I know three men. The eldest remembers abuse he suffered in a church-run home. The second was accosted bya paedophile, escaped unharmed but traumatised. The third was subjected to a regime of sexual harassment by a jealous supervisor. The incidents happened when they were young and vulnerable but the effects have lasted and coloured their perception of homosexuals.
The first two cannot separate paedophilia from homosexuality. The third knows they exist but not in his world.
It's the third one I know most about. He walked away from his apprenticeship and it was years before he told us why, even now we don't know the full story. He disapproves of my involvement with the Gay Rights Lobby. He can't understand that what happened to him as a straight kid happens to gay kids every day of the week. When I asked if he would abuse or bash a gay kid, he was horrified and said no-one gets bashed with him around. Here is someone who would prefer that queers stayed invisible but wouldn't allow them to be hurt. Consider him a work-in-progress.
The other two won't change. Their experiences provided an opening for the "paedophiles are homosexuals" propaganda and it's part of them. Neither of these men is the bash and abuse type but they can spread the propaganda and perpetuate the myth. Nothing I could say will change them.
I began to think about them as I read Rodney Croome's post on a Pride or Prejudice anti-homophobia training workshop for teachers. The teachers are in a hurry , the Education Department wants them to wait until a formal academic evaluation of the impact of the program on student attitudes is completed. Schools are the first place young people become aware of their sexuality and aware of the dangers if that sexuality is a same sex attraction. I sympathise with the teachers who watch the bullying going on everyday but the Department worries if the teachers will cope with the teenagers coming out.
I know that schools have to be made safe for lgbt teens. Straight students have to be taught that it's not okay to bash and abuse, inside or outside of school hours. Quality sex and sexuality programs are need to stop the myths. That kid you've known for years doesn't suddenly become a monster when he or she says they're gay. Bad attitudes formulated at school follow through life so let's stop them here. It's naive, simplistic and idealistic because I haven't allowed for parents, religion or community attitudes but it's not about them.
We need a program that keeps gay teens alive long enough to be strong enough to be confident enough in their gay selves. It's the safest thing we can do for them.