Claire Black: One in four bullied about their sexuality have tried to take their own life
HOW do I write words I saw mouthed through the safety glass of a school classroom window? How can I capture the lip smacking exaggeration? The face twisted in disgust?
HOW do I write words I saw mouthed through the safety glass of a school classroom window? How can I capture the lip smacking exaggeration? The face twisted in disgust? “You’re a lemon” is what the girl with plaits was saying to me. The particular configuration of lip movements might well have corresponded to her telling me “You’re all ermine” or “Yule moan”. I accept that neither of those makes any sense, but sense wasn’t what she was aiming for through the windows of E Block.
I wouldn’t suggest that this was bullying – she was suitably sheepish when I asked her to repeat what she’d said just so I could check on my lip-reading skills. The truth is, at 15, I was much more upset when someone made a crack about the colour of my Doc Martens.
But that was a long time ago. I wasn’t struggling to survive in a school where “that’s so gay” or “s/he’s so gay” was the standard term of ridicule or insult, said by almost everyone, censured by almost no one. I wasn’t one of the 25 per cent of lesbian, gay or bisexual young people who don’t have an adult at school, or home or anywhere else for that matter who they can talk to, and I wasn’t one of the 44 per cent who don’t feel that their school is somewhere they are welcome.
Stonewall published its School Report last week, the first time the campaign has presented data specific to Scotland regarding the experiences of LGB young people in schools. Talk about could do better.
One in four LGB young people who has been bullied about their sexuality have tried to take their own life. More than half (54 per cent) deliberately harm themselves, including cutting or burning. Fewer than three in five report that their schools say homophobic bullying is wrong and more than half say other pupils never challenge homophobic language when they hear it.
Those figures are the kind of numbers you might want to call to mind the next time someone – maybe someone on the radio or TV – says that describing someone or something as “gay” doesn’t mean anything negative. It’s just a joke. You might also want to tell them that in schools where homophobic remarks are rarely heard there are nearly half as many incidents of homophobic bullying. And once you’ve done this, please award yourself a gold star.
RESEARCHERS from Ohio State have discovered that the books we read can change who we are. They’ve called the process “experience taking”. It turns out that we are influenced by the characters we read about, especially if the character is written in the first person and even more so if there are no mirrors about. If there’s a mirror nearby then we are reminded of who we really are so we’re less likely to be swayed by the character. Without one, we absorb some of how they are in terms of our own behaviour. I’m trying not to worry about the fact that the last book I read was narrated by a serial killer.
‘CATASTROPHIC”, it’s not a word usually used lightly, and I’m certain it was not used casually by Nicola Benedetti when she was talking to the Radio Times about her fears for what might happen to music education in Scotland’s schools. Benedetti is a passionate and eloquent spokesperson for classical music and, from personal experience, she’s savvy and smart. I can only hope the right people are paying heed to her words.
» Last week Claire... discovered that putting up two shelves at the end of a long day is the simplest way to test one’s sanity. It was a close call.
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