I Survived Straight Sex Ed. Piers Akerman Can Deal With A PG Film About Same-Sex Families


Yesterday, NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli instigated a state-wide ban on public schools playing the (utterly heart-warming, utterly harmless) doco Gayby Baby.

The film was going to be screened at Burwood Girls optionally in support of Wear it Purple day until Piers Akerman used the dictionary to shut down a 12-year old girl like the snot nosed bully he appears to aspire to be.



Piccoli claims that screening the film would interrupt scheduled lessons.

You know what else interrupts scheduled lessons at schools? Pretty much everything. Case in point; a teacher friend of mine recently attended an assembly at her public school to celebrate Elvis' birthday.

That’s why when Piccoli claims that preventing the interruption of class is the reason for this ham-fisted state-wide ban I call bullshit.

This is the NSW government being played by conservative commentators, who are so afraid of catching gay they'll resort to censoring a PG film.

Which is strange because I didn't catch gay from watching a film.

I didn't decide to start murdering people after I watched Death on the Nile (not on the curriculum, definitely interrupted scheduled lessons) at school. I didn't turn into a monster when I watched Monsters Inc.

And I didn't turn straight when it was the only thing I was taught about in sex ed.

(Though I probably could've caught gay when my drama class went to see Priscilla the musical. Thanks Piccoli, this explains so much!)

The SMH article reporting Piccoli's decision is quick to note the Minister's previous support for LGBT programs in schools. It reads like an "I'm not racist, but" style defence.

Banning the film speaks volumes about the NSW government's position on gay families, and its pliability to the whims of The Daily Telegraph.

A scene from Gayby Baby

Seeming as it feels like everyone is acting like children and their cliché driven parents this week, I may as well too.

Piccoli, if The Daily Telegraph told you to jump off a bridge would you do it?

The way in which this whole furore occurred and was dealt with in a day is frightening. It sets a worrying precedent that suggests all it takes is a mass media outlet to get hot and bothered about an issue, and the government will take immediate action.

It also sets the precedent for banning a whole host of non-curriculum related school activities. Will teachers have to ask the minister whenever they want to take a break from classwork because students are exhausted and need a break from work? Will they have to get permission for every special assembly?

The swift nature of this decision merely demonstrates how poorly thought out it was, and should raise more questions than it answers.

But it won’t. Because when you respond to a media furore, you create policy that lives and dies by a media cycle. In a week, will anyone remember that the government has now banned any form of activity that doesn’t relate to the school curriculum?

Piccoli could argue that this isn’t the case, that it’s just this particular film that interrupts the curriculum. But that leaves him wide open to the argument that this particular film was banned because of its content, not because of the curriculum. And that’s the very argument his swift move was keen to avoid.

I've seen Gayby Baby. It's a beautifully shot film about four kids – kids who wrestle, who go to church, who are nervous about high school, who are moving to new neighbourhoods. The kids are funny, smart, and instantly relatable.

Some commentators have argued the film pushes too political an agenda to be screened in schools. Aside from the fact that arguing that family life is political is a deeply feminist argument (Piers Akerman, an accidental feminist?!) let's not forget that it's legal for LGBT couples in NSW to have children. It's been happening for years.

Not only that, but as an atheist, I could then argue that teaching scripture in schools (something Victoria recently scrapped) is political, and pushes a certain lifestyle agenda.

See where I'm going with that?

When I watched Gayby Baby I didn't see a political agenda being shoved down my throat. I saw four adorable kids coping with the struggles of growing up, much like the thousands who have now been denied the chance to see it.

Oh and Piccoli? I showed my university students the film trailer in our tutorial on Monday. Want me to ask them next week if anyone caught the gay?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.