Sunday, 28 June 2009
When a soap with teen appeal has a gay storyline, what is the fall out for the queer kids in school?
Being a (privately) queer youth worker in a predominatly Muslim school, Im am aware that there are Queer young people in school who are forced so far into the closet that I doubt they themselves are even aware of their (homo)sexuality (or transgender). The only way to survive school when queer is to keep your head down and try your hardest to 'pass' until that amazing day when you can walk out those doors forever. I know this is a common experience of many Queer young people in various types of schools, but in faith schools this is magnified. Given this, with Eastenders choosing to feature a gay muslim character despite complaints from the muslim community, is this a good thing? is it a bad thing? Is it good as it gives visibility to gay Muslim people and refuses to play along with the fallacy that there are no gay muslims? Does it encourage people to assess their own stereotypes and promote equality? Does it encourage poeple to search their faith for themselves, rather than have it scewed upon interpretation by others? Or is it all together too dangerous a topic to explore? With queer muslim people facing the threat of torture and mass family/social rejection upon discoverery of their homosexuality? And with homosexuality being a huge taboo in schools and particulary faith schools, what is the impact for Queer young people in the schools? When young people talk about the storylines and share their shock and opinions (almost always homophobic as schools perpetuate homophobia and very rarely confront it)who is there to support the queer kids who are propelled into this new visibility? I suspect that they are forced to join in the kicking of the characters to save their own skins, and at what cost? Internalising homophobia and self-hatred in the process, isololation can and often does lead to self-violence, mental health problems and frequently, suicide. The question is how can soaps sensitely tackle gay storylines, exploding oppressive stereotypes and putting gay lives out there, without putting the lives of queer kids in school at risk in the process?