Last week Jamey Rodemyer took his life because of the effects of homophobic bullying, his case follows a string of LGBTQ young people in America who have done the same.
Alot of the focus around these cases have been trying to outreach these young people through a string of youtube videos titled 'It Get's Better' - although made with good intent these are only largely viewed by people who wear the 'queer' name badge (despite questioning doe's it really get better in a world where homophobic attacks, murder and oppression is common place?).
As a mouthy 14yr old expelled from school for being a nancy, I took solace in Faceparty. Faceparty was a online community of teenagers with profile pictures attempting to make themselves look older, cooler and more 'out' than the other. Being 'out' seemed to be the done thing, it came with it's risks (like Nathan from 'Queer as Folk' at the time) but it also had kudos. I started to work with a theatre company called Spare Tyre, who were running theatre workshops for LGB (as it was then) teens who were bullied. These drew out stories that would become the focus for their teachers training program 'Thinking Pink'.
'Thinking Pink' was a free teaching programme offered to every school and education authority in the UK and Ireland. It's aim was to equip teachers, teaching assistants and governor's with the language, skills and processes in dealing with homophobia in schools. The workshops were offered during teachers Inset (In Service Training) and were i stress FREE. Two schools in the whole of the UK offered to take these up, one in Camden and the other a primary school in Islington - this was hardly the demographic we needed to outreach. Later in the project I managed to get within a school in Brixton who had a code of conduct that ruled homophobic language was unacceptable. I was to find 'that's gay' 'you're well gay' was prevalent and not tackled by any members of staff, 'gay' meaning rubbish or horrible was an accepted 'youthism' here and a 'normal part of school culture' as one teacher proclaimed.
How are we ever to stop young people like Jamey believing 'it gets better' if our education system and its employees don't actively pursue homophobia out of schools and empower them with a support system? These young people are looking for support from its educators who are supposed to help install a moral compass but its ignored and opens up a can of worms they don't have time to deal with effectivly. As a young person who fell out of the education system because of my perceived sexuality it annoys me that 12 years on it's still happening to young people around the world.
How we make sure another Jamey isn't the victim of bullying is not difficult, we make homophobia an unacceptable part of our society- we have all been guilty of not saying anything when called a 'poof'. The answer I don't think lies in doing a 'it gets better' video, tweeting about how horrible bullying is or writing a blog. The next time your are called a batty boy on the tube, top deck of the 55 or walking down the high street, turn and say 'Yes I am, Thank you' - it's the first step, but a brave one.