Helen Houghton is a Shitty Person(TM)

By Penny Robo

Penny RoboIn New Zealand, a petition aimed at removing “learning intentions for teaching gender diversity in the sexuality education guide” in schools has managed to gather more than 35,000 signatures to date. Introduced on January 29th by one Helen Houghton (who has thus far not responded to comment requests from multiple news agencies) the petition may well have zero effect as it has no official backing as of now.

But the stated reasoning behind the petition is telling about the source of their annoyance. Not as a improper allocation of limited schooling time, or rejecting it as being incompatible with their personal or spiritual beliefs (and likely the beliefs many of those affected) and thus framing the petition as an attempt to right a wrong, no. They decided to play it straight, play it cool… and completely shoot themselves in the foot. Let’s check this thing out:

“I believe that teachers are already required to create a safe environment for all students regardless of race, religion, language, disability, and sexuality.”

You should probably double check whether something is or is not required when you set out to complain about it. Just a thought. Also, a large part of crafting a safe environment involves understanding the various forces (and dangers) in play.

“They do not have a separate requirement to teach the content of minority groups in the curriculum, therefore why should there be a new expectation to include the teaching of gender diversity.”

This lovely sentence is my favorite. “They’re not explicitly required by law to teach any information associated with minorities, therefore checkmate.” Ignoring for a moment the lack of a question mark at the end of that question, the idea is that minority groups are axiomatically exempt from being included in the teachings of any mainstream curriculum. She openly said that schools are required to create a safe environment for minority students (she believes) and thus acknowledges their existence, yet seems to believe that removing normalization of diversity is somehow in keeping with that mission.

It’s the complete opposite, of course, but the idea is to play this up as purely technical “well, this seems out of place” objection devoid of personal investment.

“I believe that endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents.”

Oh, and the facade has cracked! Won’t someone think of the children??? It leans a bit closer to “this confuses me, so no one should understand it”… or perhaps more accurately “I don’t like this, so no one should hear about it”?

Here’s the thing about “normal”: it doesn’t exist. Humans are varied creatures, and while many things average out across the spectrum of us, nobody fits that model. Would you tell a taller-than-average person that they’re abnormal? Or someone from a racial minority? How about a kid in a wheelchair? The average person can walk, so any variation from that must not be normal, therefore they’re abnormal and, as believed by Helen Houghton, their existence is one to be tolerated and even protected, but not to be taught about or acknowledged beyond not committing literal hate crimes.

After all, who wants to go around their whole life thinking that it’s okay to be who they are? What a dreadful thought to consider, that of children knowing they are not alone in their triumphs or struggles, a world where inalienable characteristics of the body are not to be a source of shame. Sounds like Hell.

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender healthcare, public health, psychiatry, and history of medicine, integrating these many perspectives and guided by the lived experiences of trans people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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One Response to Helen Houghton is a Shitty Person(TM)

  1. Hannah Rossiter says:

    Its part of the backlash at trans people. The government was going to change the births, deaths and marriages act to allow for a statutory declaration to change one’s sex marker on one’s birth certificate

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