Homophobia in schools

 The report is from the UK, but it could apply to many other places.  Action is needed, and a small one  should be easy:  Parents,  consider discussing these issues very seriously with your children, if you don’t already.

The figures in the article from today’s Independent are staggering:

Yet today, there is one corner of Britain where viciousness and violence against gay people are still endemic. It is a place where 41 per cent of gay people are beaten up, and 17 per cent receive death threats. You have been there, and so have I. It’s called school –

And the results?  Here’s one:

Jonathan Reynolds … was a 15-year-old boy from Bridgend, South Wales, who came out to some of his friends last year. He was bullied and harrassed and threatened as a “faggot” and a “poof” until he couldn’t take it any more.

So one day, after he sat a GCSE exam for which he earned an A*, he lay on the train tracks near his home

Last year the Daily Mail sneared in an article on a Home Office Report calling for action on homophobia in schools

homophobia – a word invented by gay lobby groups to apply to their critics – …

The Independent tells us

The bullying Jonathan endured is not unusual. It is the norm in Britain’s schools. The word “gay” is an all-purpose insult, the worst thing you can be called. Earlier this year, the gay equality organisation Stonewall published a detailed study of more than 1,000 gay pupils, conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit. It discovered that a majority of Britain’s gay kids feel so unsafe that they skive off school to avoid abuse.

And after a girl told her friend she is a lesbian, she was severely harassed. And:

“When I went into my form room everyone got up and moved to the back, including my best friends. The teacher didn’t do anything. I told [one of my teachers] and she said I shouldn’t have told anyone. I should make it less obvious. They [other pupils] won’t get changed [after PE] when I’m there.” She used to love school. Now she says that “I can’t stand to go in any more”.

Think of reading the Independent’s article. It says that children tend to hate difference, and too often teachers go along with it. Surely there are better ways to bring children up.
(And, in case you are wondering, I am the mother of a gay son. We had teachers complaining about him since he was three years old, when he cried rather than hit another little boy back. They, not we, put the problem in terms of being a real boy. And I know what it is like to have a sizable portion of the population think your beloved child would be better off dead.)

8 thoughts on “Homophobia in schools

  1. Horrible stuff. My own son is 2, so we know nothing of his sexual orientation. But we have thought a lot about gender conformity more generally. It’s amazing how quickly I can switch from being happy that he is a very sweet and gentle boy to being worried that he will be bullied for that later on.

  2. I went to a bog-standard comprehensive school in the U.K. and this chimes with much of what I saw and experienced there. Children who came out at school did very badly and often just didn’t attend, consequently their options re: further education were rather limited, and their secondary results seldom reflected how smart they were. Those that came out later did better, but had to spend much of their school life hiding or denying something important to them.

    I wonder what any of you think about the Harvey Milk High School in New York?( http://www.hmi.org/Default.aspx )

    The majority (but not all) of its pupils are gay and lesbian and were often bullied in previous schools. It’s successful in terms of rates of graduation, integrating marginalised kids back into education, and providing for needs that are peculiar to them – (for instance, I didn’t have to deal with the tricky problem of revealing to my parents that I’m straight, and that its not just a phase). On a negative, it strikes me that such schools are a case of finding a way of dealing with the victims rather than treating the perpetrators.

  3. The Harvey Milk High School has always seemed like a safe house for abused women. It is wonderful that such things exist, but so sad that they are needed.

  4. So. Fucking. Sad.

    When I was in 8th grade, one of my casual male friends came out as gay to his closest friends, and it did not go well. They told everyone else, and though the girls were supportive as best they knew how for being only 13, the boys were absolutely relentless. After a couple of months, we came into school one day to find all of his books stacked up on the homeroom teacher’s desk. He had transferred, and didn’t bother to tell anybody.

    That experience really was what awakened me to gay rights issues.

    A few years later, I heard some news about him, and he had a girlfriend. I couldn’t help but wonder if it turned out that he was just confused and not really gay, that he was bi, or just re-closeted himself. Sadly, I can’t help but feel that it had to have been the last option. I always wonder what happened to him.

  5. Cara, That was my reaction too: so, so sad.

    I’m noticing that the information is about those who came out, even if initially just to a person they mistakenly trusted. How much protection does one get from just keeping quiet?

    I’m reminded also of being told that among at least some segments of the gay community (in the States), seeming straight is a very good thing – one has a higer status in the dating competition. As though passing always acquires a value, perhaps because it literally helps survival.

    Doesn’t make one feel good about straight people.

  6. I hadn’t heard that, but sadly, it’s not difficult to believe. Just like many blacks value things like straightened “white” hair. It all comes down to being more accepted by the WASP male power structure, and it’s completely sickening that our society is still in that place in 2007.

  7. It’s interesting that the article mentions Reynolds’ A-grade, as if his being a good student should make him even less deserving of harassment.

  8. Santana,

    I’m not sure why the grade is mentioned. It might have gotten into the narrative as away of countering the idea he was depressed because of the test.

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