I have been a teacher for the last 4 years and this is a topic I feel passionately about. @Stonewalluk are doing some fantastic work and have been for a number of years. More recently, they have distributed posters to secondary schools to display in classrooms. I think these are great and can be an excellent tool to try and deter pupils from calling each other gay as an insult. Here is an example of one of them.
The sad thing is, that many people do not question the use of this term. This week has been anti bullying week. I have seen numerous pictures all over Twitter and Facebook. One of these pictures shocked me to my core. It is the picture that has had me thinking all week and inspired this blog.
It makes me incredibly sad to think that young people would consider taking their own life because they are being bullied for being who they are. I ask myself why? What could we change to discourage this kind of behaviour. Why do people feel the need to bully others just because they are different to them? Let’s be honest, in this day and age it is far more accepted to be gay and Stonewall have done so much to help us get to where we are today. So what can we do moving forward? And more importantly, how?
As a teacher, I believe we can have an influence on this. If young people are educated about this issue at an earlier age, then this could be of help. I think part of the problem is that some parents and grandparents still don’t accept it. I know this is now becoming more of a minority but negative opinions can be passed down. The secondary school that I work in, deliver lessons on diversity during PSHE. This has included race, religion and sexual orientation. Opinions shared with me from the pupils have been positive, with comments such as “who cares if someone is gay” and “gay people should be allowed to get married.” Which has now been made legal. But somewhere along the line there is still an issue.
I was driving home from school this week when Macklemore’s Same Love came on the radio. That’s when I decided that I was definitely going to try and change some of the opinions of people in school. I have an assembly coming up in March and the theme is inspiration. I have decided to focus this on encouraging pupils to be themselves and to accept others if they are different. I am going to try and create a video and include real stories from people that I know. If you would like to be involved and think your story can inspire someone to be themselves then please get in touch.
I then decided to do some research. One way I believe pupils will be more forthcoming and talk about their problems rather than not dealing with them, is if they have role models. I then found this video. It’s the #proudtoplay campaign. Sports stars who have recently had the courage to be who they are and come out. Tom Daley was an inspiration to many young people when he released his video. What was upsetting was the number of negative comments on social media sites, this is what needs to change. Until they have role models they can fully relate to or even know, then maybe they will not change their opinions or they are too naive to understand.
I then remembered seeing an article on twitter about a teacher that came out to pupils in an assembly in 2010. He had a lot of courage to do that and ended up inspiring a lot of young people in his school. Teachers are in a position to be a role model for all that they teach, so why have we not heard more of these stories. I decided to find out why. I am saddened at what I found out. I came across this article. It outlines that a teacher who came out was bullied and ended up leaving. There was a complete lack of support from the senior leadership team. The main worry is a backlash from parents, and it’s frustrating that people cannot or will not see the bigger picture. I am hoping these barriers will change over the next few years and teachers who can be role models will have the courage to come out, but more importantly, will come out because they know they have the support of the school. Teachers share their private lives and experiences to let pupils know they are human too, and gay teachers have a lot to offer but are afraid to do it. Not because they do not want to but because they are worried about what it will mean for their job. I guess only time will tell……
The important thing is that times are changing. Being gay is more accepted today than it has ever been. If we can try and stop the ‘banter’ that can actually be taken as bullying, then more young people will feel more comfortable being who they are. Perhaps this and giving them role models to speak to about experiences and guidance on how to deal with it might prevent the 21,000 suicide attempts in the next year.