Homophobia and the society

The mini storm aroused by Pastor Ronald McGarrell’s public comments is not without its similarities in other parts of the world.  But what some persons seem to have lost sight of is the man’s right to his beliefs.  It seems as if those private views are expressed within the context of religious convictions.
It makes absolutely no sense to invite a man’s participation and opinion if he is not expected to be forthright in his views.  The gay and lesbian community in the ardour of its activism has not shown any predisposition to take prisoners regardless of social standing.  But there are other aspects to this whole issue of homosexual rights that have not been ventilated.
How do students treat with peers whose sexual orientation differs from what they have been socialized into believing is acceptable?  What impact do gay teachers have on their students and by extension parents?
Last December Andrew Moffat, a gay assistant head teacher at Birmingham’s Chilwell Croft Academy in the UK was forced to resign his position after Muslim and Christian parents complained that they did not want their children learning that it’s OK to be homosexual.
The other side of the affair was that Moffat’s former colleagues felt that the respected teacher was probably the victim of an extremist plot to replace non-Muslims with hardliners.  This does not need to detain us at this stage; what is important to this discussion is that it appears as if Moffat’s ability as a teacher was unaffected by his sexual orientation.
He is on record as the writer of several articles and books on homophobia in schools including “Challenging Homophobia in Primary Schools” used in literacy lessons for 10 and 11-year-olds, in which he makes recommendations of how to teach children how to be tolerant.  The indefatigable Mr. Moffat also trained teachers on how to prevent homophobic bullying.
A compelling argument seems to be that parents, regardless of their religious background, should be informed of the school system’s position on the open practice of homosexuality.  This is reasonable in view of the likely concerns about gender identity issues in schools.
One aggravating factor that attends homosexual openness in a school setting is the question of role model for students who may or not be accepting of an openly gay teacher in the classroom.
Moreover, this aggravation might also be the experience of those students who are troubled by a marked lack of support from peers and adults, and their own fears and questions about their own sexuality.  Of course, being the target of demeaning homophobic language would definitely not make life any easier for gay students in an environment characterized by misunderstanding and mistrust.
It is not known at this time if a policy is in the making about LGBT teachers and students in the school system.  During 2006 a Teacher Support Network ran a survey on LGBT harassment and discrimination. It found that 60 per cent of a self-selecting group of teachers responded that they had experienced harassment or discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The biggest perpetrators were pupils, followed by their own colleagues with managers and parents coming later the mix.
Maybe SASOD, as an articulate defender of equal sexual rights, could agitate for an enforceable code of conduct which addresses homophobic/biphobic/transphobic behaviour in schools.
The argument can very well be made that openly homosexual teachers are best suited to provide both gay and straight young people with role models, but such an arrangement must be supported by colleagues and the system.
Among the reasons why the time may have come for this course of action may be found in the thought that people often perform better when they can be themselves.  Another may be the readjustment of perceptions of who can be a positive role model from the perspective of gender socialization determined by environmental influences.
Surely the fear of speaking out one way or another is unhelpful in resolving differences and misconceptions in diverse societies such as ours.  To be or not to be tolerant, that is the question.