Lessons on Queer History cut homophobic Bullying

Alan Turing
Pupils are taught about figures from history ­persecuted for their ­sexuality, such as wartime code breaker Alan Turing. Photo: National Portrait Gallery London

A north London school which has developed lessons on gay historical figures who suffered persecution claims to have succeeded in “more or less eliminating homophobic bullying” in its classrooms and playgrounds over the last five years.

The life story of the wartime code-breaker & computer pioneer Alan Turing is among those being used to tackle homophobia. Turing, a mathematician who cracked German codes in the second world war, was prosecuted in 1952 for his homosexuality, which was then a crime. He was forced to decide between prison and taking female hormones to reduce his libido, and chose the latter. An inquest into his death – two years after his prosecution – returned a verdict of suicide. Authors Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin and artist Andy Warhol also feature in the lessons.

Now Stoke Newington secondary plans to share the lessons with hundreds of primary and secondary school teachers. By the summer, it will have trained more than a hundred teachers in how to “educate and celebrate” being gay. Read on…

It is, sadly, highly doubtful if such lessons would ever be allowed to be taught in many American schools since, according to the influential religious right there, asking kids not to bully others into suicide is “pushing the gay agenda”.


36 thoughts on “Lessons on Queer History cut homophobic Bullying”

  1. “asking kids not to bully others into suicide is ‘pushing the gay agenda’.”

    Well, it is, innit? Getting anyone to not bully others for their homosexuality is certainly on my agenda.

    What I don’t understand about this debate, if it’s the “is being queer a choice” thingy, or this “gay agenda” accusation, why don’t all queers who are out already, shout a loud: “YES!!! And WHY NOT?” instead of engaging in nicky-picky detailled debates. It often seems as if our public spokespersons are somehow still secretly ashamed for being queer…

    1. While that may be a good idea in Europe, that would never fly in the USA — most gay Europeans simply have no real true understanding of America’s far right political party and it’s influence that has permeated the depths of our cultures and sub-cultures. And a huge part of that far right party is the religious bloc that is so anti-gay (some would say anti-liberal) that when anything even remotely suggesting homosexuality in any aspect of our society, they start foaming at their mouths ready to dip their hands into a never-ending cauldron of money to fight until the very end to eliminate any possible source of pro-gay initiatives.

      The two best examples of that are our fights with gay marriage and gays in the military (DADT). They don’t care how much of our taxpayer’s money is used and wasted for these laws which will be overturned probably within a year or two. Their only concern is to fight the gays until its bitter end.

      1. I like hopeless causes and valiant fights in the face of certain defeat. It’s the romantic in me. So much the more reason to shout the loudest “YES!” into their faces.

        *Sigh* But I know what you mean.

        Hey, heard that one a few days ago (from Jon Stewart):
        Why can’t they have gay people in the army?
        Personally, I think they are just afraid of a thousand
        guys with M16s going, “Who’d you call a faggot?”

        1. “The two best examples of that are our fights with gay marriage and gays in the military (DADT). They don’t care how much of our taxpayer’s money is used and wasted”

          Could not have said it any better. DADT really affects me personally for…certain reasons…and I cannot wait for it to be overturned. People don’t realize the emotional stress DADT puts on good everyday soldiers willing to risk it all for their country.

        2. @FreeFox:
          “I think they are just afraid of a thousand guys with M16s going, “Who’d you call a faggot?” ”

          Thank you for that ….. made my day! Hilarious (and maybe not so far off the truth)!!

          I know exactly what you mean and what our good gay military men and women are going through. I had to deal with the same thing (actually worse at the time) during my stint in the military …. particularly in Vietnam when at least 85-90% of my outgoing mail was opened and read just because it was addressed to “J” — I didn’t dare use his full name. Amazingly, nothing became of it towards me except the invasion of my privacy — all because during a war, they needed every last warm body they could keep that was “expendable.” Which is why more gays (than what’s already been discharged) aren’t ejected from their services during these 2 wars.

    2. They might well be secretly ashamed for being queer. Shame cannot be turned off like a light switch after years and decades of self hate. Hatred toward gays is still very intensely promoted in america by the religulous wrong (rediculous right). Just what exactly is the Gay Agenda? I’ve heard so many descriptions.

      1. “Just what exactly is the Gay Agenda? I’ve heard so many descriptions.”

        The “gay agenda” is having the audacity to demand to be treated like human beings.

        Imagine the cheek, eh? Next we’ll want the moon and the stars…

      2. “Just what exactly is the Gay Agenda? I’ve heard so many descriptions.”

        It’s a beautifully bound book, with prominent gold lettering. At the time of your queer birth, your parent(s) were issued one for you. Sometimes they sell the book, burn it, or gave it away. The copies that survived are used by radical, card carrying homos to take to schools, political rallies and congressional hearings. Just ask any Fundamentalist about it…..

  2. By making tolerance to a subject of propaganda – you are fighting fire with fire. This means that there exists the risk that things even do become worse if the wind would change.

    You maybe remember the agitation of the left-wing-parties against the nazis in the Weimar Republic. The Nazis were frequently presented as some sort of “Homo-Group”.
    We know that a big deal of the “nazi-homophobia” later on was to be regardet as some sort of “self-defending” reaction on this kind of agitation by proofing “we are the ones who do not tolerate things like this”.

    The point is: Beeing a homosexual does not make a person a better human beeing. So its easy to turn this kind of campaign into its opposite just by slightly shifting to other examples.
    Exactly the same thing was done by the nazis in Germany on the Jews. They made the people forget that there had actually been many Jews which made Germany a great nation. The Nazis just did focus more and more on Jews with a bad immage within the population.
    The ending of this strategy was “You maybe know a Jew who is ok – but be careful… they are all dangerous – be careful”.

    Teach pupils about the ideas of Liberalism, instead. As soon as everybody realices that everybody benefits from not having “to fit in whatever” – tolerance is everywhere.
    But politicians do not like liberalism – because if there are Libertarians – politicians would lose influence and power.

    1. As a total “besides the point”, I just re-posted the vid you linked to in the thin line/bullying thread on my blog naming you as my source. Just thought I’d let you know and that I can remove your “name”/nick if you’d rather.

      Though, maybe it’s less besides the point: Isn’t a vid like that, heartwarming as it may be, also propaganda?

      And did you just invoke Godwin’s Law?

      1. Its not so easy to draw a line between Propaganda and a Commercial.
        Maybe I expect Propaganda to be more subtile in a manipulating way. Propaganda tends to take some aspects that seem to be clear or true or “good” (or even are) and provokes the audicnce to draw a special conclusion out of these (more or less) facts which is actually wrong.

        For example the Idea that “all pedophiles do harm children”. This immagination is based on facts and statistics – but it is nevertheless wrong.

        The point is that those pedophiles (and not just pedophiles) the public gets to know are those persons that were cought and judged for committing a sex-crime against a child.
        Thats actually just like if we would make up our mind concerining straight men by focusing on those men who were jailed for sex-crimes against women.

        Our problem (as citizens) is that we tend to tolerate propaganda as long we do have the feeling that it supports our individual goals.

        Such a goal for many people is “children must not be touched by molestors”. Having this aim in mind – even quite reasonable people who are able to understand that an arguemtation in general is wrong – tend to tolerate the propaganda because its for a “good cause”

        Propaganda should be banned by society as violence is. Concerning violence we did reach the point that we do not even tolerate “our friends” to use it agains “our opponents”.
        We should do the same on the propaganda-shit.

        ((you can use my nick, of course. But it´s not necessary to do so. It´s not “my” video. :D ))

        1. Very nicely written. But sometimes we need “good” propaganda just to counter the “bad” propaganda. There can always be exceptions.

    2. These lessons are as much propaganda as history classes about the holocaust are (since you brought that up already).

      They are taught about the criminalisation and prosecution of gays, not that fucking guys is awesome.

      1. Right, Josh. These kind of lessons are no different than celebrating the accomplishments of outstanding African-Americans, women, Hispanics, etc. which all American schools do already.

        The example above is very similar to an approach used in some inner city American schools that routinely (througout the year) celebrate the achievements of black Americans. These schools saw the grades and test scores of their African American students go up because these students now felt valued and hopeful.

      2. It’s a good tactic in the school system; to celebrate famous gays, their accomplishments, their persecution and violation of liberties (if applicable). It’s better if the men-fucking-men part is left out except in health class etc.

        Certainly if LBGTQI kids were accepted, the overall rate of teen suicide would plummet.

        1. LBGTQI? 6 letters?

          It’s getting a bit insane with you Americans and your love for abbreviations ;) We could just say “queer”.

          1. technically there are only 4 sexualities, hetero, homo, bi, and whatever the hell celibate people are… LBGT is fine, i think all the other additions are just getting a bit too descriptive.

          2. ‘They’ actually want you to use this in metro areas:
            LGBTQQIP (I flipped G & B in my first post by accidnet)

            I was fine with GBLT until the lesbians took over and first demanded rearrangement of the letters (to give them top billing) and then the endless alphabet soup followed.;-)

            We can’t say ‘queer’ locally with our HS young adults. They hate that word, as it’s still used to degrade and bully.

            1. “So much more a reason to re-appropriate it. ^_^”

              Agreed….but I can’t make the young adults in HS do anything, nor would I want to. We have suggested that they do what most other HS’ are doing and take back the term ‘queer’…that much we’ve done, but the tormentors have won this round here.

  3. Maybe we need another Stonewall?
    I’m just saying, after a while you have to wonder what banging your head against a granite wall is going to get you besides a concussion or dead?
    There are knee jerk reactions to the community that blows up, but we have seen more movement socially after that than you do with all the talk and being co-operative. I’m against violence on principle, and yet I’m wondering if that is all the right understands? I’m probably wrong. This whole situation has had me sickened since I can remember. Gays aren’t better, they are people… humans and the same as any other human. Our choice of who we love or have sexual relations with is totally immaterial. I really don’t understand it hatred.

    1. The unstated, possibly even unconcious, current underneath it all is that there is a group of people that needs a “them” to rail against. It can be women, or blacks, or gays, or … it doesn’t really matter. There’s a type of person that always needs a “them”. It seems to be highly correlated to authoritarian personalities. The religion thing is merely a cover for this (and a tool used by those with political agendas).

      So if we somehow magically stopped them from going after gays, they’d have to find someone else to hate. Problem is they’re running out of groups. So I wonder who’d be the next victim?

      1. Maybe going against gays ist not just the “looking for people you can blame for something”-Thing or “looking for people to look down on”-Thing.
        I think a big deal within using homophobia as an instrument to hold the power has to do with the fact that homosexuality is quite likely not just “a genetic defect” or an illness. ((genetic defects do count not in quite hig %rates – but in small %o-rates – and illnesses do not spread so even through populations))
        I hold the opinion that homosexuality once did have (or maybe still has) a function within the evolution of mankind. There is a good deal of “homosexual” in most men.

        By claiming “homosexuality is very bad” – those who are in power have found an instrument to make many men feel uncomfortable (maybe even afraid). Those men know that they are not the way they ought to be – and therefore would tend to do almost everything in order to fit in the system even better and with more energy.
        Just remember the churches that did even succeed to go further by making even “normal people” feel quilty for having sex – and kids for masturbation.
        Or remember the chinese in the cultural revolution who made people confess they are quilty even for little and quite natural behaviours.

        It just reminds me to lyrics of Sebastian´s song from the ending song of “Du er ikke alene”. – “…Because they throw stones of guilt… “. Yes exactly – but the trick with those stones is that they aim on almost everyohne. That´s maybe the trick. Hold to the power by making people feel quilty.

        1. Patrik97–I think you have said something smart (and true) when you wrote, “using homophobia as an instrument to hold the power” and “homosexuality once did have (or maybe still has a function within the evolution of mankind.” Absolutely. Homosexuality clearly has existed since the beginning of written history and there is no reason to think it wasn’t part of human society before that. Anything that has lasted this long probably is useful for survival.

          Physically human beings are probably the most ill-prepared animals in “the jungle”; we don’t have armor like rhinos and claws like lions and jaws like crocodiles and speed like gazelles and climbing ability like spider monkeys. But what we do have are (a) brains and the power to develop weapons, and (b) a social instinct for gathering together into tribes. I honestly don’t think humans would gather together as tribes if they didn’t have a fluid sense of attraction and love toward both sexes; otherwise, you’d just have single men competing to join with more women (but why would the women stand the other women?) or single women competing to attract more men (but why would the men stand being with each other?).

          We already know that men will “turn homosexual” if they can find no other partners (such as in prison), but I am rather inclined to believe that in settings such as the army, or sailors out at sea, or cowboys on a long cattle drive, homosexual behavior had to be the NORM and probably the more desired sexual activity. Otherwise, these would be lives of celibacy until “in port” or “after the war” or “after the cattle drive when everybody takes a bath and gets a prostitute.” I am guessing that these men found these particular lives to be rather satisfactory. And to think of how many THOUSANDS of men were in armies throughout history, marching across vast empires, being very far away from women (except, I suppose, women they could rape when they conquered, but that’s not love…and apparently those who raped were just as inclined to rape MEN).

          From another point of view, is there any more trapped man than a man married with children? Oh boy, you want to trap people then arrange it so that the only real sex they are ever going to have is once they are married, and the quicker that happens, then the quicker their life is nothing but work yourself to death to pay the mortgage and keep the kids in shoes. If all that I am saying here is true, then the one reason a man might hate gays is that the gays have taken the freedom that the “straights”, themselves want, but were afraid to have. (To listen to straights in debates about gay rights, THEY are ones who seem to feel put-upon by the system. What do GAYS have to complain about, they seem to be always saying.) Those who are in power don’t care whether the citizens are happy, or not; they only want them working in their factories, buying their products, and paying their taxes. Whatever can be done to keep that thing going is what they will do.

          I had an interesting conversation with a guy at work the other day. He is married to a “high maintenance” woman (who does not work) and has FOUR children. He was telling me how tired he was with the whole arrangement and how he would be just as happy living my himself with none of these responsibilities and burdens. He even went so far as to say that he would be happy with another GUY, claiming that guys were no trouble and not demanding (well, he may be kind of dreaming THERE!) and as far as he was concerned, he figured the sex would be just as good. “I don’t get it all that much from her as it is,” he says; “after she’s been screaming at me to bring home more money, I’m just as happy to go off by myself and jack off!”

          Imagine somebody telling you that…and yet I think if guys were honest, his story could be repeated by the thousands.

      2. “Problem is they’re running out of groups. So I wonder who’d be the next victim?”

        Part of the criteria is that they be relatively powerless and a minority of the general population. Therefore my guess: gypsies. Never difficult to find a ‘group’ or an ‘other’ to vilify.

  4. This is great! I’m sure it would’ve really been beneficial for me when I was in elementary and middle school. I was harassed and teased every day. Nobody had any encouraging words for me.

    I would agree with you Josh about it not being able to really transition here to the US, but only in part. For example, where I live (Portland, OR, look us up) you honestly couldn’t get any more open or accepting in this entire country, aside from maybe San Fransisco or New York City. We were the first major city to elect an openly gay mayor. I do believe that this program would work and would be very beneficial for my cities children, especially our urban youth.

    1. Good for Portland, OR and all its citizens! We need A LOT MORE “success” stories like that across the USA.

    2. The state of Oregon is very unique. They sould put a glass bubble over the state as it is an inigma to the rest of the country. People are so friendly here it is scary. I moved to Eugene last February to get away from the crime and violence in California. I was not disappointed. I see a lot of queer folks here both young and old. Eugene would benefit from this. The kids here are so different from California. For the most part they are polite, goofy, happy kids. Don’t see much gang interest here. I have fallen in love with Eugene and Oregon.

      Sorry for going off topic. I just want to praise Oregon.

      1. Sorry to go OT, but don’t want the young adults here to think that Oregon in general, is ‘The Great Escape’ for gays.

        Oregon for the most part, is gay friendly in their larger urban areas. The smaller areas are just tolerant of the law and are less likely to harm gays as in ‘some’ other states. Homophobia still reins in rural Oregon, however. Places like La Grande, Enterprise, Milton Freewater & Pendleton are awful bastions of visible homophobia. Pendleton does now have a strong PFLAG chapter, but it was resurrected by two parents who felt incredibly guilty in how they treated their gay son. As far as the people being extraordinarily friendly, I don’t find that’s the case. Oregonians by nature are very suspicious, clannish and use nepotism most often for jobs.

        There was even a popular bumper sticker once in Oregon that read: “Come visit beautiful Oregon, just don’t stay”. That pretty much sums up sentiment there to this day. What’s left of their social services (drastic budget cuts), is very well intentioned and they’ve always tried to take care of their own in social programs-they’ve always had a good rep for that.

        I’m happy it has worked out for you. I did live in Portland once and found the place probably the best city I lived in….except for the friggin’ rain. I live very close to Milton Freewater now…..the town Oregon has refused to acknowledge.

        1. Hm, I totally forgot about Eastern Oregon. Well, I agree completely there. I know what it’s like there, too, seen some pretty racist stuff there during my high school years. Anyway, but yeah, I guess I should clarify Oregon in general isn’t the best, but at least Portland the surrounding areas are much better than most. Clarified :)

  5. The history of Alan Turing is one of the most ashaming in England’s history. Alan Turing was not only a great mathematician but also a kind , lovable and honest man. His contribution to breaking the Enigma code was an extremely important contribution to the allied victory in World War II.
    As if they had forgotten that all they started shortly after the war to prosecute him just for being gay. There is a great movie about that, “Breaking the code”, with Derek Jacobi playing Alan Turing, Prunellla Scales as his mother and a bunch of other fine British actors as Harold Pinter, Alun Armtrong and many others.

    What a good idea of this school to honour this man with their lessons about tolerance and respect.

  6. most bullying and crime committed against gays comes within the gay broad church motivated by jealousy ,most average joe,s realy arent aware or intersted in us

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