Letters: Gay equality should begin in nursery school

Published: August 4, 2014

 It is encouraging to see Ruth Hunt, the new chief executive of LGBT charity Stonewall, calling on the Department for Education to tackle homophobic bullying in schools by teaching children about same-sex relationships as early as nursery.

It is perhaps equally reassuring to see your paper giving gay rights news prominence on the front page (“‘Teach preschool children to celebrate being gay’”, 2 August).

A recent survey by Teacher Support Network found that more than two-thirds of staff in schools (68 per cent) do not feel adequately prepared to teach same-sex marriage and LGBT-related issues. A similar percentage of staff said they had witnessed homophobic harassment in school, and just under half had been personally discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. This is preventing an open and tolerant environment for teachers and students alike.

The focus on LGBT policy in schools has tended to be on students, but teachers need to be equally supported. It is important that schools have policies and training in place so that all staff are able to offer support to pupils and colleagues, and are able to talk openly about LGBT issues.

Teaching children as young as three and four about gay rights is a radical and welcome step to nurturing a non-discriminative society from the outset. 

Poppy Bradbury
PR Officer, Teacher Support Network and Recourse 
London N5


I write in the spirit of Stonewall. I was 14 at the time of the New York Stonewall riot, which is seen as a landmark in the pride and visibility of gay people.

The organisation that has taken that proud name is appointing as figurehead a practising Catholic, who passes as straight in church, and who admits that she and her civil partner uncouple their hands when they cross beyond London Transport zones 1 and 2. Hardly “Out and Proud”, as the T-shirts say.

On the website, they boast as at May 2014 “76 per cent of our staff were 34 and under”. There’s a long way to go before it represents the community it purports to serve. Valuable though the Stonewall charity has been, in my opinion, like the Catholic Church, it now exists to perpetuate itself.

Could the noise problem Ruth Hunt’s neighbours complain of be loud hypocrisy? I agree there is much to be done in tackling homophobia, but Stonewall should either change name or exemplify true pride and visibility.

Chris Payne
London NW1


Corrosive homophobia is all too endemic and remains so, despite many legislative advances. This is principally because of a series of legislative reversals, reinforcing and legitimising homophobia, passed with the active support, mainly, of the last Labour Government after lobbying by the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church in particular.

These favours pandered to a homophobic agenda and had the deliberate effect of condoning discrimination on grounds of actual or perceived (homo)sexual orientation by Christian and other faiths.

This state-sanctioned homophobia, limiting employment and equality rights, helps foster a legal and moral framework in many schools and faith-based bodies, including charities, whose sole aim is preventing lesbian and gay people being able to grow up, compete and live on equal terms.

Until Parliament revokes all the opt-outs and concessions granted to religions that feel the need to discriminate against us, there will always be entrenched homophobia.

Alternatively, if religion insists on maintaining the right to act homophobically, charitable status should be withdrawn. Then at least it would be clear that such faiths were not acting in the public interest or to the benefit of society as a whole. 

Rev Richard Kirker
London E1


Dangers of denial  and justification

When governments deny, justify, excuse or defend transgressions by their military or security services, it sends a message to the more extreme elements within their own forces that they can do whatever they think is appropriate, regardless of international law or human rights.

America did this over torture of prisoners, and Britain did it over extraordinary rendition, and both did it over the illegal surveillance practices of their intelligence services.

Israel is doing the same over Gaza, and Russia may be doing it over the actions of pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.

I don’t believe the Israeli government directly ordered its tank commanders or pilots to deliberately target Palestinian hospitals or UN schools – any more than I believe that Putin would have ordered the deliberate shooting down of a Malaysian airliner.

However, by failing to immediately condemn and act against those responsible, but instead blaming Hamas, the Israeli government sends a message to its troops that such acts are acceptable.

In the frenzy of hatred being whipped up by the Israeli government against Hamas, it is inevitable that more trigger-happy elements of the Israeli armed forces will take this as a signal to do whatever they like to exact revenge.

Julius Marstrand


The fallen might see more dark than light

It is of course hugely important that the First World War is commemorated, particularly the sacrifice of millions with the forfeiture of their own, usually very young lives.

Such commemoration is equally laudable in the case of all other wars of national conscience. The services and parades are apt and highly respectful, but I have distinct reservations about the dousing of domestic lights and their temporary substitution by myriad single candles as a method of symbolic sympathy.

If the religious beliefs of many of us are based on truth, and our fallen are indeed looking down on us from a place of serenity, it is possible that they will be momentarily gratified by the Government’s chosen symbolic display of condolence.

However, I cannot escape the feeling that their efforts and sacrifice would perhaps sadden them were they to realise that some of the legacy of hideous conflict has failed to progress our society in some rather important areas.

Examples that might seriously disappoint them would include the continued lack of justice for the victims of paedophilia in high places, the obscene wealth and income inequality that dominates our society, and the lack of a real and protected right of employees to speak out about wrongdoing in the workplace.

I Christie
Dersingham, Norfolk


Perhaps a fitting commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War would be for the present leaders of the belligerents of 1914-18, learning from the failure of diplomacy in 1914, to commit themselves to work collectively and intensively, over the next four years, at the resolution of the world’s current conflicts, many of which, ironically, have their roots in the First World War and its peace settlement.

The Middle East – Israel/Palestine, Syria and Iraq – and eastern Ukraine might be good places to start.

Then we might be able to go on to address the urgent social and environmental issues that face us.

John Seabrook
Lyme Regis, Dorset


I wonder how organised religion can take it upon itself to oversee commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War. All I have ever read shows that the churches (on both sides and each worshipping the same God) supported wholeheartedly their respective war efforts and encouraged their troops, throughout the four-year long butchery, to believe they were acting in accordance with God’s will.

Tribalism took over, as has happened in wars since then. Commitment to patriotic group loyalties easily trumped any commitment to the message of Jesus. It is a little late now to climb on the compassion bandwagon.

John Phillips

London SW14


Howard, you do make us laugh

Talk about women’s laughter… Howard Jacobson (“A woman’s power is in her laughter”, 2 August) gave me the best laugh I’ve had in ages when he stated: “Is it not a matter of common observation that the partner wanting the quiet life is, more often than not, the man.”

That’s not been my experience nor that of most of my female acquaintances. I would say: “As a matter of common observation from the female perspective, the reverse is indeed the case.”

Penny Joseph
Shoreham-by-Sea,  West Sussex


Try a different field of battle

The Israelis and Palestinians should play a game of football.

Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire


Will there just be an angry silence?

If I’m involved in an incident with a driverless car, on whom do I vent my road rage?

Bernard Payne

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