Teacher Who Ended Gay Opera Denies Homophobia

6a00d8341c730253ef014e899d7e99970d-800wi The teacher who pulled her school children from a gay opera insists she wasn't motivated by homophobia.

Rather, says Emma Hobbs, she objected to a scene in which a gay character was bullied, claiming it could have upset the students' "emotional well being."

"The gay character was not a problem. It is the language and the tone of the scene in question that were problematic," said Hobbs, remarking on Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall's (pictured) now-canceled opera. “The emotional well being of our children is my only concern in this matter."

Hobbs continued: “As a parent and an educator I have made the decision that our four to 11-year-old children have the right to be protected from offensive language and to be able to learn about the impact of upsetting insults in the appropriate manner."

It seems to me that learning about the reality of homophobic bullying in a safe school setting is one of the most appropriate backdrops possible, and that all this drama only reinforces a culture of silence and ignorance.

But what do I know?


  1. brenda says

    You’re right, Andrew.

    In good teaching, an object lesson sets up an occasion for highly directed learning, which is centered around a specific case or problem.

    Insofar as harsh bullying arises when children are very young, it stands to reason that an opera or play that depicts and works through such bullying and provides hope is an excellent way to teach even the youngest children anti-bullying values.

    After all, kids don’t often do things just because we say “don’t do it.” They need models, examples, and experiential learning and that opera provides these things and more.

    It piques me when people lie and twist themselves around to say that they aren’t homophobic like this teacher Emma Hobbs is doing.

    Reminds me of that classic article that empirically proved (yes, PROVED through a physical test that measured whether a group of expressedly straight and self-defined homophobic men became penilely erect when watching homoerotic images) that rabidly homophobic straight men are, in fact, secretly sexually attracted to other men. Here’s the citation for this by now classic, but still widely under-reported article.

    “Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?” by Henry E. Adams, Lester W. Wright, Jr., and Bethany A. Lohr in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1996, Vol. 105, No. 3, pages 440-445.

    And remember: homophobia means, among other things, that someone could be afraid or hateful of the fact that others could be gay. Emma Hobbs could indeed be homophobic in this regard without believing that she is. Lastly, fairy tales, cartoons where anthropomorphic animals get killed repeatedly–much children’s fare includes frank violence. What are we protecting them from if we then allow them to be exposed to and do other things like this? We should be instructing them, not tacitly lying to them through exclusion.

    Have a great rest of the day!

  2. says

    ….eh… 4 to 11 years might be young for Billy Elliot, which has some very adult themes. I think my first move, before condemning her would be to offer something age appropriate that did deal with bullying.

  3. kodiak says

    I don’t get why the play was cancelled. She pulls 2 kids out and down goes the play? What if it was West Side Story and she objected to gang violence? Meh. Lots of movies, plays out there with bullying in them. Good luck lady. A tad overprotective, maybe?

  4. mike/ says

    working in education and with kids my entire life, i can tell you that adults do not give kids any credit; their parents would be shocked by what they know and hear and accept; too bad parents can’t remember what they were like at those ages!

    that being said, if there were 4- & 5-year olds involved, i would have to ask, “Why?” it would seem to me she should have known long before right opening and made her concerns known; actually, these kids shouldn’t have been involved at all if it was THAT ‘bad’ in her mind.

    and, YES, they need to make adjustments for the younger kids, who often don’t even know what bullying is but are some of the most bullying/bullied kids; the changes that need to be made is language that younger children would understand but NOT removing any of the content behind it all…

  5. says

    Age-appropriateness is always a valid concern. Sometimes artists, obsessed with “edgy” content, overlook that fact. Sometimes educators don’t inspect material closely enough to know if it’s age-appropriate or not. I think both failings apply to this situation. And since I haven’t seen the opera, I must reverse judgment as to whether it portrays Gay identity in a positive, negative or neutral manner.

  6. says

    @KODIAK: as teacher in charge, she pulled all 300 children from the production, not 2.

    If you read the story, it all boiled down to this:

    “the school, which had previously encouraged 300 students to act in the production, had a few objections, and requested Hall remove the word “pee-pee,” a scene featuring homophobic bullying, and alter an adult gay character’s rhyme: “Of course I’m queer/That’s why I left here/So if you infer/That I prefer/A lad to a lass/ And I’m working class/ I’d have to concur.”

    Hall agreed to a few changes, but he quite rightly refused to remove what he describes as “the character’s straightforward defence of his sexuality,” leading the school to back out of the production. ”

    Hall says that he made changes, but baulked at changing the line. So basically, the school is saying that a gay character should not say “that I prefer a lad to a lass” as this would be inappropriate for 4 and 5 year olds. Lets hope Ms Hobbs doesn’t get wind of me discussing my boyfriends in front of my nieces – think of the scandal! Little gays should be seen and not heard.

  7. Rin says


    I will admit to being overprotective. There is no Old Yeller in my house, no Lion King, no Bambi. They are under 8 and very sensitive. My child came home from school one day crying because one of the kids in her class was bullied and picked on and wanted me to call his mother. She kept saying, “They were so mean to him!” The discussion of “why” was long, hard, and she still didn’t get “mean kids”.

    I would rather them learn about some subjects when they are old enough to grasp concepts. You have no idea, some of you, what children worry about at night.

    My gay friend let slip out that his dad still refuses to talk to him and two days later my oldest (age 7) wanted to understand why. As I tried to explain why…it even sounded silly to me:

    Well, his dad doesn’t speak to him because he likes boys instead of girls in a romantical sort of way.

    To her, it made no sense at all. Parents should always love their kids… I don’t know…

    If that TRULY was the reason for the cancellation…I can’t call her homophobic, maybe overprotective?

    My kids watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (no judgments) and have been to gay weddings, but would I let them watch a movie about bullying…I really don’t know.

    Love…seeing people in love…yes. Cruelty…I just don’t know if the under 10 crowd need to see that.

    Why do you guys think they should? (serious)

    Wouldn’t a gay romance be better? Like a gay Beauty and the Beast with a happy ending?

  8. wbnyc says

    I’m not a parent, but I do know that there’s a HUGE difference in emotional maturity between an 11 year old and a 4 or 5 year old. Why they were included in the same project is beyond me and is terrible planning on the part of the school and Opera North.
    Just explain to any child under the age of 8 that they made an amazing contribution! But there’s only room for the older kids! Yay, younger kids! And man up and LET A WORK OF ART TAKE PLACE.

    Also, as a very “sensitive” child, I would have benefited enormously from seeing bullying done in a theatrical setting so I could LEARN HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. Alot of the commenters seem to want to wait until the first time their kid is bullied to deal with it. TOO LATE THEN.

  9. Rin says

    I thought about this last night and I don’t think I would allow my elementary school children to participate in something like this. Middle school and up…yep.

    Think of all the seven year olds that still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy… I think it’s a bad idea for younger kids. They won’t even truly absorb it in the way that they don’t get the adult jokes in Spongebob or in Bugs Bunny.

    We talk about bullying at home and what they would do about it in the future. They know in the best way that I can describe what homosexuality is and don’t get why people would pick on someone for that, or skin color, or their clothing, or their weight and that’s good enough for me right now.

    Playacting cruelty at 4-8 is just…forcing something on kids their brains aren’t (and shouldn’t have to be) ready for.

    Like I said, I’d let my 7 or 5 year old in a happy play with two princes or princesses fighting dragons and wicked stepfathers only to live happily ever after.

    This is too mature for little kids. Allowing it to proceed is cowtowing to political pressure at the expense of children.

    And for the record…I don’t let my daughters wear bikinis (unless they are tankinis), I don’t let them wear outfits that look like teens should wear them, and they don’t watch PG-13 movies. This play’s themes sound very PG-13.

    Sorry, I can’t agree on this one.

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