This week we’ve learned about a school that has “welcomed” an openly gay pupil as head boy. Will Emery was voted into the role by his peers at Brighton College.
The head teacher Richard Cairns said sexuality was a “non-issue”, but then went on to add that “rugby players voted for him along with many others”. So perhaps not so much of a non-issue as it might seem at first glance…
Of course, it shouldn’t make any difference who Will – or anyone else for that matter – prefers sexually. It’s more astonishing that it has taken until 2013 for this to happen.
For goodness sake, sexual preference isn’t worth a raised eyebrow these days, in any circles. I can’t understand why it would make the slightest bit of difference when it comes to being a good choice for head boy or girl. And, it seems, neither can Will.
He said: “I don’t think my sexuality had any impact on my being chosen, but in other periods, when people had to hide their sexuality, it could have been a different story.”
And it’s true. When I was at secondary school none of the other pupils were gay. Not one.
Obviously now the group of my fellows contains a statistically normal proportion who are gay, lesbian and transgender. They just took a while to come out.
It must have been miserable. This was back in the days before the internet or any notion that what they were going through was actually perfectly normal and very common.
It’s wonderful that we have left that behind as history. However we must be on our guards that it stays as history.
Look at how Mr Cairns used the macho rugby players’ approval as if it carried extra weight. And add to that the news that the British Humanist Association recently published a report detailing “anti-gay language” in more than 40 schools in England and Wales
This echoes the abhorrent Section 28 legislation of the late 1980s stating that councils “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
LGBT groups were closed for fear of breaching legislation and entirely reasonable conversations based on orientation – not choice – stopped happening.
How can it be possible that anyone who has the interests of young people at heart thinks this is a good idea? Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice – and even if it were it wouldn’t be a less valid one.
The news of Will’s election to head boy shouldn’t be cause for celebration for anyone other than Will and his friends and family. The rest of us should have got to the point where it is entirely unremarkable and instead of cheering for ‘liberal’ Brighton College we should be ensuring that LGBT children in our own schools are getting all the support they deserve and that all conversations around the topic are as sensible and grown up as Will and his peers.