptance. We have had Looked After Children stay with us who have been a different religion or race to us or other children in the house and we actively help them practice their religion and encourage them to explore their culture. When Sabine first came to us, we took every opportunity to learn about her two very different cultures, visited festivals, and I dived headfirst in exploring East African and Ukrainian food. However, we have not had a child who is gay or transgender and if we did how would I go about ensuring they had the right to explore their sexuality in a safe, non-judgemental way?
I believe as parents we have a duty to teach children about diversity and equality. I want my child growing up in a world where it is of no consequence who another person loves whether it is the opposite sex or someone of their own sex. I believe my child should be utterly comfortable with friends who chose to change their gender or have different religious beliefs from themselves but is it right that I should parent a Looked After Child this way?
Being a Foster Parent is being able to open my home and life to a child that needs a home, love and stability. They will be part of my family but maybe from a different culture or religion to me. When we take in a Looked After Child, we don’t just have them to consider but also the views and values of their family. Where possible, I would aim to instil the same acceptance for others as I do with my own child, but I would need to respect the views of their family if they differed to mine, however, I would never endorse any hate values or views.
In answer to my own question – should we talk to children about LGBT+? Yes, we should. LGBT+ should be a natural acceptance and hopefully in the future, we won’t have to ask questions like this.
These are my views and opinions and not necessarily the views of Nexus Fostering.
Crown Prosecution Service http://www.report-it.org.uk/files/cps-hate-crime-report-2018.pdf
Home Office Briefing Paper Hate Crime Statistic https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8537/CBP-8537.pdf