Mike Cullen

Safe Schools 2.0: I will not accept being “tolerated”

safe

Approx Reading Time-10Yesterday, the government rebadged Safe Schools, the key issue now being “tolerance”. Unfortunately, there’s an astronomical difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance”.

 

 

 

Yesterday, I woke up to news that a new letter had been sent to the Prime Minister of Australia requesting support for a Safe Schools-style program. The idea is to replace the existing program with a national anti-bullying program after the Turnbull Government ceased funding of the initial Safe Schools program. The original Safe Schools program will continue being supported in the Labor-led States after the funding has stopped, but the Liberal-led States will be shutting it down.

What caught me off guard, and appears to have angered a huge sway of the LGBTI community, is the insensitivity of the letter. I’ve seen more acknowledgement of ethnic, racial, and sexual diversity in an IPA pamphlet.

The killer for me came in the following line:

“Make no mistake of our request: we do not seek a program that seeks approval of the way certain members of society lives. We seek only mutual respect and tolerance.”

My initial reaction to the letter seeking tolerance was a giant F.U.

I will not be tolerated! No-one should accept being tolerated. It’s dehumanising, and it acknowledges the misbelief we are lesser, based on our sexuality.

I will not be thrown a bone and made to feel grateful for the crumbs of good behaviour a bully may provide and neither should the LGBTI kids of today.

While we have grown up in different generations let me say this:

“You tolerate that which you do not like, but have to put up with.”

No one in the LGBTI community needs the high school bully to like them. They need to be respected and accepted.

We are people, like everyone else on this godforsaken rock.

Marsha P Johnson didn’t throw a brick for tolerance at the start of the Stonewall Riots. She threw it for acceptance, equality.

The men and women who marched down Oxford St on the June 24, 1978 didn’t do it to be tolerated. They weren’t beaten, arrested, hauled off to jail and outed in the next morning’s paper, putting their lives and livelihoods at risk, just to be tolerated. They did it for acceptance, equality.

I’ve read a few pieces on this issue, and a blog put up by Ben Grubb who has been working on the project. Here’s the thing: by watering down the situation, by allowing it to be more generically polite, by not wanting to offend the right-wing senators and MPs who will block any move to reintroduce the program, what you’re doing is handing your bus money to the nearest bully.

People like Cory Bernardi, Pauline Hanson and George Christensen will never support any program with LGBTI safety at its heart. They won’t tolerate us, they won’t accept us, so by turning your request into something designed to bring about universal adoration and tolerance you’re wasting your time, your effort and your reputation.


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Telling LGBTI kids that it’s okay to be hated so long as people are tolerant of them is ridiculous. Our kids, and by that I mean the next generation of our community, need to know we’ve got their back. They need to know we won’t sell them out for a handful of Shekels and a PR opportunity to have our photograph taken with some hateful politician one day.

Tolerance is not enough. It’s not enough in Russia where the LGBTI communities have effectively been made illegal through the Gay Propaganda Law, nor in Chechnya where gay men are brutally murdered in concentration camps for the simple crime of being gay, and it’s not enough here in Australia.

The LGBTI communities of the past did not sell us out for tolerance. They fought. They were warriors who threw down the gauntlet and fought for equality and acceptance. They changed laws; they made it so we can have this discussion right out in the open.

The LGBTI communities of generations past stood together and demanded nothing but our right to equality, the same as any other human being in this country.

It saddens me that those who put their names to this letter thought nothing of the message they were sending. It wasn’t a message of solidarity. It was a message of “just accept the scraps, people, that’s what we are worth.”

And I’ll tell you this. We are worth so much more than simply being “tolerated”.

We are worth acceptance and equality. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

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