Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Family First and Lily Allen

When Family First made it clear Rainbow Youth was in it's sights, it took precisely seven days for a story to appear in mainstream media about a parent not liking Rainbow Youth.  If that wasn't enough to make you wonder, how about the fact that the story appeared on Stuff, rather than the Herald?  Rainbow Youth deliver services in schools in Auckland, not the lower North Island which is Stuff's domain. This reporter didn't find the story in her local beat, someone fed it to her.

Let's deconstruct.  After a brief introduction about a father being concerned his son is being exposed to material he doesn't like, we get:
The teenage boy said two of the presenters introduced themselves to the class as lesbians, one who was attracted to transsexual girls, while the third said he had been a woman attracted to women but became a man "with a vagina".
The teenager said the first lesson was "OK" and the message was that there were multiple gender identities. But he felt the second lesson was "quite weird". It looked at homophobia and how society treated people labelled as "other".
It's fortunate we have the last sentence.  Because let's try this another way:

The student said two presenters introduced themselves as heterosexuals, one who was attracted to girls, while the other said he was a man "with a penis".

None of the Stuff paragraph works unless we're quite excited about lesbians and trans men, and really not sure if they should be in our classrooms.

But of course, both queer and trans identified people are already in our classrooms.  Studying, teaching and stuff.  There's other queer and trans identified people on television, making music, writing blogs, playing sport, having huge followings on social media, in our families.  Because we are everywhere.

And talking about people's genitals?  So brave for the Rainbow Youth presenter to put himself out there to help kids who are not sure why their body doesn't fit their sense of self realise there are a whole heap of gender fluid options available - but since when is talking about people's genitals in a newspaper article "in quotation marks" anything less than "othering"?

Then Stuff say:
"I think they were trying to say that being gay is all good but to me and quite a few of the people in my class, it came across like they were saying 'it's great and you guys should follow on with it'."
His father assumed, "rightly or wrongly", that sex education would be more generic and mainstream not "the weird and wonderful of the world's sexuality".
"I don't think that is the right thing to be exposing 14 and 15-year-old kids to."
Lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transpeople and intersex people are not "weird and wonderful".  We are just people.  Rainbow Youth are helping queer and trans teenagers be safer and less likely to hate themselves by modelling our existence.  Rainbow Youth are helping heterosexual cis-gendered young people learn the world isn't as simple as homophobic and gender policing people would have you believe - and when that's your parents, the learning might take a little longer.

The father who's worried about "exposure" to queer narratives needs to get out more.  But the dog-whistling here is all about the fragility of heterosexuality and traditional gender norms.  What happens if our kids start wanting to change genders, or kiss genders other than the ones we want them to?  Is Rainbow Youth teaching our kids to be queer?

This is hatred, endorsed by a sleeping media.  Why is Stuff printing these views without investigating where they come from?  Why are they printing these views without pointing out what we know about queer youth experience - that it's hard being queer?

Family First have nothing to do with my beautiful queer and logical family, or my beautiful straight and biological family - and I wish they would stay the hell away from young New Zealanders learning how to make our world a more humane, caring and joyful place.

I'm not into dog whistling, I'm a little more, well, out there, so Family First this is for you:


Captiver said...

FF is, as I noted on your previous post, very good at using the media. They know that a story involving an upset parent, on no matter what issue, will get media attention and headlines. The media will never admit (or probably even ask) where these anonymous parents are coming from. Some may not have been sourced by FF, but as LudditeJourno points out, and I have noticed myself, the timing of the anonymous (of even IDd) parent stories frequently coincides with an issue FF is pushing via one of their opinion surveys, media releases etc. What's more, it's so much easier to get people who aren't being discriminated against or shamed (e.g. queer or those who have had abortions) to speak out, since they're less likely to face attack as a result of doing so. Seems to me we need to get a bit creative in how we deal with the media. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Hey LJ, just wanted to thank you for another great piece. I heart your writing so so much.

LudditeJourno said...

Captiver, thank you, I agree with your take on this. I also think we need strategies to deal with it, one of which is naming the sham of the media NOT investigating where their stories come from. Protests like the one the Queer Avengers organised earlier in the year, telling the media to ask better questions, researching the links ourselves...
NotBigOnDignity - thank you, that's lovely :-)

ChundaMars said...

Uh, I hate Family First. Which is ironic, as I love family. Go figure!
I'm also right in their target demographic - white, middle-class, heterosexual, married, 2 kids, blah blah blah boring blah. I just wish they'd keep their uninformed opinions to themselves.
Unfortunately, this sort of sloppy "reporting" is hardly unique to this type of story - I actively avoid televised news and newspapers now, which is a shame really.

LudditeJourno said...

There's a beautiful comment over at my home site which may show another way forward in combating this hate, a woman writing about why Rainbow Youth have been important for her son. I'm going to quote it here to say people travelling:
"My son, who is 17 and who has Asperger’s, came out as gay a couple years ago. I have always been totally supportive (as have all our family) and looked around for some kind of club he could join as he’s pretty socially isolated due to his Asperger’s. Rainbow Youth run a club for LGBTQ youth, called GQ, and it is the most brilliant gathering, with the most fantastic facilitators and other attendees, and often interesting guests as well. My son still goes every fortnight, and the club has provided him with a peer group of other LGBTQ kids who he would otherwise never have met, and thus never felt part of a like-minded community unless GQ existed. I hate the thought of Rainbow Youth losing funding, and Family First is such a misnomer for what seems in fact to be a hate group – it certainly doesn’t speak for my family."

Simoon said...

One thing which annoys me about the article is that the two main points of view presented are "worried father" and "Rainbow Youth Co-Ordinator".

We don't hear anything from other parents. This means "worried father" is in effect taken as representing all parents (because we don't need to hear anything from any other parents.) So basically the idea is that parents and Rainbow Youth are presented as opposing forces.

It's the classic "give the appearance of balance by presenting two opposing views" regardless of how representative (or not) those views are.

LudditeJourno said...

Simoon - yes, completely agree which is why it's great to see the comment above, from a mum who appreciates what RY are giving her son. Or how about talking to some people using RY services themselves? The whole construction of this story is contrived, as ChundaMars points out, all too common sadly.

St L. said...

Stuff also represents the Southland Times, The Press of Christchurch, the Nelson Mail, the Waikato Times, and the Sunday Star Times, which has a good size Auckland circulation. To say that it is a 'lower North Island' domain is pretty ignorant.

And it is not hatred. Disagreeing with your opinion is not evidence of hatred.

LudditeJourno said...

St L - Stuff is Fairfax owned and the office is in Wellington. They predominantly run Wellington-based stories on their main page, which is where this article was.
All of those papers you name share content and run their own LOCAL stories, which are available on Stuff separately under each paper.
This article was not in the Sunday Star Times.
And not hatred? Really? Promoting the idea that some people are "weird and wonderful" is hatred, in my opinion. This article and Family First actively promote discrimination, oppression and social norms which tell people there is something wrong with them for loving the "wrong" gender(s) or living their gender in particular ways. Hell, there's something wrong with lesbians and trans people being in a classroom at all, apparently.
What would you call the views in the Stuff article, and FF's stance on sexuality education? And what do you think queer young people should be able to access in order to love themselves?

St L. said...


I call it their opinion. We may think it is wrong, or we may think it is right, but it is their opinion and they are entitled to it. Indeed, it is just as valid as your own, if somewhat poorly expressed and not as tolerant as one might wish.

Would you be happy if someone described your blog post as being an expression of hatred towards Family First? Of course it isn't, it is an expression of an opinion contrary to theirs. And that is my point. By calling it hatred when it isn't you demonise both Family First and the father in the story as much as you allege they are doing with their intolerance.

And there are weird and wonderful people in the world. That is a good thing, as it keeps life interesting. You are engaging in an exercise in nit-picking because of the choice of words.

What you are really saying is that you do not want the media giving any coverage to points of view that conflict with your own. Try to be a littler more tolerant yourself.

Oh, and as someone who comes from one of those regions, I can tell you that we don't see the Stuff frontpage as Wellington based. After all, the Dom-Post has its own section as well. Stuff is a national news website.

LudditeJourno said...

St L - the difference between my blog post and Family First mobilising homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is about structure. Much as I'd like my views to change the world, I'm aware of how limited my power is, and how outside the "norm" the ways I write about sexuality and gender are. I write because I hope to be part of changing harmful and oppressive practices, along with many, many others.
Family First's "opinions" on the other hand are supported by history, law, religious practice, medical practice, education...pretty much every social and cultural institution we can think about has a history of oppressing queer and trans people.
So yes I call what they do hatred. And I call what I do calling them on that hatred.

Facts said...


Hatred is not a quality of the audience, but of the speaker.

It doesn't matter how tiny an audience your journal has, you are still capable of expressing hatred in it.

Muerk said...

"Much as I'd like my views to change the world, I'm aware of how limited my power is, and how outside the "norm" the ways I write about sexuality and gender are. I write because I hope to be part of changing harmful and oppressive practices, along with many, many others."

So because you have limited power you can't hate? I would disagree.

For a start lets look at objective facts, Rainbow Youth is funded by the Governmant and is entering our state schools to talk with students. That's hardly a position of structural weakness.

LudditeJourno said...

Facts and Muerk, take your point but feel there is a misunderstanding here. I am talking about Family First being part of the structural oppression of queer people in this post and comments.
No one has asked me if I "hate" Family First. I don't actually. I hate the vicious views they promote and the harm they cause. I think they promote dangerous, oppressive ways of thinking about "families", which they define very narrowly. And as I've said several times already, I defend my right to call them on their hatred.
Can we put this distraction to rest now? It's taken more time in comments than it's worth, in my opinion.
Muerk - yes, and I only wish every young person in the country had access to information about how diverse gender and sexuality are - instead of just 30 schools in Auckland. In my opinion, this information - that being queer or gender questioning is just fine - should be available to every young person in Aotearoa. And yes, we should be paying for it - it is about the health of our communities.

Muerk said...


You would like every young person to have access to this information, but not everyone agrees with you or your view of human sexuality.

The issue is that sexual morality is a very personal thing and I think it's best for parents to be the teachers of their children when it comes to moral values that are so diverse.

I'd like to see sexual education handled by parents/family rather than in schools. It would be good if sexual health clinics had information that parents could access to help them teach their kids. If schools wanted to run courses for kids outside of school I wouldn't mind. Or perhaps groups could offer courses over the net that families could choose to access.

I don't have any issue with the biology of reproduction being taught in a scientific way, but when it comes to relationships and moral values then I think that is beyond state schools.

Anonymous said...

@Muerk - and what do you propose for children whose parents don't want to teach them about that? Or what if the children feel uncomfortable discussing that with their parents? Obviously parents play an important role in developing children into adults. But they aren't the only ones and it's important that all the information be made available to children. School is the best way to do that because there's no way to guarantee that parents are even informed in the first place...and there's a difference between discussing relationships and issues of sexuality in a learning environment and "teaching morals". Schools don't teach morals but they should be able to do the former.

LudditeJourno said...

And Muerk - the possibility of young people being same, both, opposite or all sex attracted is not "morality", it's the wonderful spectrum of human attraction. The fact that traditional gender norms do not fit for many people is not "morality", it's the wonderful spectrum of human gender expression.
Pretending otherwise teaches young queer people to hate themselves, and young non-queer people to be prejudiced and unaware of their privileged position being heterosexual and cis-gendered.
Why is this so threatening????

Anonymous said...

Rainbow Youth is an incredible source of information and an absolute haven I am guessing for many young people.

Family First on the other hand, when expressing their views of LGBT rights (I agree with some of their views on other things), personify every single reason why not to have faith in God and why to do anything in this world but be a Christian. In their world hate = love and that, quickly frankly is just fucked up.

Muerk said...

As a Catholic human sexuality has a great deal of theological meaning for me. We are not souls with bodies, but body and soul as a holistic unity. Our sexuality is a deep, mystical intimacy that reflects God's very nature, the Trinity.

Because of the theological and spiritual importance of sexuality that the Church teaches, my beliefs are going to be very different to say, Rainbow Youth or Family Planning.

Just as non-Catholics would be uncomfortable about their young people learning about sexuality from a purely Catholic perspective, so I am uncomfortable about my kids learning about sexuality from a non-Catholic perspective.

I'm know other cultures have their own beliefs around human sexuality and I think it's up to cultures to teach their young people in this regard.

Family First is not Catholic, it's more Evangelical. So FF would be possibly different to me in how it views human sexuality.

Hugh said...

Muerk, you do a great job of dressing it up with respectful, considerate language. But your use of neutral terms like "views about human sexuality" is obscuring the fact that there are certain "views about human sexuality" whose passing on to children is problematic regardless of whether they're derived from culture, religion, or what have you.

Muerk said...


I don't think my beliefs are problematic. I have certain views on sexuality that I'm sure you disagree with, but my main focus is on the positive not the negative.

I'm keen on loving, committed, life long marriages between men and women that are open to conceiving life. I think that married couples should work with a woman's fertility to avoid pregnancy if that is what is prudent for them. I think having children is a primary function of marriage.

Marriage is merely one vocation among others for people. Not everyone is called to marriage and I don't expect them to be. Of course I am working from a Catholic viewpoint that not everyone shares. People should be free to disagree and live their own life to the best of their ability.

Anonymous said...

Muerk - you say "People should be free to disagree and live their own life to the best of their ability."

Why doesn't that apply to your children? You do realise that state education doesn't impose one idea of right or wrong but presents many options as viable. Part of becoming an adult is making these decisions yourself.

me (also forgot to sign the previous anon, which is also "me")

Anonymous said...

One more thing, Muerk. You say: "Just as non-Catholics would be uncomfortable about their young people learning about sexuality from a purely Catholic perspective, so I am uncomfortable about my kids learning about sexuality from a non-Catholic perspective."

But what is being proposed is that the education include teaching on all sorts of perspectives. No one is suggesting schools teach "one right path" (that's pretty much the domain of religion). Schools should be teaching kids about all the options and outcomes and things to consider when it comes to relationships.

Would also love if you could answer my earlier question.


Muerk said...


"...and what do you propose for children whose parents don't want to teach them about that? Or what if the children feel uncomfortable discussing that with their parents?"

I propose that we trust families to deal with these issues and that that the state provides support through funding to organisation dedicated to providing information on sexual health. If parents need help talking to their kids then they can pop into a Family Planning or sexual health clinic run by a DHB and pick up booklets with information.

If groups feel that parents are needing more help then they can run community courses.

I'm just looking at Family Planning's website now and they say "Ideally, parents are the first teachers of sexuality education."

The website offers support for parents to help teach their kids about sexuality and their bodies.

I'm not saying Family Planning or Rainbow Youth should be defunded, I'm saying it should be there and accessible but it should be kept out of school. Parents can choose then to access it, or they can choose to direct their children to them for more information if they feel they can't do it themselves.

"Why doesn't that apply to your children?"

It applies to all adults. At some point soon my kids will be over 18 and they will have to make their own adult choices. Just as I disagree with my mother in some things, I'm sure my kids will disagree with me. That's healthy.

My duty as a parent is to prepare them for life, I think Catholic teaching is truest and best so that's what I'm going to pass on. I'm sure every parent makes those same choices and teaches their children as they see best.

"But what is being proposed is that the education include teaching on all sorts of perspectives."

Really? I wasn't aware of that. So what other voices are being included?

In my own experience sexuality education isn't something specific or discreet from learning about life in general. I think it's something that is taught as life goes along. So kids ask what a tampon is, or where babies come from and the conversations just move naturally from there.

Sometimes life throws up questions, like my primary age kids asked what a condom was because a used one had been found in the school playground. As a parent you answer their questions truthfully.

My oldest boy loved my microbiology textbook I had when I was studying nursing, and it has photos of STIs, so we chatted about them.

Sexuality, relationships and bodies are just part of life and they are just part of talking to your kids. I guess you could say I advocate unschooling/home schooling for sexuality education. Letting the conversations be child-driven and dealt with as they come up as part of life.

LudditeJourno said...

Muerk, I completely agree that learning about sexuality should be natural and normal and part of talking about our bodies and our feelings as we grow up. I also agree that it's ideal that caregivers can access information to help them do this well.
But many parents can't or won't do this - and part of sexuality being natural and normal is that information is available in a variety of places.
There are also particular issues to do with queer kids, because our world is homophobic. Many parents love their queer children of course, but some don't - they kick them out of home, or they bully them, or they threaten to have them institutionalised. All true stories from queer young people I've worked with. The more sexuality education the better.

Muerk said...

I guess I should say that part of my feelings about sexuality education in schools are about the institutions themselves. Schools are often not ideal places for kids to learn in and they don't suit some kids. I'm quite wary of schools going beyond their original mandate of teaching academic or technical subjects.

I would like to see parents as educators encouraged and schools there for more specialised learning. I think we put parenting responsibilities onto schools and remove them from parents. One example would be early childhood education. We see teachers getting degrees to work at early childhood centers, yet in previous times it would have been expected for parents (mothers really) to teach these skills.

I'm just wary of outsourcing education that parents can do to institutions. I don't want to see teaching children to be completely professionalised. I'm quite supportive of home schooling, even though we don't home school ourselves because it puts families in control of learning, and I think that's healthy.

Which is not to say I'm against early childhood education or schools, I just want to see these institutions work with families in a healthy way.

Moz said...

Muerk: I propose that we trust families to deal with these issues

But families have repeatedly failed to do this, which is why the state has had to step in. At the very basic level, the state had to come along and say "children under 16 cannot consent to sex" and then follow it up with "so you're not allowed to rape them" because apparently it wasn't clear enough the first time. This is still contentious in some circles. Should we avoid mentioning it at school?

Same deal with sex education. Significant numbers of parents consistently fail to supply even the very basic information of "sex is how babies are made", let alone anything more advanced like "contraception is possible" and "you always have the right to say no and that must be respected".

So the state comes along and lays out a very, very basic set of information that must be taught to children. Some of it is controversial, just as in other areas, because some people would rather pretend that certain facts aren't. But just as we teach children that some gases are more opaque to long infrared radiation than short[1] we also teach them that sexual attraction comes in a variety of forms.

At least when I was at school parents had some opportunity to withdraw their children from the more controversial bits (there was social pressure not to, of course). I did "god hates imperfect children" in primary school anyway, as well as "girls have periods" at intermediate and "sex makes babies" at high school.

[1] they're called greenhouse gases for this reason.

Moz said...

Also, LJ, thanks for the piece and especially the radio-friendly Lily Allen song and the cool video. Previously I've only seen the fan videos.

Hugh said...

@Muerk: Your views may or may not be problematic, but I thought we were talking about general principles, not about you specifically?

The fact that you're a great parent who, if left to your own devices without the state sticking its nose would raise your kids to be well-rounded and wonderful people, does not mean that all parents are.

"Trust families" is a great slogan for a right wing political party but it is not a good guideline for policy.

Muerk said...

Hugh and Moz:

I have no issue with students learning about empirical facts of human reproduction in their science classes, but I don't think it's the role of schools to get into the ethical, sociological and (for some) theological meaning of sexuality.

"Trust parents" is how we get kids to school in the first place. Walking, talking, toileting, eating, basic health and hygiene are all entrusted to parents. It's up to parents to teach sharing, honesty, empathy and kindness. Sexual morality should be entrusted to parents as well.

I acknowledge that there are parents who fail their children and I acknowledge that there needs to be some way of getting help to those kids. But I would argue that those kids needs are going to be deeper than the sex ed kids get in class at school.

I would also add that many kids now have the internet, where there is a massive amount of information that can be accessed anonymously.

It would be easier if we all agreed on sexuality, but we don't. State schools can't fairly represent all the diversity of opinions either.

Hugh said...

Are you seriously arguing that we need to make room for homophobia as part of a "diversity of opinions"?

"Walking, talking, toileting, eating, basic health and hygiene are all entrusted to parents. It's up to parents to teach sharing, honesty, empathy and kindness. Sexual morality should be entrusted to parents as well."

They are entrusted to parents to the degree that parents are the primary providers. But they are not entrusted in that parents are free to provide whatever level of hygiene or food they feel is appropriate. Their are legal sanctions on parents who do not keep their kids feed or clean, or who fail to teach them to talk or walk. So it's not a matter of just trusting parents to do as they see fit.

I would argue that a parents' duty to feed and clothe their children is analogous to their duty to not teach their children hateful ideologies, such as homophobia.

Muerk said...


Are there legal sanctions on parents who don't teach their children to be honest? No. Parents are left to the moral upbringing of their children.

"I would argue that a parents' duty to feed and clothe their children is analogous to their duty to not teach their children hateful ideologies, such as homophobia."

Is your analogy such that you would favour legal sanctions on parents who teach their children "hateful ideologies, such as homophobia"?

Also, how do you define homophobia?

Hugh said...

Muerk - Firstly, I'm not going to define homophobia for you. If you genuinely don't know what homophobia is, google it. If you are trying to distract from the substance of my environment by getting finickity over definitions, define "family" for me.

I would argue that dishonesty is more dangerous to society than homophobia. It doesn't seem like teaching children that gay people are human beings too is that arduous an imposition. And yes, I would be comfortable with legal sanctions. To me, the need to live in a non-violent society that respects human rights is more important than the parents' right to raise their kids as they see fit. In the same way that a child's right to nourishment is more important.

And before you say so, I don't think that such a law would end homophobia overnight. But it would help.

Moz said...

Muerk, I suspect that "the empirical facts of human reproduction" probably wouldn't make you happy whether they included the notion of humans as social animals or not. Even just sticking to "less than 50% of fertilised eggs survive to become fetuses", and "like many other animal species, homosexuality and other variations are common in humans" are outside the bounds of Catholic doctrine.

But getting back to sex ed, why not teach kids that a diversity of sexes and sexual roles exist? Why not emphasise that all human beings deserve respect, and that discrimination on the basis of things people can't change is bad? Other that the clear contradiction of many religious beliefs, that is. Because, frankly, there are no religions that have a clean conscience on this one.

Muerk said...


"Even just sticking to "less than 50% of fertilised eggs survive to become fetuses", and "like many other animal species, homosexuality and other variations are common in humans" are outside the bounds of Catholic doctrine."

Are you being satirical here?

Okay, taking the risk of egg on my face that you were making a joke, this is wrong. So very, very wrong. In no way is this outside Catholic doctrine.

"But getting back to sex ed, why not teach kids that a diversity of sexes and sexual roles exist?"

Because for Catholics there is a theological meaning to marriage and sexuality. Sexual intimacy is about male and female becoming one flesh and being open to continuing God's fruitful work of creation.


I really don't have any response to you because if you are keen on legal sanctions, I can't really say anything to that. I just think our positions are too apart for me to come up with anything to say.

Hugh said...

@Muerk: I find it amusing that you presume Moz is being satirical when he says that "homosexuality and other variations are common in humans" (is) outside the bounds of Catholic doctrine." and then go on to explain to us that "for Catholics there is a theological meaning to marriage and sexuality. Sexual intimacy is about male and female becoming one flesh and being open to continuing God's fruitful work of creation."

If your idea of marriage and sexuality is explicitly about male and female, then yes, the idea that homosexual behaviour is natural and expected is at odds with your idea of sexuality.

Hugh said...

@Muerk: PS - it's obviously your choice whether or not to engage with me, but I will say this - if you feel that you are unable to productively discuss things with people who think that there should be legal sanctions against what you believe in, please extend that presumption to others and refrain from trying to explain why you think abortion should be illegal.

Muerk said...


Reread what Moz said:

"I suspect that "the empirical facts of human reproduction" probably wouldn't make you happy whether they included the notion of humans as social animals or not. Even just sticking to "less than 50% of..."

Moz is saying that teaching certain empirical facts is against Catholic doctrine. Catholic doctrine does not teach that all embryos survive, nor does it teach that all humans are heterosexual and cis.

It's ridiculous to suggest that Catholic doctrine is going to deny an empirical scientific fact. Catholic doctrine is concerned with faith and morals, not science. It is ignorance and/or bigotry to suggest otherwise.

Of course the Church knows that many embryos die and are miscarried, and science classes in schools are welcome to teach that. Of course the Church knows that human sexuality is diverse and that some people are attracted to their own sex or gender and science classes are welcome to say so.

The issue for the Church is human choice. Is it morally right to actively kill embryos? Is it morally right to have sexual intimacy outside of marriage?

These aren't questions for the science class.


The reason I was stumped by you was because we don't have legal sanctions for other beliefs, such as racism or misogyny or republicanism or whatever.

It's creating a thought crime really.

The reason I asked for your definition of homophobia is because I don't know if you include Catholic teaching as homophobic. Some people do, some don't. If homophobia is "gay people are bad" then yes, I agree that is homophobic. If saying "sex should occur between male and female spouses" then no, I don't think that is homophobic.

Moz said...

Muerk, you read me correctly. But you keep trying to drag Catholic morality into it.

"I don't think it's the role of schools to get into the ethical, sociological and (for some) theological meaning of sexuality."

ok, sample facts: most people have sex before they get married. Many have sex before they're ready to have children. Having children young has many bad effects on both child and parents. Abstinence-only education does not reduce sexual activity. Contraception dramatically reduces youth birth rates. The outcome if abortion is better for the mental health of the mother than giving birth.

Teach the facts, she says, teach the facts!

People are social animals. Sex, like everything else, exists in a social context, and an ethical context and so on. You can't teach "the facts" without that context. The facts are that homosexuality is not just legal in NZ, it's a protected part of a person, you're not allowed to discriminate on that basis.

I can understand that to a practicing Catholic this could be tricky. On the one hand God speaks through the Pope and says homosexuality is a much more important abomination than the eating of shellfish. But on the other hand the practice of hounding and hating homosexuals does run counter to what we know of the teachings of that ancient anarco-hippie guy, as well as being explicitly against the law where you live. Tricky.

The main thing for me is that having rainbow youth in schools puts the focus firmly on love and acceptance of people as they are, rather than judging and bullying. I suspect that to Hugh as well, that's what really matters.

Muerk said...


Of course I'm trying to drag Catholic morality into it, I'm Catholic.

I'm not wanting to put my beliefs onto anyone else's kids. I think there are factual aspects of human sexuality that you can teach in a science context. When it comes to beyond that I'm advocating it be taught out of school time.

There are plenty of gay Catholics btw. I know a gay priest. Here's another guy who writes about being gay and Catholic.

Moz said...

This is an interesting comment: and links to a canadian sex ed cirriculum that is also worth reading.

Muerk said...


The Canadian curriculum looks pretty thorough, although there is a huge focus on exercise, but I do see how they talk about that being done in an inclusive way, eg. for people with a disability.

The thing is that "active living" and "movement skills and concepts" (I've used the terms in the curriculum here) aren't intimate. To make it more personal, using the curriculum from grade 6 (10-12 year olds according to Wikipedia), my kids are happy to talk about throwing balls, preparing to babysit a younger child, effective communication in sports games, but there is no way they want to discuss erections, wet dreams, vaginal lubrication, or masturbation in a school setting.

Even the mild Catholic puberty stuff they get at school turns them cold. They _hated_ it. And this from kids who are really open and chatty about their bodies and sexuality at home. I asked them if they learnt anything new, and they said it was stuff we had talked about at home, but there was no way they wanted to talk about such private stuff with their teachers and classmates. This was also gender segregated and they had a male teaching them.

I'm not against sex ed, I just want it to be homeschooled, if you will, or done outside school with parents opting their kids in.

Muerk said...


Oops, I forgot to address the other link.

It's interesting, and in some ways we are similar, but we have added in the theological meaning of our bodies and sexuality as much as we are able.

Anonymous said...

@Muerk - thanks for your response.

I understand you think parents should be the primary instructors of children. That's fine. But the point is that parent's DON'T undertake that task responsibly. Some do, and there's no problem there, but lots don't.

You can't design the system according to some ideal where all parents impose fair and decent morals on their children. You have to design a system that acknowledges the way things ARE and responds to that and ameliorates risk.

The way things are right now is that parents and adults have hideously messed up and bigoted views about relationships and sexuality. That needs to change. It's got nothing to do with morality and everything to do with social justice and social fairness. Children shouldn't have their knowledge limited by their parents' narrow world view. There should be scope for every child to learn about this stuff in a safe (not all families are) and neutral (again, not all families are) way.

Besides, you also failed to address the fact that lots of parents don't actually know this stuff in the first place so how are they meant to teach their kids? For a start we have ridiculously high rates of teen pregnancy, STDs, youth suicide, homophobic bullying, etc - all of this stuff indicates most of society are actually acting out and perpetuating harmful/incorrect ideas. Why should those same people be trusted to teach the next generation?

To say you want to teach your kids about sex and relationships - that's fine. But to say that the state shouldn't provide a centralised and neutral source of information (schools being the easiest place where this can happen so it reaches everyone) - that's ridiculous.

Your utopian vision of parents teaching their kids all this lovely stuff - well that doesn't exist. For some, yes. But probably not even half are like that.


Muerk said...


You have a much darker view of how families are functioning than I do. I think most families are doing well, but it's true that some are not.

I contest that sex education in schools is not enough to turn kids around who come from dysfunctional families. I would also note that the generation of parents now (i.e. mine) has sex in school. I remember it well. If sex ed didn't help me to help myself and pass that onto my kids, why is sex ed in schools going to work for the next generation?

If sex ed worked for my generation, then can't my generation pass it on as well? Or at least know to find people willing to help, like Family Planning.

Muerk said...

Errr... Make that sex education in school NOT "sex in school". D'oh.

Hugh said...

"Of course I'm trying to drag Catholic morality into it, I'm Catholic. "

REALLY? How long have you been sitting on this information?

Sarcasm aside, yes you are. But that, I suspect, is kind of Moz's point. This discussion isn't really about you or the specifics of your beliefs. It's about the general principle of the extent to which parents are allowed to pass on harmful ideas to their children. Your argument that Catholic social thought isn't harmful is actually anciliary to that. Whether or not Catholicism is a way for delivering homophobic or other harmful ideas doesn't effect whether or not the issue exists. There are obviously some parents who want to promote homophobic ideas to their children - the question is, should they be allowed to? What you or the Pope or some random Catholic blogger think about gay people isn't really germane.

Muerk said...


Perhaps I'm not being fair to you. Could you explain how you think legal sanctions against teaching children homophobia would work? Because I'm envisioning a situation where the legal sanction effect a Big Brother nightmare which may not be what you are thinking.

Hugh said...

Ehh, I'm disinclined to get down into the weeds and write up an entire policy proposal for you.

I'll readily concede that implementation would not be simple but that doesn't mean the basic idea isn't sound.

Anonymous said...

Muerk- the point is that sex education didn't work for your generation...kinda unsure where you get your rose-tinted glasses from but I'd sure like a pair.

It's more important that children with inept/bad/etc parents are given an equal chance in life than it is for "good" parents to be given the chance to solely and entirely inculcate their children with whatever views they so choose. And yes, that includes Catholicism.

I'd much rather have education happening in a clear and transparent and public way than behind closed doors where no one is able to correct harmful mistruths. You are dangerously overstating a parent's ability to a) know all the right stuff, b) teach it to their children effectively. Even if they were honest and pure in their intent, there's nothing to suggest their information is realiable.

Put another way, because you don't need a licence to be a parent and you do to be a teacher, it's much safer to entrust your child to a teacher than it is to entrust them to a random parent.

As long as we have the horrific rates of child abuse, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy & teen suicide that we do, I will never stand back and "trust" parents to do a good job when they've consistently proved that they can't/won't.


Muerk said...


How do you feel about homeschooling in general? Is it the same way?

Anonymous said...

Yeah I don't agree with/support home schooling as a rule. I think there are lots of individual cases where it's fine and there are specific learning needs or behavioural issues that can't be addressed or met in a normal classroom. But for the average child I think home schooling disadvantages them.


Anonymous said...

And to clarify: that belief is based on my personal experience of knowing people who have been home schooled combined with knowledge gained at uni, where I majored in education/educational psychology.