I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but I have noticed several similarities over the years.
- It's not normal.
- Because it’s not normal, people who don’t know you think they can judge and condemn you for it
- People who haven’t thought about it much find it impossible to imagine what you actually *do*
- Some people’s parents and extended family find it hard to understand or accept
- Because it’s not normal, it gives you an outsider’s perspective on the way things are usually done.
- It shapes your life in a holistic way that is difficult to describe to people outside the relevant community
Another similarity is that there are often violent disagreements within the community about both politics and terminology. One such recent discussion on the UKHE email list is what prompted me to start thinking about this again.
Some people believe that our status as outsiders logically and inevitably puts us in a position of opposition to the existing institutions (eg marriage, school, capitalism), and that we should therefore all fight for their downfall.
Others think we should be aiming for acceptance and inclusion, and work in more respectable ways for law reform and equal rights.
Many of us are struggling along on the rocky path between these two peaks, engaging with society enough to represent our particular interests and defend the legal freedoms we have, while trying not to become corrupted and co-opted in the process.
And of course, there are many, in both communities, who do their best not to think about such things, and just get on with their lives.
For myself, I’m on the rocky path, but emotionally drawn towards the downfall-of-society side. For example, despite the conventional form of our family set-up, I’ve never supported the campaign for gay marriage, for the reasons given here. In fact, I think the example of marriage may also be instructive for home educators.
While LGBT activists have been lobbying for equal access to the institution of marriage, the rest of society has been slowly but surely abandoning and dismantling it. I think that’s good. I’m for diversity in household forms and respect for personal choices about relationships, not a single state-sanctioned family type, with everything else treated as a failure of some kind.
What puzzles me is, when is that going to happen to the institution of schooling? It’s clearly outmoded, oppressive and unfit for the purpose of enabling children to gain an education that fits them for the world we now live in. It seems to me that saying things like that in home education circles is commonplace and unremarkable, but saying it elsewhere is a bit taboo.
Do we have a particular insight because of our outsider status? Do we therefore have an obligation to share that with everyone else? How could we do that in a way that is not smug or aggressive, or that would actually have any effect?
I think it is undeniable that the world has changed for LGBT people in the last 20 years. Almost beyond recognition. Some things are as they ever were, and I wouldn’t want to pretend for a minute that there is no homophobic bullying in schools or workplaces, or that coming out is not still a hard process for many people. But there is definitely a different atmosphere in the air now. You just have to watch an episode of Doctor Who to see it!
I don’t really know how this has happened. I like to think the robust response of our community to the vile Section 28 had a part to play, but I also think that big social change is always partly a subterranean thing. It just seems to happen when we’re all looking in the other direction, and afterwards the new way of things seems as natural and solid as the old one did.
Maybe we’re on the verge of an earthquake in educational thinking, and we just can’t see it yet. Ah, well… we can but dream!