It’s not often I talk about myself on here, I tend to leave my home life at home and talk about practice or sharing practice with other amazing individuals here on this website. However, with this strange new world we are now emerging, and particularly with the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations it’s made me think about equality and diversity even more. In my setting we have a variety of cultural background and it’s just a wonderful, eclectic mix and provides the children and practitioners with the opportunity to learn about, and respect, different cultures.
If you remember all the way back to your training you will know that children are very much open and accepting to anything and this is why attitudes such as racism are a learnt behaviour and because of this we can understand some of the reason behind Black Lives Matter.
I can understand and empathise with this whole movement as I have faced discrimination in my lifetime simply because of who I choose to love. I’m gay.
If you’re wondering why I’m associating being gay with the very visible, current struggle that members of the BAME community are facing then it’s like this. Just recently, as it’s Pride Month, I’ve been watching some programmes that were made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wolfenden report. This report was first published in 1957 and finally saw a change in the law 10 years later in 1967 which saw the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Yes, that’s right, it was illegal to be gay. That wasn’t the end of descrimination against gay men and women though and during the 70’s and 80’s you could still be sacked for being gay. It became against the law in the 80’s for schools to even talk about being gay because of Section 28. A gay relationship with termed to be “pretended” like it was just playing at being family. It took until the 90’s for some sense of equality to begin happening for gay men and women. However, there are still some countries where it’s still illegal to be gay and can be punished by prison, stoning or even death. So yes, I can relate to the BAME community.
Now, I’ve been married to my husband for almost 3 years and we’ve been together for 7 years and in that time he’s supported me wholeheartedly in my journey in Early Years. He shoots all the videos for my website and reads over articles I submit. He’s also been there to encourage me in furthering my qualifications from my SVQ Level 4 and my Level 5 diploma and not that I’ve applied to complete my degree. He’s even come in with me on several weekends to help me tidy and re-arrange play rooms at nursery. Why does he do this? Because he understands just how important this vocation is to me (it’s him who calls it a vocation).
However in my past I’ve been subject to discrimination because of my gender and questioning because of my sexuality. I’ve had a manager in a previous setting actually corner me in the kitchen to ask me if I was gay purely because she had overheard parents talking about whether I was or not. I wasn’t out at the time (I didn’t come out properly until I was 29). It was scary but I said yes, I was.
I’ve also had a parent ask my manager to stop me changing their child’s nappy because I’m male. This hasn’t just happened once but in three different settings and always before they’ve got to know me. Thankfully one parent who protested at a man changing nappies later came and apologised to me when she realised her child had such a good bond with me and talked about me positively at home. I’ve also had the backing, and support of my managers who have had to say to parents that I’m a qualified, experienced practitioner who has undergone all the same checks as my female counterparts.
In my current setting I made the decision before I started to be more myself and not hide who I am or who I live with. That’s not fair to my husband who has supported me in my journey as well as to the children who won’t have the chance to understand that there are lots of different families out there and we are all part of this one world. A world that is full of colour, vibrancy and life of all sorts. I’ve spoken about my husband with my preschool children when they asked who was with me on the postcard I sent from our holiday. They just accepted it and moved on to the next thing in their busy day.
It’s as important that my colleagues in the LGBTQ+ community are open and honest with who they are as my wonderful colleagues in the BAME community are. We have so many rich experiences to share with children, let’s not hide them.