As we move into March which is Women’s History Month and out of February which was LGBTQ+ history month I picture myself sat in SLT meeting after meeting throughout my career, thinking about how as a school we can celebrate and promote months like this.
Whenever I was part of those discussions the word that often came up was always tolerance, how can we promote tolerance of LGBTQ+ issues, how can we raise awareness of the issues women face in society and promote tolerance.
Tolerance is a word which is banded around a lot in society and in education, but what does it actually mean, who actually has the right to tolerate someone else?
I am male, white, heterosexual, university educated and come from a home where both parents are still together. I can honestly say I have never been discriminated against or experienced prejudice against me in my life. I am the epitome of privileged, so who am I to tolerate anyone else?
By talking about tolerance it implies that everyone should fit into your perception of how things and people should be, and that you have a right to judge people and tolerate them within your perception of how life should be. No one has that right, especially people like me, no one should feel tolerated, everyone should feel welcomed and respected.
To do this our language must change, let’s stop trying to promote tolerance and instead challenge intolerance; let’s not shy away from challenging people who use the mask of “banter” to hide their prejudices and discriminations.
Every time we interact with someone in our school, college, children’s home or wherever we work, let’s consider our language, let’s consider how we role model behaviour, let’s show that intolerance won’t be accepted in our establishment.
Let’s show it in everything we do, so intolerance isn’t allowed, prejudice and discrimination in any guise are so alien to everyone that everyone has the ability to be themselves within our organisations and community.
When we do this, when everyone feels safe enough to be themselves, we have come a long way, but there is still more to do.
During February the BBC put together an excellent set of stories and videos promoting the achievements of LGBTQ+ athletes. One which stuck with me was by Lauren Winfield-Hill an England cricketer who wrote a letter to her younger self, in it she says: “I would tell myself that I don’t have to hide who I am, that I have let nobody down by my sexuality, and most importantly I would tell myself that my happiness, authenticity and genuineness is what truly matters.”
I long to live in a world where no one has to realise that, where that is a given and everyone can grow up in a world where everyone is treated with respect.
When we do that then, for me, the month we have just had and the month we are entering become what they should truly be about, celebrating the achievements of everyone in society.
Celebrating the fantastic achievements of the women all around us this month is a fantastic thing to do, let’s show off the achievements of Marie Curie, Mary Anning and Beatrix Potter, let’s inspire future generations to achieve whatever they want.
My daughter has a book all about famous women and their achievements, one of the collections of women in that book is called “Hope and Overcome”.
What I truly hope is that in the future when anyone writes a book about the lives of anyone or any group of society, there is no need for a chapter with that name, as there will be no prejudices of discrimination to over come because as a society, the idea of us tolerating anyone is gone to be replaced by the celebration of people instead.