In a video posted a month ago by LGBT Youth North West a schoolgirl from Oldham, Manchester tells her account of being made to change in the boys’ changing rooms at school after coming out as lesbian.
She talks about bullying in general and losing friends after coming out, before saying that she was made to change for PE with her male classmates: “When I was in PE, I couldn’t get changed in the girls’ toilets or the locker room so I had to get changed with the lads.
“My PE teacher said, ‘You’re not attracted to lads so you have to get changed there,’ which annoyed me, so every time PE was on I didn’t do it.”
She mentions that when encouraged to speak to the headmaster by a friend, she didn’t see a point in staying at school, because she was so exasperated by her treatment in English and PE classes. She transferred to a different school in year 10 to avoid the bullying.
One of the boys featured in the video said: “The first day that I knew that people knew [he was gay] was when they all crowded round me and threw things at me. I hit one of them and I got suspended.”
He said “It seems to me, sometimes that bullying on the grounds of racism or sexism, sometimes, is dealt with more seriously than homophobic bullying.
He adds: “I really hated school because every day was just constant insults and the teachers told you to just get over it.”
Another girl talks about not telling anybody about being bullied because she was scared to come out to the teaching staff.
Jeff Evans, the equality representative from Oldham NUT told Oldham News: “This is one of those rare opportunities to get young persons’ views of what homophobia really means. As adults we know there is an issue because we have got the statistics, we have got teachers saying this happens. But rarely do we get the chance to see what that means for the children concerned.
“If [the film] was on people having to leave schools because the colour of their skin or gender, that would be front- page news.
“The question we have asked constantly is why is sexual discrimination being treated any differently? It is not about sex, it is to do with civil liberties.”
Mr Evans said the problem of bullying is much wider spread than Oldham and describes the examples given by the teenagers in the video as “not exceptional,” and said homophobic bullying is endorsed by the inaction of many governing bodies.
This comes two months after Sheffield Hallam University published a study of approaches to LGBT students in Yorkshire which said LGBT students were: “being instructed to get changed for Physical Education (PE) away from other pupils”.
The report, Tackling Homophobia and Transphobia In Settings Supporting Young People, was published to coincide with Anti-Bullying Week and interviewed students, teachers and youth workers about their experience in South Yorkshire.
Students at more than one school reported being instructed to change into and out of sports kit in “toilets and in other rooms located near to the regular changing facilities”.
At the end of the LGBT Youth North West video, the pupils call for more opportunities to have open discussion, more readily available information on LGBT, and LGBT officers to provide support in schools.