28 Oct An event in Bangkok – the city of (LGBT+) angels
There is a rather unique event happening next Friday in Bangkok, the proverbial Asian ‘city of angels’. It is the first ‘Gender & Identity in the Classroom’ programme ever offered (at least to my knowledge) to international schools in the region. What is different about this programme is its blended focus on identity/feminist theory and practical interventions in the classroom. So imagine Judith Butler swinging it with differentiated learning. Yes, should be fun. I certainly hope so because I am delivering it!
Dr Denry Machin (PEDAGOGUE) has organised the event and he’s signed up at least 20 participants, including several from Harrow International School, NIST, Patana, Ruamrudee, St. Andrews, and BIS Phuket.
This is the second such event I’ve done in the past year, the previous one being at Delia School of Canada, Hong Kong, at the invite of the Director, Dr Patrick Lee.
For me, the very fact that leading international schools in Asia are now waking up to the importance of gender identity issues in the classroom, and ensuring their staff receive appropriate professional development, signals a remarkable turnaround in the political awareness surrounding gender, sex and sexuality. When I completed my PhD research into men and masculinities, back in 1996, few people outside of academia were discussing this topic. Now it is mainstream, and expanding fast. This is not just to do with MeToo, toxic masculinity and Donald Trump, it also connects with a global shift in attitudes which are encouraging a most welcome opening up of minds. By way of example, yesterday Taipei held its 15th Gay Pride Parade, drawing an estimated 100,000 participants. Compare this to 1996 when 300 gays joined the Taipei National Women’s Coalition Parade.
Or, for an even more inspiring reaction to new gender awareness, read about the Massachusetts father of five year old Sam: and his fight against those who bullied Sam in kindergarten simply because he wanted to wear pink nail polish! “Bull-shit gender norms” indeed!
Of course, there remains resistance, fear and ignorance to be overcome. Not everyone is on board for enlightenment.
But one thing I have learned during my 69 years, and that is you cannot stop progress. People demand it. To be sure, it is often two steps forward, one step back, but taking the long view of history, LGBT+ rights are not going to be reversed. As Brazil’s LGBT community prepares to face the self-declared homophobic Jair Bolsonaro as President, they are clearly and very firmly stating there will be “no return to the closet”.
When I read about ageing baby-boomer Presidents and Prime Ministers (plus those in their 80s and 90s) sounding off about how they will not be tempted towards LGBT+ recognition and all it entails, I smile. I smile because I know that even though today they have power, the future does not lie with them. Nor with the likes of me. The future is in the hands of the Millennials, Generation Z, and soon, Generation Alpha.
For the kids going through our schools and especially through our universities, LGBT+ rights will be a given.
And if I can help push progress in that direction then I certainly shall.
See some of you in Bangkok, on Friday. The city of LGBT+ angels.