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If we want queer and trans people to be involved in society, then maybe we should tell history as it really was

I was never taught that Anne Frank was bisexual, or that many Indigenous Americans celebrate people who are ‘two spirit’ 

Kaan K
Wednesday 26 July 2017 17:22 BST
The Stonewall Riots were the inception of Pride, which now takes place every year
The Stonewall Riots were the inception of Pride, which now takes place every year (Getty)

Fifty years after homosexuality was decriminalised, the UK Government has released a National LGBT survey, which included this question: “Were sexual orientation and gender identity discussed at school in lessons, assemblies or in any other part of your schooling?”

I hover over the options for a moment, scraping my memory for the slightest hint of hope. My mouse clicks: “No, neither were discussed”. The answers to the other 50 or so questions aren’t particularly optimistic either.

I ask around my friends and family, those who went to other schools and live in other parts of the country. The answer from most is a resounding no. A few friends who did have LGBTQ+ existence mentioned were told that homosexuals were just people who weren’t content with what God gave them.

If God gave us heteronormativity, then I’m happy to declare myself an atheist right now.

But I have a feeling homophobia, biphobia and transphobia have less to do with God and more to do with a society that is still incredibly heteronormative and cisnormative.

After all, London Underground might have recently ditched the phrase “ladies and gentleman”, but I can’t escape the sayings “men and women” and “boys and girls” – the idea of two genders is woven into the fabric of our society with incredible intricacy. Undoing one stitch does not change the bigger picture.

But is it really surprising that queer and trans people are discriminated against today, when we’re not talked about in schools as if we were a community of Voldemorts, and when we’re largely written out of history?

I learnt nothing about the Stonewall riots at school – Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and the community of incredible trans women of colour who started Pride as a protest. Today we march alongside the police on Pride parades, forgetting that Pride began because police were raiding our bars and arresting us simply for being who we are.

I was never taught that Anne Frank was bisexual, or that many Indigenous Americans celebrate people who are ‘two spirit’ (despite one of my GCSE history modules being “The American West”), or even that our own Prime Minister, Theresa May, voted against repealing Section 28 and didn’t attend Parliament for any of the four votes that led to the Gender Recognition Act.

Nope, we don’t learn about any of this. Instead we’re made to sit through embarrassing sex ed lessons where we watch animations of straight, cis people having intercourse and telling us not to get pregnant until we’re married. Some sex education lessons don’t even provide that insight.

We read books about straight cis people, learn about music by straight cis people, study the history of straight cis people… then we’re expected to leave school, get a job, get cosy in a nice little heterosexual marriage and have 2.4 children.

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We’re expected to live a “normal” life. But how can we, when our whole existence is treated as abnormal? If you’re straight, imagine people at school or work using your sexuality as a slur. Imagine being spat at for holding your partner’s hand, or your parents refusing to ever meet your partner just because of their gender, even throwing you out of their home.

If you’re cis, imagine people constantly calling you the wrong pronoun, having the wrong gender on your birth certificate, or if in every public space you couldn’t find a bathroom that you would be safe in, or even one for your gender at all.

Imagine feeling like a constant disappointment, because you’re not the person anyone wanted or expected you to be. No wonder “coming out” is still so difficult. No wonder a quarter of young homeless people are LGBT. No wonder almost 50 per cent of trans pupils have attempted suicide.

Not 50 years ago – when being queer was illegal and being trans would almost certainly lead to ostracisation. Now. In 2017.

We have been othered so effectively that we’re forced to exist every day within a society that pretty much pretends we don’t exist. It’s great that homosexuality was partially decriminalised 50 years ago this month, but we still have a long, long way to go before queer and trans people have even half the privileges straight, cis people do.

Until then, I’m not celebrating, I’m keeping up the fight.

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