Reporter Daniel Jaines pens his thoughts on Boston College’s efforts to combat homophobic bullying alongside national charity Stonewall and relates some of his experiences growing up.
Stonewall’s education guide for their latest campaign to challenge homophobic language includes a number of terms used by school children in a derogatory fashion and I was surprised at how many still transcend the test of time.
When I was at school (a long time ago now) there is a key one that sticks out to me, and the number of times I heard that term on the playground is uncountable (even as memories fade), but it still sticks.
Children don’t always understand what words mean, some kids hear it and use it in their ‘banter’ with their peers, others use terms in a way to refer to something they perceive as negative – that’s so gay! – a use that is wrong to condone.
I hadn’t ‘come out’ at school, I was still figuring myself out as they say, and it would take years for me to come to terms with who I am and I would later travel through stages where I would proclaim myself ‘bisexual’ before ending up where I am now.
At school, I had friends (they honestly were) who were lower on the social ladder and more at risk of being bullied – something I feel guilty about looking back now.
But, as a child, even though the language may not refer to you (not never but not always), it sticks - the prejudice sticks, and the fear of being labelled the same stays with you.
As you grow older, and you learn the meanings behind these terms, the fear of being labelled, of being looked down on can seriously affect the confidence - a couple of times I even heard family members refer to LGBT as ‘silly men’ and other terms and it made it harder to come out to my family.
We do need more education in schools on why this is wrong, we need teachers to have the confidence to act when they see bullying like this.
I applaud Boston College in holding these events and helping Stonewall in its campaign.
The more work is done to engage youngsters, to help them understand, the more confident future generations will be in going forward without fear and without unhappiness.
Let’s not wait until we see the latest news about another LGBT youth having killed themselves through fear until we act and teach each other to live in peace and in tolerance.
It must be now - and it’s great to see schools taking the initiative.