Book about gay penguins raising a chick could make children gay, says parent

Sphengic pictured with the gay penguin parents after whom she's named.

A picture book about a gay penguin couple raising a chick could confuse children into being gay, a parent on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has said.

The comments were made during a 2 September segment on the programme, in which Victoria Derbyshire invited a primary school headteacher to give a lesson covering relationships education live on air.

Relationships education will become mandatory in English primary schools from September 2020.

The new curriculum has become controversial, with parents in Birmingham and other parts of the country staging school-gate protests against the LGBT-inclusive lessons.

Simon Kidwell, the head of Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire, took a BBC studio audience – assembled to replicate a classroom – through a lesson aimed at Year 5 pupils based on the book And Tango Makes Three.

Before beginning, Kidwell explained that of 35 books used as part of the relationships curriculum, roughly five contained gay or transgender themes.

“First, we want the children to know that families have different shapes. We also want children to know about that great British value of tolerance. Tolerance is where we accept people who are different and we respect people who disagree with us,” Kidwell said.

And Tango Makes Three has been banned in countries including Hong Kong and Singapore, Kidwell explained. He took the guests through a reading of the book and then asked what they thought it was about.

Izzy Montague, who withdrew her son from school after it promoted LGBT+ Pride, said the book “promotes LGBT+ lifestyles”.

“It’s not natural,” Montague said. “It’s not the way of life. The way of life is a man and a woman.”

And Tango Makes Three is based on the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Zoo who raise and hatch an egg.

Another parent, Sally Rowe, who removed her child from school over LGBT+ lessons, said that 10-year-old boys with a male best friend would be “confused” at the book’s message – they would learn that some boys are gay, she said, and would think that they were gay, too.

“It’s so important we protect children’s innocence and purity,” Rowe said.

Other audience members said that the book was “manipulative”, “disturbing”, “corrupting” and had “an underlying agenda”.

Nigel Evans, the gay Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, who was part of the BBC’s replica classroom, said that he had no problem with the way the And Tango Makes Three taught same-sex relationships but that he “might have done 30 years ago”.

“But we’ve moved on since then,” Evans said. “I didn’t come out as gay until I was in my 50s. When I was growing up in Swansea I wish I’d been introduced to lessons just like that.

“It may well have been that I’d come out openly as gay then, not thinking that there was something wrong [with me].”

Evans added: “Sadly, we’ve heard a few views this morning which seem to suggest to me that there is something wrong in somebody who is either lesbian, gay or of some other, natural feelings and that does disturb me.”

In response, Montague said: “Time and time again we keep hearing about you talking about your experiences. This isn’t about you, this is about our children. We’re not stopping you, we’re not stopping any child that identifies with LGBT… what we’re saying is, these are our children that we want to raise within our beliefs.”

Another guest added that if she “was being honest”, she would want any children of hers that came out to her as LGBT+ “to hide it”.

“It wouldn’t make me a bigot,” she said. “It’s just what the Bible states. I’d tell them that it’s not normal.”

The gay penguin couple at New York Zoo that And Tango Makes Three‘is based on are not the only gay penguins to want families.

A gay male Humboldt penguin couple at Munich Zoo were seen brooding over a rock earlier this summer because they had no egg to care for.

And a gay male Emperor penguin couple in Berlin Zoo, Skipper and Ping – who wanted a baby so badly they had tried to hatch both a dead fish and a rock – were last month given their own egg to raise by zookeepers.