MPs have today been flooded with over 400 Valentine’s Day cards from LGBT students and supporters of Terrence Higgins Trust – but instead of romantic musings, these ‘secret admirers’ are asking for MPs to back mandatory Sex and Relationships Education in every school.
Hundreds of MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn, Iain Duncan-Smith, Chuka Ummana and Education Secretary Justine Greening, were on the receiving end of the hand-made Valentine’s cards.
The mass card campaign is the result of a partnership between Terrence Higgins Trust, National Student Pride and the NUS LGBT+ campaign, which aims to end the silence on Sex and Relationships Education (SRE).
Explaining why she is backing the campaign, 23 year old student Angie Normandale, said: “My SRE had no relationships, no consent, no gender, and no pleasure. It was scaremongering, and only talked about periods and hormones for two hours.
“My poor SRE contributed to body shaming and poor mental health. Thanks to Privilege and the Queer Youth Network, I received a lot of extra help, but prevention is worth more than cure.”
20 year old Charlie Mathers, currently studying at Westminster University, had a similar experience: “My SRE was the stereotypical split up of boys and girls, where we all watched the same video of how babies were made. There was also an awkward picture book. That was it.
“I think that fear comes from not understanding, so inclusive sex and relationships education could help with prevent things like homophobia. My life would have been better with more SRE.”
A worrying 95% of young people were not taught about LGBT relationships, and 75% were not taught about consent, according to Terrence Higgins Trust’s recent report ‘Shh… No Talking’. Meanwhile an overwhelming 99% young people surveyed thought SRE should be compulsory in every school.
LGBT students, along with campaigners at Terrence Higgins Trust, have now expressed dismay at how MPs have repeatedly passed up opportunities to ensure every young person is taught SRE, wherever they go to school. So, the campaigners joined forces and devised a plan to get their MPs’ vote.
“Valentine’s Day has very little to do with real relationships,” said Alex Phillips, campaigns and parliamentary officer at Terrence Higgins Trust.
“Today more than ever, people are saturated with impossible ideals about romance, but because of poor or non-existent Sex and Relationships Education, they are completely unprepared for the realities of sex and relationships in 2017.
“A few weeks ago, MPs missed a vital opportunity to introduce compulsory SRE as part of the Children and Social Work Bill. We must not let this happen again – the Bill could represent an end to the silence that has left so many at risk of poor sexual and mental health. MPs cannot miss any more chances to safeguard young people.”
LGBT students from universities and colleges across the country joined the charity for a series of card-making sessions last week. Each of the Valentine’s cards carries a rainbow heart, and a personalised message about SRE, ranging from the hilarious to the heart-breaking.
Jamie Wareham, Communications Director at National Student Pride, said: “The tradition of sending anonymous Valentine’s cards seems to have disappeared over time, but today, hundreds of MPs across the country will be opening their doors to piles of cards. And unlike most, these Valentine’s cards actually mean something.
“This month, MPs have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make SRE mandatory in every school in the country. If these cards can persuade MPs to vote for mandatory SRE to be included in the Children and Social Work Bill, this could transform the experiences of young people everywhere, as they grow up and navigate their own sexuality.”
National Student Pride weekend takes place 24 – 26 February, and this year’s theme is Sex and Relationships Education.
It’s not too late to back the campaign for SRE. Go to www.tht.org.uk/endthesilence to find out how you can help end the silence.