Interview: Homophobic bullying is killing gay kids
The UK’s leading gay lifestyle magazine has joined forces with Stonewall to fight homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools.
In September’s issue of Attitude, celebs gay and straight show their support for the ‘Some people are gay. Get over it!’ campaign.
Attitude editor Matthew Todd spoke to PinkNews.co.uk about why reports of gay kids being targeted in schools makes him furious and what we can all do to stop it.
PinkNews.co.uk: Why did Attitude decide to campaign?
Matthew Todd: Because kids are going through hell.
I don’t think you can not feel moved and furious when you read accounts of the deaths of kids like Jonathan Reynolds, who was 15 and died by lying on a track in front of a train after he was bullied for being gay.
Or Laura Rhodes, who was 14 and took an overdose after being bullied for being gay.
I’ve experienced teachers who were homophobic to me and we hear from young readers that that still goes on.
If you are being bullied for being overweight or because of your ethnicity then you can go to a teacher or your parents, who will hopefully condemn the bullying and try and give you some affirmation.
If you are gay it’s often hard to tell anyone and at worst, you will hear teachers themselves being homophobic. It enrages me.
It’s just something that should not be happening. I want to help raise awareness of this in the mainstream as much as I can – which is what this is all about ultimately.
I don’t consider this a ‘gay issue’ at all. Most gay people will not have kids. These are the children of straight people.
We are the children of straight people, mostly. I think that’s something that’s always fallen out of the debate about homosexuality in the past.
It’s not a them and us issue, were all in this together. I think it’s really important that our straight friends and family take part in this campaign too. Its an issue for everyone.
What sort of things will Attitude be doing to support the Stonewall campaign?
We have Sir Ian McKellen, Alan Carr, Dan Gillespie Sells from The Feeling and Mark Feehily from Westlife all supporting the campaign in the September issue.
There is a special report by Johann Hari about homophobic bullying.
In the first instance we want to raise awareness. Stonewall’s Education For All Campaign has been going strong for a while but were hoping that people will buy the T shirts from their website – stonewall.org.uk – so we can help raise money to film Ricky Beadle Blair’s schools play about bullying.
The idea is to turn it into a film and send it to every school in the country.
We’re also giving the images of the celebs wearing ‘Some people are gay – get over it!‘ T-shirts to Stonewall so they can put them onto leaflets which will go to schools.
Will there be more celeb backers coming forward?
Yes, definitely. There were lots of other celebrities who wanted to take part but couldn’t because of scheduling issues.
I think the campaign keys into lots of things for people.
Most gay celebrities will have experienced homophobic bullying of some kind or at least witnessed it and straight celebrities will have seen it too or have been bullied for other reasons.
It’s an issue which really galvanises people. Its usually impossible to get four busy celebrities to be shot together like we have done with Ian, Alan, Mark and Dan but they all were totally committed to this.
None of them have anything out to promote.
They just want to support the campaign. Westlife are having a year off at the moment but Mark Feehily is totally committed.
He spoke to Stonewall before to get a better understanding of the issue. His interview in the magazine is very moving. He talks very passionately about his experiences of feeling isolated as a teenager.
Do you think there is apathy among gay adults about gay teenagers’ experiences?
I think there’s apathy about everything these days, not just from gay people, from everyone.
It’s not in the interests of people who run things in the world to have a thinking, passionate public who will take part in debates and get involved with anything.
But as gay people, I think we often want to put school behind us, especially if we’ve had a bad time of it.
Life is so much better now for us in the UK so it’s easy to become apathetic.
But this is something which is killing people. Also, bullying is really hard to tackle because teachers can’t stand over kids every minute of the day but we have to try and change this situation. We can’t turn a blind eye to it.
How can PinkNews.co.uk readers help?
In the first instance – if they are in a suitable position – we are asking people to write to the headteachers of their old schools to tell them they are an ex-pupil and that they are gay.
I think it’s relevant to tell your old school if you were bullied and most importantly to ask what policies they have in place to deal with homophobic bullying.
More from PinkNews
It doesn’t have to be confrontational or angry, its just about saying ‘people like me count.’
Attitude’s Youth Issue is still going strong – what do young people write to you about?
It’s thrilling to see that more and more people just write happy, light letters about what they like about the magazine and usually who they fancy and so on.
When we started it, it was a litany of misery and doom.
There is still some of that, but it is changing, thank God.
But whenever we touch upon youth issues we get letters from people just wanting to be heard, wanting to express what has happened to them.
Especially when it comes to the lack of support kids get at school. It’s outrageous.
Click here for more information on Stonewall’s campaign against homophobic bullying.