'Rainbow' class worries father

04:20, Jul 08 2012

A father is concerned his son attended alternative sexuality education classes at school that explored ideas like transsexuality without his knowledge or permission.

However the Rainbow Youth organisation's education co- ordinator stands by the presentations, sayings its education package has been evaluated and is backed up by research.

Earlier this year Rainbow Youth presented two one-hour sessions to the 15-year-old's class. Auckland-based Rainbow Youth provides "support, information, advocacy and education for queer young people" and has been delivering education workshops for more than 10 years.

One presentation was about gender and sexual identity and the other addressed issues such as homophobia and bullying.

The teenage boy said two of the presenters introduced themselves to the class as lesbians, one who was attracted to transsexual girls, while the third said he had been a woman attracted to women but became a man "with a vagina".

The teenager said the first lesson was "OK" and the message was that there were multiple gender identities. But he felt the second lesson was "quite weird". It looked at homophobia and how society treated people labelled as "other".

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The class heard two of the presenters' coming-out stories, including how one had grappled with discrimination and deciding if they were male or female. "[The transsexual speaker] was saying things like, 'it's legal to have a physical relationship with your cousin but it's illegal to have gay marriage'. And things like, if you're really homophobic you usually turn out gay.

"I think they were trying to say that being gay is all good but to me and quite a few of the people in my class, it came across like they were saying 'it's great and you guys should follow on with it'."

His father assumed, "rightly or wrongly", that sex education would be more generic and mainstream not "the weird and wonderful of the world's sexuality".

"I don't think that is the right thing to be exposing 14 and 15-year-old kids to."

Rainbow Youth's education co- ordinator Priscilla Penniket said the organisation went into schools by invitation, and demand for presentations were at capacity.

She estimated they were involved with 30 of Auckland's almost 200 high schools. The idea behind the presentations wasn't to challenge students she said, but to follow three teaching frameworks: critical thinking, self reflection and the coming-out narratives that personalised a theoretical idea.

Asked if students ever reacted badly she said, "Depending on the high school there's varying levels of homophobia which can sometimes be really [emotionally] unsafe for the volunteers coming out who are telling their story."

She denied volunteers were encouraging homosexuality, or saying homophobics were gay. Penniket said research had proven that when people were overly homophobic it was often because they were hiding something such as their sexual identity or the identity of someone they knew.

Sunday Star Times