For as long as we can remember we’ve been teased by parents and friends about having crushes – I remember a home video of my mother asking little 4-year-old me if I had a boyfriend yet; after I had just finished my first week of primary school.
From when we are born, or sometimes even before, we’re bought clothes and gifts – coloured blue outfits and cars of you’re a boy and pink dresses and dolls if you’re a girl. But what about the people who don’t ‘fit in’ with this heteronormative view?
The traditional definition of sexual orientation is “a person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted; the fact of being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual” – this traditional view fails to acknowledge other sexual orientations such as (and not exclusive to) pansexual, demisexual, and asexual. Gender identity is defined as “a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both, or neither)” – which is a much more inclusive definition as it includes genders such as (and not exclusive to) non-binary, and genderfluid.
Self-identity can be defined as the attribution of certain characteristics or qualities to oneself; and arguably the most important aspect of a person’s self-identity is their gender and sexuality. But it appears we aren’t taught very much, if any, about different identities other than the heteronorm. When I wanted to investigate this for myself I turned to the wonders of tumblr – I made a post asking for people to send me messages (anon or not) answering 9 questions to do with gender and sexuality, and whether they were taught about something other than the heteronorm at home and in school.
I found that only 4 out of 32 people had been told about different sexualities/genders at home – and only 1 out of 32 people had been taught about different sexualities and genders at school – and in most cases it was only sexuality (and only homosexual, and bisexual) that were taught – all other sexualities and genders were neglected to be mentioned at either home/school. So, as you can imagine, trying to figure out your own identity can be very difficult if you aren’t aware of all the possibilities. I found that it took some people as long as 8 and 9 years, between which they started questioning their identity to being 100% certain as to how they identify – and one person stated that they never felt comfortable when it was assumed they fitted into the heteronormative view- and it took them 17 years to understand how they actually identify. Thinking back at my own experience at home- I realised that sexuality/gender was never mentioned; and throughout my whole high school and college experience, sexuality was mentioned only briefly, and gender not at all – and I studied A-level sociology for 2 years.
So why aren’t we taught about the possible self-identities? It has been controversial for a long time now as to whether we should teach about LGBTQ+, and most arguments against say that by teaching children and teens about these different identities that it will promote more people to “turn gay”. However, arguments for (and the side I strongly agree with) say that teaching these identities will not “turn people gay” as you cannot ‘turn gay’ – being gay is not a choice, it is an innate characteristic that, hopefully when taught about, will help people understand themselves more, and quicker – as to feel happier with who they are. Teaching about LGBTQ+ will allow people who identify as cis-gender heterosexual to accept people whose identities differ from their own, it will create less conflict, and less inequality.
Another question I asked people to answer for me, was “do you wish you were taught about different sexualities/genders at school/home?” and 28/30 people who answered said that yes; they wish they were taught. Although I didn’t ask for reasons why, many people gave reasons for their answers, and the most popular reason was “it may not have taken me so long to figure out who I am”. The 2/30 who said no they don’t wish they were taught gave their reasons too – and their reasons were “because it would probably be taught negatively” – they then pointed out that if it was taught in a positive, inclusive, and equal way then yes, they wish they were taught about sexualities/genders in school.
Everyone who answered my questions was under the age of 25 – and as you can see, we wish we were taught about LGBTQ+ in schools. Perhaps the way forward, towards acceptance, equality, and general self-happiness is to teach children and teens about identity. Teach us about sexual and gender identity!