Everyone is Special!

Everyone is Special! A handbook for teachers on Sexuality Education
Edited by Dr Lori Beckett

The Association of Women Educators (AWE) commissioned this edited collection of papers on sexuality education. A number of voices are represented: students, parents, teachers, student teachers, a youth worker and a bureaucrat, academics, activists, and colleagues from overseas. These people are differently situated in relation to school education, and have many different experiences of sexuality, from heterosexual or bisexual to gay, lesbian, or transgender.

A Year 6 boy has things to say on homosexuality and homophobia in an essay "If I were a teacher". A Year 8 girl writes a letter to her principal about what it's like to have a lesbian mother. A gay young man in Year 12 speaks of his experiences of harassment and what the school should do about it. A young lesbian woman who has just left school tells teachers what she wants them to know about herself and her life, which up until now has remained a secret. A lesbian mother tells her story, which sits well with a 'straight' father's story about bringing up his two 'straight' sons. A lesbian teacher speaks of her experiences, being 'outed' but being accepted in the school community. A transgender community worker describes what needs to be done for transgender and gender variant students. A youth worker with Family Planning NSW provides encouragement, support and advice to teachers and young people.

An education department bureaucrat shares her view of supporting students who are struggling with their sexual identity. A student teacher expresses her views about what needs to be done in schools and teacher training institutions. One academic shares his view about teacher education and the many ways that sexuality education can be accommodated in pre-service programs. Another two academics report on their ethnographic research, one with young women, and one with young men. Both point to directions for teaching and research. An activist adds his voice about what is being done, through the NSW anti-homophobia campaign, and what still needs to be done. Finally, our colleagues from the UK make a valuable contribution, sharing their experiences in the English education system - on spaces in the curriculum, with lesbian teachers struggling with sexual identity, and with boys and young men doing anti-oppressive work.

Everyone is Special provides advice to teachers from a broad range of perspectives on sexuality education. It confronts the moral panic about 'political correctness', especially the intolerance, bigotry and hatred that characterises the current political landscape. It argues for anti-discrimination and social justice in education, and indicates some ways forward on sexuality education, especially at a time when politicians are acutely aware of electoral sensitivities, when bureaucrats are nervous, principals cautious, and teachers wary. Taken together, the voices in Everyone is Special help teachers understand the social and cultural aspects of human sexuality, particularly the different identities and needs of minority groups of people in our school communities.

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