The theme for this year’s Anti-Bullying Week for gay rights charity Stonewall is to highlight the widespread use of words like “gay” to criticise others.
A YouGov poll commissioned by Stonewall found 95% of secondary school teachers, heard the phrases ‘You’re so gay’ or ‘That’s so gay’ in their schools.
Nine in ten said that children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment.
Anti-Bullying Week, which begins today, is a UK-wide event raising awareness of bullying issues.
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s Chief Executive, said: “Anti-Bullying Week is a powerful opportunity to raise awareness of the need to tackle homophobic bullying and language in our schools.
“No child or young person should be prevented from fulfilling their potential because of homophobic bullying.”
Writing in the Guardian recently, Elton John said “failing to address the still everyday use of the word ‘gay’ as a playground insult is also inexcusable”.
He said: “Those who do eventually realise that they’re gay find that the word which describes them has been used – unchallenged – as a proxy for anything that’s useless or rubbish for half their childhoods. There’s now firm evidence of the damage it does to young people’s self-esteem.”
The actor Charlie Condou, himself a parent, is involved with the charity’s Education for All campaign, which aims to tackle homophobic bullying in schools.
He said: “I support Stonewall’s work because, as a parent, I want to know that in the future my children can attend a school where diversity is valued and they can be themselves.”
The charity is urging everyone connected to a school to get involved, either by asking educational institutions to become Stonewall School Champions, or by starting a school-wide charter against homophobic language.
Stonewall is also running a competition to find the most inventive location to model one of its “Some people are gay, get over it!” T-shirts. More details can be found on the charity’s website here.
In Manchester, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation runs Exceeding Expectations programme in partnership with the city council and other bodies.
Exceeding Expectations works in secondary schools on the issue of homophobic bullying to support young people and schools through staff training, resources, theatre in education, workshops, and research.
Annie Emery, Programmes Manager said: “One of the aims of Exceeding Expectations is to encourage young people to stop and think about what they are saying, why they are saying it and the damage name calling can do. It’s really important that young people speak out for each other and themselves, and report bullying.”
One pupil said “I stopped using the word ‘gay’ as much, because I now know how badly it can actually affect someone, even if they aren’t gay.”