‘Is it morally right for 5-year-old children to learn about LGBT issues in school?’ was a question from a member of the Question Time audience last week.
It’s one thing asking this question – after all, Question Time is a debate programme which allows the public to have their voice heard – but for the presenter, Fiona Bruce, to not dispute the phrasing of this question and proceed to initiate the debate is unacceptable.
If LGBT education isn’t ‘morally right’, it suggests there’s something immoral about identifying as LGBT, to the degree that it’s a topic schools should protect children from. This question seems to take us backwards – erasing the history of the struggle for LGBT rights.
As you’d except, the consensus from the audience and the panel was that LGBT education is necessary. To which Fiona Bruce commented on the ‘unusual outbreak of warmth’ from the audience. She meant this in comparison to other episodes, but considering the topic in question, it’s not ‘unusual’ at all.
What is ‘unusual’ and frankly unacceptable is Question Time’s choice to debate the morality of LGBT education. Giving airtime to this debate validates a dangerous public discourse. I imagine anyone who thinks it is immoral to teach LGBT education in schools would begin by saying ‘I’m not homophobic but…’ and you already know that what they go on to say will most certainly be homophobic.
Homophobic views are concretised by such debates. It’s irresponsible of a government-funded, national media organisation to open a space for homophobic views to be expressed when it has such a huge influence on public opinion.
In a divisive political age, debate is necessary. However, it’s important to consider the framing of debate. In this case, the BBC should have addressed the terminology of ‘morality’ and ‘issues’ and considered the harmful implications of this question on people who identify as LGBT. Despite the backlash from viewers and journalists, there has been no apology from the BBC and they have not removed their tweet containing the question.
The BBC is committed to impartiality and allowing all sides of the debate to be heard. But impartiality is not an excuse for allowing a question with such harmful repercussions to be entertained. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the BBC to make mistakes when framing debates. For instance, on the topic of climate change, they have interviewed climate change deniers, framing the debate as ‘is climate change real?’, instead of addressing the crisis of how to tackle the problem. Also, by giving airtime to far-right extremists, especially last year in the case of Tommy Robinson, the BBC gives them a platform, increasing their following and contributing to harmful discourse.
In response, members of the Question Time audience brought up the fact that their children have friends who identify as LGBT, their peers have same-sex parents and they all see it as normal. It’s backwards debates like this that are “immoral”. They hold us back. Meanwhile, it seems from the audience’s response that behind the TV screens, on the other side of the camera, children are the ones who are accepting and leading an inclusive society.