Princess Diana charity teams up with Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black to confront homophobic bullying
The Diana Award, the anti-bullying charity run in memory of the late Princess Diana, has teamed up with Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black to confront homophobic bullying.
The Diana Award runs an anti-bullying campaign in the UK and Ireland that gives young people, professionals and parents the skills, confidence and training to tackle all forms of bullying as Anti-Bullying Ambassadors.
As kids across the country prepare to go back to school this week, the charity launched its #Back2School campaign, teaming up with celebrities to discuss their own experiences of bullying.
Olympic diver Tom Daley and his Oscar-winning husband Dustin Lance Black spoke about their own experiences as part of the campaign.
In the discussion, Black confessed that in school he was so afraid of coming out that he became a homophobic bully.
The Milk screenwriter, who grew up in Texas, admitted it was “tough looking back on this stuff”.
He spoke about taking up American football, saying: “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but you had to do it to fit in. I would get levelled in practice, flattened out, I had no idea what I was doing.”
Black added: “If I could give myself advice as a teenage Lance… at one point in school there was this really cute guy who at one point I had a crush on.
“He made a move, and I was so horrified that I would be discovered that I got a little homophobic. I said ‘what do you think you’re doing’?
“First and foremost [past self], don’t do that! You just bullied that person, and that probably took some courage, and second of all, you should have kissed him!
“I had so much terror about being outed. At the time it might have been more dangerous. Now it’s gotten safer, and if I was growing up now I’d say, come out to a friend who you feel safe with, and get rid of that shame which is really like bullying yourself.”
Daley spoke about his own experiences of being bullied.
He said: “For the first few years at school I had the best time, but when I qualified for the Olympics, things took a bit of a turn.
“I came back from the Beijing [Olympics] and everything changed. They took the mick out of what I was wearing on the diving board, they would throw stuff at me at lunchtime.
“Diving becoming a burden, rather than something I enjoyed. I couldn’t shy away from my difference.”
Black added: “Imagine if you could tell yourself as a kid, that thing you’re being bullied for might get you an Academy Award or an Olympic medal one day.”
Transgender journalist Paris Lees also opened up about her experiences as part of the campaign.
She said: “I was completely ostracised because I was seen as the queer one… I was basically like a leper.
“Friends wouldn’t walk with me between classes because they were afraid they would get picked on too.
“I didn’t feel safe at home either – I lived with my dad, who was fairly homophobic, and he didn’t want a sissy for a son, so he’d give me a clip round the ear for ‘talking like a poofter’, ‘why’d you want to play with girl things?’, ‘why are you girly?’.
“Well into my 20s I had nightmares about being at school and being humiliated. Still now, today, I get a little bit anxious.
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“When you’re growing up, you’re learning how to be a person, and of course those experiences are going to shape you for life. We know that LGBT people are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, to be homeless, to struggle with addiction – these are facts.
“We’ve got to look at what’s going on here and making people feel like that. Nearly half of trans kids in this country have attempted suicide – why do they feel like that?
“We need to be having this conversation, and it’s the way other people are treating them. I think it’s time we looked at that and had a bit more love and caring as a society so that every child feels safe at school.
“It’s abuse as far as I’m concerned, and every school should be taking this seriously, and have an anti-bullying policy that explicitly protects gay and trans kids.”