It's safe to say that when I entered middle school, the most
widely used and common insult was calling someone 'gay'. I remember
I fell victim to saying it as well, which I will always regret, but
at the time I genuinely didn't believe my words were
Even after I came out to my family and friends a couple of years
ago, my straight friends would say to me "I'm glad you're not
overly sensitive when I call things gay, because you know I'm not
using it to mean homosexuality, just stuff that's annoying", and
they would justify their decision by stating that "it's only a
joke". I didn't take much notice of this before because I was very
aware that I would be perceived as thin-skinned. Now, I
question it, and ask myself, "Why should I perpetuate and reinforce
the word gay in a negative light?" My sexual identity is certainly
not a joke.
I explained this to my mum who is a primary school teacher of
6-7 years olds, and she told me that Stonewall, the lesbian, gay
and bisexual charity, had sent her an information pack that
provides teachers tips for effective ways to confront homophobic
bullying in the classroom. To quote my mum: "I read the Teacher's
Report on homophobic bullying in Britain's schools, and I was
totally unaware of the scale of it. I had no idea how to tackle the
use of expressions such as 'you're so gay'."
According to Stonewall's findings, "nine in ten secondary school
teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers say
children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation,
currently experience homophobic bullying, name calling or
harassment in their schools", and in addition "two in five primary
school teachers report hearing insulting homophobic remarks such as
'poof', 'dyke', queer', and 'faggot'."
After looking through the Stonewall resource, which has fun and
colourful age-appropriate posters, materials and lesson plans, Mum
said: "I feel I am so much more aware of the extent of the
Incredibly, only one in ten teachers and non-teaching staff
members in primary and secondary schools have received any specific
training on how to prevent and respond to homophobic bullying. My
mum says the Stonewall pack is "an excellent resource, which I
recommend all teachers read. It is full of ideas on how to
challenge children's thinking, and change their behaviour which is
so important in primary".
Because of course, we don't want the kids to be simply told to
stop using homosexual-related words, as this would instantly
reinforce the notion that 'gay' is an insult, and that it is indeed
a bad word. Children should instead be taught the concept that
different families equal the same love, and learn that whether you
live with two dads, or just your mum, it is all just as perfectly
normal as a child is with both a mum and dad.
There are a great selection of young children's books which can
be added to school's libraries, such as the wonderful King &
King book by authors Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland. And Tango
Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, is based on
the true story of two male penguins in New York's Central Park Zoo.
After the pair coupled up, keepers gave them an egg to raise. A
true story about gay penguins, people! If that doesn't change
perceptions in the playground, I don't know what will.
How would you like to see homophobia tackled in
primary schools? Comment below.