We share with you a wonderful speech by Harriet Shing MLC in the Legislative Council at the Parliament of Victoria (October 26, 2016) in support of the Safe Schools program as the first out LGBT member of state parliament responding to a motion to remove the Safe Schools program from schools.
Harriet says “(there have been) other women who have been in this Parliament and other women who are in public office who, like people throughout society, have gone their entire lives hiding themselves from the world, hiding themselves from the reflections that they see in the mirror, living lives which may seem to put a somewhat tolerable skin on it on one level but which do not truly reflect who they are on another.
She uses her personal experience to unpack what she sees and that which we agree is enormously challenging for parents to do when their children come out as same sex attracted or gender diverse, that is to look their child in the eye, hear them out and say to them that they love them anyway — that they love them unconditionally.
“That is not always the case”, Ms Shing told Parliament, “It is also not always the case that children are accepting of the other, that children can understand the importance of being accepting and respectful, that children understand the importance of the fact that sex, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and religion — personal characteristics, the essence of who somebody is — are not and should not ever be considered to be causes of derision or contempt or isolation or exclusion or bullying”.
She then unpacks the issues surrounding discrimination of LGBTI children, looks at the guidance and support the Safe Schools program provides these children and those around them and then discusses her own personal experience of being accepted for who she is by a vast majority of people she deals with in her role as an MP yet “having said that, there are a number who do not (accept my sexuality)”.
Ms Shing says “that number is small, but it is very, very vocal, and that number is prone to being vicious on occasion. That number is prone to telling me that I am an abomination, that I am a disgrace and that I should be ashamed, and so in standing here today I refuse to be an abomination, I refuse to be a disgrace and I refuse to be ashamed. But in doing that I note that it has got to be happening to kids in secondary school because if it is happening to me as an elected member of Parliament, if it happens to me in my workplace and it happens to me out in the broader community, then it has got to be happening in our playgrounds and it has got to be happening at our bus stops, and I know it is happening in our workplaces”.
The Anti-Violence Project takes the view that Safe Schools is much needed program addressing homophobic harassment and bullying in schools however a social policy vacuum exists outside the school gate where prejudice and homophobia (including trans/bi-phobia) are passed from generation to generation through families. Schools must be safe places for students; homes, streets and society must be safe places for all same sex attracted and gender diverse people. As a =n out member of parliament and an Anbassador for the Safe Schools Program, Harriet Shing shines a light on the work needed to shift our society on both sides of the school gate.
Read the complete Harriet Shing speech in support of the Safe Schools program here:
or via her personal website here: