LGBTQ+ people living in Birmingham have said they have “never felt more vulnerable” following prolonged protests over inclusive education at a local primary school.
Over 100 LGBT+ people grouped together in Birmingham’s gay village on Thursday night to attend a meeting led by police and activists.
Almost all attendees agreed that in recent weeks they felt increasingly anxious and threatened following the Parkfield protests.
Saima Razzaq, who is part of the Supporting Education of Equality and Diversity In Schools (SEEDS) campaign, told the BBC how she was lucky to have a supportive family, but some children aren’t and that is why inclusive education is needed.
“As a gay woman, it’s really distressing and really upsetting,” she said of the protests.
“I’m very privileged and very fortunate to grow up in the family I’ve grown up in. I’ve not suffered like some people have.
“It’s just really upsetting to know that there’s parents out there, without even knowing what their kids are going to grow into, who are already dictating how their children should live their lives,” she added.
Credit: Kelly Bell Photography/Flickr
Hundreds of parents protested outside of the Parkfield school for weeks, starting in January, over the introduction of LGBTQ+ education.
The No Outsiders programme, which used storybooks to teach children about different types of people, was introduced by Parkfield primary school’s assistant headteacher, Andrew Moffat, who is a gay man.
As a gay woman, it’s really distressing and really upsetting.
Saima Razzaq, SEEDS
Many top figures, including the head of Ofsted, said that education on LGBTQ+ people and issues was an integral part of helping young people feel accepted and be accepting of different people.
However, parents insisted that the lessons contradicted their Muslim and Christian faiths, and threatened to remove their children from the school unless the lessons were taken out of the curriculum.
Rise In Hate Crime
At the meeting, the organisation Birmingham LGBT confirmed that they had recorded a rise in hate crimes since the protests began.
However, police at the event insisted that the protests did not constitute a crime – despite coming “very close to that line”, according to Inspector Matt Crowley.
Crowley added that the force would continue to take hate crime “very seriously”, but admitted that policing the protests could have been better.
The protests pushed LGBT+ rights into the spotlight and reminded many of the days of Section 28 – when “promoting homosexuality” in schools was banned by Margaret Thatcher in 1988, a law that wasn’t repealed until 2003.
For people in the community, the debates have felt unnecessary – this type of education only serves to normalise LGBT+ people and families, meaning a child won’t get bullied for having two mums, dads or parents who don’t go by either gendered name.
Protesters have argued that LGBTQ+ education cannot go ahead because it includes sex education, but that is not the case.
For years, many LGB people in the UK thought they had essentially achieved equality, and set to work on helping their transgender and non-binary allies gain that same equality, but the debates have served as a wakeup call.
The Vote For LGBTQ+ Inclusive Education
In light of the protests, parliament held a vote on LGBT-inclusive regulations for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and voted in favour.
The lessons will be adapted to be age appropriate, with primary school children learning about relationships and secondary school students learning about sex education as well as relationships.
538 MPs voted in favour, while 21 (20 men and one woman) voted against.