Hey everyone A recent survey by LGBT organisation Stonewall suggests that more work needs to be to done in our schools if we are to combat the effect of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.
The results of this survey illustrate quite clearly that despite a raft of equalities legislation at both Hollyrood and Westminster in recent years and certainly since the turn of the millenium maybe Scotland isn’t quite as liberal minded on certain matters as some of us particularly those of us in the political village would like to think.
This has prompted Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson to talk openly about the homophobic bullying she receives because of the fact she is a lesbian. Ms Davidson says most of this abuse takes place online. This is both cowardly and disgusting. If you want to challenge Ms Davidson’s political views then that’s fine, but to insult her just because of her sexuality is totally and completely wrong.
Personally I am opposed to most of Ms Davidson’s political beliefs. Indeed I am a member of the SNP and therefore it will be unlikely we will have many things that unite us. There is however one belief I do share with her and that is the desire that all people should be treated with respect and that includes those of us like Ruth Davidson and Myself whose sexual orientation or in my case gender identity are different from those which society perceives as the norm.
To do this to anyone is just nasty there can be and must be no excuses made for such horrible behaviour. This is unacceptable conduct no matter the ages of the victim or the perpetrator but our children must be protected from such vile abuse. As you can probably tell this an issue on which I feel very strongly and believe me I have damn good reasons for my anger. You see my school years were extremely difficult and yes I did receive some bullying with regards to my perceived sexuality and was even called a sissy by a PE Teacher who thought he was one helluva lot better looking than he actually was. This was as well as the usual taunts from boys who couldn’t understand why I was more at home in the company of girls. Though from my point of view I should perhaps say other girls.
That however was in the mid to late 1970’s I started secondary school in 1974 when this kind of behaviour was accepted as normal and Bernard Manning and the Dick Emery Show were considered family viewing. Now 40 years in the winter of 2014 it saddens and disturbs me that this bullying still happens in Scotland’s schools.
Whilst those who carry out this abuse may well seek to disguise it as banter I and many others know the lie disguised as truth in the old saying sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. This is and I make absolutely bones about saying it, complete and total tosh. As we move forward to the making of a new Scotland my question for the future is this How many LGBTI youngsters will have to die or at best contemplate taking their lives because of this sickening stereotypical attitude to something that is after all only one aspect of someone’s genetic make up? Will it be 1, 100, 1,000 ? at the end of the day numbers don’t matter but this fact unquestionably does. One death from bullying is one too many. The stereotypes too often assigned to people like Ruth Davidson or myself belong in a history museum.
Make no mistake name calling can and does hurt people especially during their school years as I know only too clearly. Having to hide who I was and who I wanted to be just to attempt to fit in was not a nice experience. I felt under enormous strain and in those less enlightened times I had only a few female friends to share my secrets with. Coming out as a Donny Osmond fan even at primary was challenging enough but admitting to liking the Bay City Rollers was a nightmare in my first year at secondary. On doing so I was teased mercilessly by the boys in my class and often asked which one I fancied. Well guys the secret can finally be revealed, I actually fancied three of them Les, Eric, and Woody, Yes I’ll bet you wouldn’t have thought that, little miss innocent having lustful thoughts about three men at once. Now that’s what I call multi-tasking. Well how else was I supposed to get through Arithmetic or PE without wanting to run away.
Talking about PE, I can also tell you who I wanted to play sports with. This is also a longer list than you would have thought and the main names on it are former Chelsea and England star Alan Hudson, Scotland Rugby International Andy Irvine and Tennis star Jimmy Connors.
Yes you may have had suspicions about me wanting to be one of the girls and if you did then congratulations on being right but as for my taste in men I don’t think you would ever have got it. Some of the girls however. did and they never said a word at least to any boys. For the most part however I was caught in the middle of two very different worlds. You could say I was trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. I wasn’t macho enough to be considered as one of the boys nor female enough to be thought of as one of the girls. If I am completely honest however, I was always far more at ease with girls and at least they never made any homophobic or transphobic comments to me. In contrast some boys usually those lacking in the looks department would often stand with their backs against the wall when they saw me coming. This was homophobic taunting, no-one had heard of transphobia then or I’m pretty sure I would have been a victim of transphobic abuse instead.
This brings me back to the original context of this post which is that no matter what form it takes bullying is wrong and always will be. So my message to the Scottish Government is to give Scotland’s school teachers the resources they need to tackle this issue in the same way you equip them to deal with racism and sectarianism. This issue needs addressing and it needs addressing now, the old sticks and stones mantra needs not only to be challenged it needs to be destroyed. This dangerous myth has blighted the lives of too many Scots teenagers and needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Let there be no doubt name calling is abuse, well as my granny always said sticks and stones can break your bones but words can break your heart.
It is I believe those sentiments which provide the cultural text for the lesson which both Stonewall and Ruth Davidson are rightly urging us to listen to and act upon. Let’s take up the fight and vow that regardless of political persuasion that our gift for future generations will be to leave this legacy of prejudice to the pages of yet unwritten history books.
Love And Best Wishes