"HAVE you noticed anything … unusual about Ellen?” My dad was talking aboutEllen DeGeneres, star of the 1990s sitcom we’d been watching lately.

I shuffled in my chair. I was around 10 years old and I knew exactly what he was talking about, but it felt like a trick question.

Ellen had come out as a lesbian in the series (and, I would later learn, in real life), so of course I knew.

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I knew what being gay meant, and I had spoken about it with friends, who mostly saw it as a topic to giggle over.

Ellen was not the only representation of a gay person I had seen in pop culture, but she was certainly the most positive. I had already been given all the social cues that, in my dad’s words, being gay was “unusual”, and not the sort of thing you spoke about with grown-ups.

So, I considered the question for a moment, and replied: “Well, obviously, she’s very silly.” My dad readily accepted this as proof of my ignorance and we went about our day. I had given the correct answer.

It was another three years before I would realise that I was like Ellen, and not only because I was also very silly. It wasn’t that I spent my days up until my 13th birthday oblivious to the existence of romantic and sexual relationships and feelings – quite the opposite.

I grew up, as most girls do, being asked by adults and their peers who my boyfriend was from a young age. I watched the Disney films where the princess finds her perfect prince and instantaneously falls in love.

The adults around me were paired off as man and woman, married or soon-to-be. Quickly I began to hear the other girls speak about their crushes on celebrities or boys in our class – encouraged by the girls’ magazines we pored over – and I joined in.

My entire childhood, like that of other children at the time, was a lesson in the inevitability of heterosexuality.

Somewhere in the corner of my mind were the gay people we had all joked and wondered about, but although I was never taught to hate or mistreat people who were different, I never imagined I would be one of them.

Such as it was, the realisation hit me like a tonne of bricks. The signs had been there, I had to admit, but then so had all the evidence that I would be better off ignoring them.

It wasn’t something I had been given space to consider, like what flavour of ice cream I preferred, or what I wanted to be when I grew up. Telling people would be a – capitalised – Big Deal. And so, I sat with my secret for two more years before I shared it with another soul, all the while worrying what reaction I’d receive.

This is not the way I want children today to grow up, feeling as though there is something negative about being gay, or bi, or trans.

I don’t want that for the children who will be LGBT themselves, or for those who have LGBT family members, or for those who will go on to meet LGBT people in school, in work, and in life. My hope for the upcoming generation is that acceptance and understanding will be the norm, for themselves and for those around them.

Fortunately, most people in Scotland agree. That’s why, in 2019, the Scottish Government committed to embedding LGBT-inclusive education in the curriculum from the early years right through secondary school.

This historic move was supported by all political parties and widely celebrated as Scotland became a “world leader” in LGBT equality, thanks to the campaigning of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and other organisations.

This year, research conducted by Survation on behalf of TIE found that 70% of parents support LGBTQ+ inclusive education, and 76 per cent agree that children should learn about LGBTQ+-related bullying and prejudice in school.

However, it seems that Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher (below) MSP feels differently.

The National: Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In fact, Gallacher has taken quite an interest in questioning the Scottish Government about why LGBT Youth Scotland (which, like many charities, receives government funding) is supporting primary schools to complete its LGBT Charter programme, and whether the materials are age-appropriate.

This week, Gallacher was quoted in a Daily Mail article about this, which she shared on Twitter/X, emblazoned with the words “charity accused of ‘brainwashing’ kids”. In another article, the Tories called for local authorities to stop funding the organisation altogether.

You could be forgiven for thinking we had been transported back in time to the days when kids like me thought that “gay” was a dirty word. Sadly, though, it is once again par for the course for LGBT people and organisations to be subject to vague aspersions and fearmongering, regardless of the facts.

It is not only my personal belief but a legal reality that, on a phased basis, primary schools are expected to implement LGBT-inclusive education, and this should indeed be tailored to the relevant age and stage. LGBT Youth Scotland’s own materials suggest that, for primary pupils, this would include “talking about love, different families, and breaking down gender stereotypes” and making use of “age-appropriate picture books and novels”.

I am very happy to say that my own nieces and nephews are growing up knowing that their Auntie Caitlin and Auntie Lauren are a couple, and that we are gay. There is no big secret, no worry about “age appropriateness” – it just is. That, in itself, is progress in my book.

BUT when they are still hearing the word “gay” used as an insult by their peers, and when my niece is regularly questioned on why she wears “boys’ clothes”, it’s clear that there is work yet to be done by schools and parents to empower a truly accepting generation.

Signing up to a scheme like the LGBT Charter, which invites a number of teachers and pupils to act as “champions” for inclusion, is a simple yet potentially powerful way for primary schools to teach about difference and acceptance.

Given that Gallacher finds it so hard to believe that teachers are facilitating this in an age-appropriate manner, I have to wonder if she will demand to see schools’ lesson plans about racism, sexism, or perhaps even mathematics – because who’s to say Primary Ones are not being taught algebra as we speak?

At the heart of this “just asking questions” routine are deeply harmful assumptions which present LGBT people as inherently hyper-sexualised, dangerous, or unsuitable in some way for developing minds to fathom. In other words, the very attitudes inclusive education seeks to unpack.

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Perhaps Ms Gallacher and her colleagues would benefit from sitting in on one of these primary school classes to learn a thing or two.

That might sound like a snarky comment, but I mean this sincerely: if Gallacher sat down with some of the pupils whose schools have taken part in the LGBT Charter, maybe she would understand why her efforts to undermine the programme are so misguided.

I’m sure the children are very busy, but hey, she can only ask.