In these modern times, how tolerant do you think our society is of non-straight relationships and transgender issues? We like to think we are more enlightened than any previous generations that have come before us, and this may be true.
The Sex Education Forum however still think there’s work to be done to improve people’s attitudes to difference in personal identity and relationships, starting with school children.
The education experts have proposed a game which encourages children as young as 11 to analyse how same-sex relationships are portrayed by the media.
In this bingo-style homework project pupils are asked to look out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters and references in TV shows.
It involves a card with 12 squares to be crossed off whenever a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender character is shown during an episode of a TV show.
The game has been launched in the latest edition of the forum’s termly e-magazine for teachers, which focuses on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
It is one of a series of teaching resources developed by the forum, which is funded by members including the Church of England, the NSPCC and local councils. It fits into a Key Stage Three (ages 11 to 14) section which recommends ‘media bingo’ as a homework activity, using a card with 12 squares.
These squares are as follows: ‘straight women visible; lesbians visible; bisexual women visible; straight men visible; gay men visible; bisexual men visible; trans men visible; bisexual people about; trans people talked about; same-sex relationships talked about; opposite-sex relationships talked about’.
The pupils are instructed to mark off any items on the bingo card and discuss their findings afterwards.
Campaigners have described the game as an ‘inappropriate’ homework topic, and said it wouldn’t be supported by many parents. Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said the game promoted an “unhealthy obsession with sex”.
Mr Wells added that he thought it encourages pupils to focus only on the sexual characteristics and behaviour of people, to the point of ignoring everything else. He also said that it exaggerates the level of people following these lifestyles and sexual feelings, which are “in the minority”.
However Lucy Emmerson, coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “Young people have repeatedly said that discussion about same-sex relationships and transgender people is often completely absent in school sex and relationships education. Getting pupils to think about characters they know from soaps, TV and films is a useful way to open up discussion.”
This topic is obviously going to lead to lots of different opinions from people reading about it. Does it promote a minority lifestyle which will not be applicable to most of the pupils playing the game? Does it even matter if it helps reduce discrimination and educates young people about all lifestyles and relationships? But perhaps by the very fact that it marks out these types of individuals as being ‘different’ does it encourage further prejudice? Does it make light, or even fun, or those with ‘non-traditional’ lives and feelings?
Bingo is a great game, but is it ideal for turning into an educational exercise designed to ‘mark’ people out as if hunting for them? Even if done with good intentions? Time will tell!