Reblogged from DangerousJournalism:
I am upset. The education secretary’s re-wording of the ‘model funding agreement’ for free schools and academies has affected me as few other things could. In short, it states that schools must promote marriage as the ideal lifestyle in order to receive funding.
I am not allowed to get married.
There are more reliable news sources if you want to ascertain the facts. There have been better political responses setting out why this move is unnecessary and counterproductive. But I write now only to show what I feel: it is as raw as it is carefully considered, and it is as deeply personal as it is true.
I am not overreacting. There are those that will say the guidelines haven’t changed that much. That it only tells you what you must do, and that it doesn’t prohibit anything. That schools are free to do more than the letter of the law. That the words are not important.
But words are important. Comparing the new version with the old, we see that any reference to the existence of ‘strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage’ has been excised. We also see the concern for the protection children who come from “non-normative” families disappear - no mention that ‘care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances’. We see, in effect, a shift from the practical to the dangerously ideological.
In fact, the clause is more powerful than all of that - for me it has become a symbol, and I unashamedly read it symbolically. I notice that the alterations have brought the injunction against ‘inappropriate teaching materials’ and ‘the importance of marriage’ into the same sentence, within a few words of one another. I notice also that this is Clause 28 of the funding agreement. If I notice these things, then I am not alone. It doesn’t mention homosexuality or civil partnerships explicitly, but the implication is much more powerful than the surface; I am not old enough to remember Section 28, but I felt its repercussions all the way through my schooling: closeted teachers, insufficient sex education. And now I live to see it remade.
I am cynical. In this clause I sense the Conservative government hiding behind a veneer of respectability, of legalistic immunity, while pushing the same, dangerously repressive Tory agenda they ever have. It happened with the NHS, where the easiest form of cost-cutting was coincidentally, magically, the privatisation they’d always wanted. It happened with the austerity measures, where helpfully the only way of overcoming the financial crisis was to eviscerate the welfare state they’d campaigned against tirelessly for twenty years. And now it is happening with family life. My life. The irony that it is a Conservative government that is increasingly busying itself with our private affairs is little consolation.
I am disappointed. Or perhaps I was naïve. Like thousands of other students, I voted LibDem at the last election - I bought into the rhetoric that they were the party for young people, that they would retain the best of the Left with none of its Blairite, self-important excesses. I was let down by their stance on tuition fees, but this has floored me. ‘Liberal’ and ‘democratic’ are not the words I choose for this development.
I am tired. I am tired because it is nearly midnight, and I have been trying to write this for two days. And I am tired, because at the age of twenty-one I have had to explain my existence constantly - to myself, when I overcame the self-hate I had been taught by the Section 28 generation; to my family, when I informed them that their culturally-ingrained assumption that their child was heterosexual was faulty, and then again and again when they were overwhelmed by everything they thought they knew - about gay men’s lifestyles, their supposed drug-taking, their supposed sleeping around. I’ve worked with young people, where I knew I oughtn’t explain myself. When the kids asked me if I had a girlfriend, I had to content myself with sheepishly answering “no”, and leave it at that (while the husband-and-wife teams merrily, brazenly, car-shared their way to and from work). And now all those unspoken prejudices have been written into law: the uncomfortable closeness to ‘children’, the omission of anything other than heterosexual marriage. That word, ‘inappropriate’. I can’t really discuss my private life in schools as it is - now it’s practically illegal. Its vagueness makes it more menacing: the malicious precision with which it captures our nebulous oppression. Worst of all, it is ghostly, utterly defensible.
I am pessimistic. It is my final year as an undergraduate, and my friends are excited. They don’t know what they’ll be doing next year: some have jobs, many are moving in with long-term boyfriends and girlfriends. Some are already married. I already know that I will not be married. I already know that I will not have children of my own. And now I am punished for it. Never mind that schools could talk about civil parterships, single parents, gay adoption, and the rest, if they wanted to. This gives them an excuse not to. It encourages them not to. And the fact that it was an edit, an act of omission, that led them to this point - it is intentional.
This is insidious. It is dangerous. It is one step away from out-and-out legalised discrimination.
I am frightened.
For more by Nathan see: http://dangerousjournalism.blogspot.com/