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Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
July 8, 2020 ·  5 min read

Scotland becomes the first country in the world to add LGBTQI history to school curriculum

Scotland has now taken an important step toward combating homophobia and is the first country in the world to include LGBTQI history as a part of their school curriculum.

For centuries, the LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex) community has faced discrimmination, violence, oppression, and persecution at the hands of the church, state, and medical authorities. 

In June 2016, the second-worst mass shooting in US history occurred when one man killed 49 people and injured 50 others at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida [1]. The subsequent outpouring of grief, support, and outrage from local and national politicians, police, the public, and the president of the United States demonstrated a shift toward acceptance and support for the LGBTQI community.

This shift, however, did not happen by accident. It is the result of years of hard work by activists and organizations that have fought for equality and rights for individuals all over the world who don’t conform to the binary concept of gender identity and sexuality that society has subscribed to.

While significant strides have been made for acceptance and support of these people, we as a society still have a long way to go before full equality and acceptance is achieved. Still today, in developed countries around the world, members of the LGBTQI community continue to face discrimmination, violence, and hate.

Read: Moms Offer Free Hugs at Pride Parade for Kids Whose Parents Rejected Them

A Brief History of LGBTQI Rights

Prior to the scientific and political revolutions that occurred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, organizations or resources to support someone who might have identified as LGBTQI were scarce.

Movements to recognize and support these individuals began emerging in the 1870s, and the first gay liberation movement began in Berlin in 1897. Throughout the early part of the twentieth century, several gay militant organizations were created throughout several European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Sweden.

In 1951, the International Committee for Sexual Equality (ICSE), which demanded demanded rights for homosexual men and women, was founded in Amsterdam, and in 1960 the Homosexual Law Reform Society in the United Kingdom began to work towards the decriminalization of same-sex relationships.

Throughout the sixties and seventies, several groups around the world began forming, inspired by the Gay Liberation Front in the United States. Throughout the eighties and the latter part of the twentieth century, we saw the adoption of the rainbow flag, the use of the LGBT acronym, and the presence of openly gay indviduals in elections, businesses, and as public figures.

In 1993, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, and since then we have seen sexual minority groups come together to lead anti-homophobic movements [2].

Over the last 150 years of LGBTQI activism, however, leaders and organizers of social movements have struggled to address the needs of each of the different minority groups who have their own set of concerns and identity issues. Many of the early movements that gained leverage against homophobia did not necessarily represent the range needs for gay men, women identifying as lesbians, or individuals identifying as gender variant or non-binary [3].

This has led to the adoption of the acronym LGBTQI in the twenty-first century, which represents the inclusion of the trans and intersex movements [2].

All of this barely scratches the surface of the history of the LGBTQI rights movement, highlighting the need for more education on the struggles these people have faced throughout the centuries.

Read: A 1970 Law Led to the Mass Sterilization of Native American Women. That History Still Matters

Scotland LGBTQ+ History

Recognizing this need for better education surrounding the history of sexual minority groups, Scotland has become the first country in the world to include LGBTQI history into its school curriculum [4].

The curriculum, which is expected to be fully implemented in schools across the country by 2021, will include lessons that address issues like homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, as well as the history of LGBTQI equality and movements.

The legwork for this movement began in 2018, when Scottish ministers accepted all recommendations by members of the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, which called for an end of the “destructive legacy” of a piece of legislation called section 28.

Section 28 was an amendment to the Local Government Act of 1988 that banned local authorities and schools from “promoting” homosexuality. This meant that councils were prohibited from promoting books, plays, leaflets, films, or any other material that depicted same-sex relationships, and teachers were banned from talking about gay relationships in schools [5].

This clause was repealed in Scotland in 2001, and in the UK in 2003, but its implications have remained visible today, nearly twenty years after its removal. This was the impetus for the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) Campaign to include LGBTQI education in schools, something that has been left out of the curriculum for years.

“This is a monumental victory for our campaign, and a historic moment for our country,” said TIE co-founder Jordan Daly. “The implementation of LGBTI inclusive education across all state schools is a world first. In a time of global uncertainty, this sends a strong and clear message to LGBTI young people that they are valued here in Scotland” [4].

Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney is very excited that Scotland is the first country to have LGBTQI education embedded in the curriculum, stating that it has already been one of the most progressive countries in Europe for LGBTQI equality.

The Importance of Inclusive Education

The damaging effects of section 28 can still be felt in classrooms throughout the UK. Research conducted in 2017 by Stonewall revealed that forty percent of LGBT students were never taught anything about LGBT issues [6].

In fact, LBGTQI history has all but been erased in the classroom, and this lack of inclusive education has led to bullying and discrimination against LGBTQI students, and a lack of support from teachers and staff.

Teaching about LGBTQI families will benefit students from these families because they will see themselves represented in the education, and will also help other young people to be more understanding and accepting of their peers who do not conform to a binary model of gender and sexual identity.

“Inclusive education helps to create inclusive communities,” says Paul Twocock, interim executive chief at Stonewall. “Building a more welcoming society requires building bridges between diverse groups. If all schools teach acceptance – no exceptions – then that would be a good first step to healing some of the division that we’ve seen in society over the past decade” [7].

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