OPINION: Young people must learn about LGBT+ issues – both in the UK and Hungary

by Nicholas Hewlett | St Dunstan’s College
Thursday, 15 July 2021 13:15 GMT

Silhouettes of demonstrators are seen as they march around the Hungarian parliament to protest against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the latest anti-LGBTQ law in Budapest, Hungary, June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Marton Monus TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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Hungary’s recent law banning discussion of LGBT+ matters in the classroom risks harming young lives and must be resisted

Nicholas Hewlett is headmaster at St Dunstan’s College, an independent school for pupils aged between three and 18 in London.

Hungary’s recent decision to ban the ‘display and promotion of homosexuality’ is an abhorrent and regressive step that sadly exposes the fragility of our societal progression and the liberal agenda.

I understand that the Hungarian government’s response to the understandable and reassuring backlash from its neighbouring European states is to claim that it is only trying to protect its children.

I would like to know what exactly they believe they are protecting children from? From learning that it is OK to be yourself? From understanding that in difference there is strength? From knowing that equality is a fundamental human right?

This legislation, masquerading as protection, will only cause harm and deepen divisions. Young LGBTQ+ people will have to grow up with the fear of living in a hostile environment, a place where their own government are actively legislating against their existence. It certainly isn’t going to prevent young people from truly knowing who they are.

I agree wholeheartedly with the words of Luxembourg’s openly gay prime minister, Xavier Bettel, that young people simply do not just get up and say ‘I’m gay’ after watching an advert on TV.

As a gay man growing up in Britain in the 1990s and having been educated in the context of Section 28, I can categorically state that I did not need protection.  Well, maybe from the homophobic rhetoric and actions of political figures at the time.

Like the youngsters now in Hungary, what I really needed to see was an environment that showcased diversity as something to be celebrated, and not to be condemned. A schooling that taught us about the diversity of humanity and what a beautiful and powerful thing that is.

A culture where repressing individual identities does nothing but create a generation of young people ill at odds with themselves and with the world around them. History teaches us that.

I also thought and hoped that in 2021 we had all moved on from the view of a ‘traditional family’ being man, woman and 2.4 children. Surely, we have all grown up a bit since the notion was hammered home by the automation of state media brainwashing.

As I’ve previously written about, I believe there is a whole generation of British adults my age who still fear being totally open and honest with their colleagues and families. The press attention around my ‘coming out’ assembly earlier this year only reaffirms this belief.

Thankfully, here in the United Kingdom, things have now moved on and although there is still work to be done, young LGBTQ+ can grow up knowing their diversity is celebrated and protected within British law.

Leaders, from presidents to teachers, all have a duty of care to young people – especially given the challenges of the last 15 months.  The actions of politicians in Hungary, along with Poland and Brazil, only seek to roll back freedoms and risk millions of young LGBTQ+ people feeling lost and excluded from society. It was heart-warming to see President Biden’s White House lit up in the pride colours this month, after being largely ignored under his predecessor, and while these are small gestures, they act as a bulwark against the rising tide of populist leaders.

The only thing that should be protected and encouraged is love, respect and compassion for one another.

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