Faggot, Fruit, Nancy, Pansy, Mary, Fairy, Flamer and Butt Pirate. Despite growing up in a progressive, mostly secular community, I was bullied regularly at school for being gay.
An obvious target — camp, girly, never quite on point — the taunting started early; well before I was old enough to have had my first inexplicably thrilling yet profoundly confusing day dream about Magnum P.I. and his hairy chest.
Fortunately for me, the bullying rarely escalated to anything physical, although when I was 14 or 15, a boy I barely knew casually spat me in the face as we cycled passed each other in the town centre. The humiliation burned bright on my cheeks all the way home, but even as an insecure teenager I could cope with spit. The stress of not liking myself very much and the constant weight of internalised shame was tricker to shake off.
I like myself a lot better now than I did at 15, 20, or even 30, but I’m still dealing with the aftermath of the low self-esteem I was conditioned to think I deserved as a child. That’s really quite sad, especially when you consider that compared to millions of other LGTBQ kids, I got off lightly.
Slow progress, but change is a-comin’
You may have guessed from the Magnum P.I. reference that I went to school several decades ago (and clearly I had wildly inappropriate desires as an adolescent…that hairy chest, though…). So yeah, my blushing youth may be a thing of the past, but don’t let same-sex marriage and hate crime legislation fool you: anti-LGBT bullying is very much alive and kicking in our schools and playgrounds.
The Stonewall Scotland School Report, published in September last year, shows that half of all gay, lesbian and bisexual youth — and more than 70% of young trans people — face bullying in Scottish schools. Another study from 2016, commissioned by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign, found that 90% of LGBTI youth in Scotland experience homophobia at school, while 27% said they’d attempted suicide because of bullying.
So of course it was an incredibly important victory to the queer community here when the Scottish Government announced last month that it has embraced recommendations, made by a TIE-led working group, to include LGBTI equalities education in the curriculum.
This makes Scotland the first country in the world where state schools will have to teach students about the history of LGBTI movements and explore LGBTI identity. They’ll also be accountable for tackling homo- and transphobia in the school environment.
We’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns
This amazing move is especially timely for Barry and I, as we prepare to launch Jock Tamson’s Bairns at the start of next year.
A creative collaboration, it’s our first Civil Disobedience in-house show and it aims to build an engaging, interactive experience that provokes discussions with the audience around growing up gay, the bystander effect and finding your tribe.
We’re currently raising money to stage the show in 2019 (we already have some very exciting bookings confirmed, including the CCA in Glasgow, Dundee Rep and Assembly in Edinburgh) and as part of our launch activity, we want to programme a tour of Scottish schools.
We’re hoping that by bringing Jock Tamson’s Bairns to classrooms around Scotland, we can support the new LGBTI-inclusive curriculum and help start conversations among children and young people about these issues.
How you can help
Some of you have already supported this project and we can’t thank you enough for it. If you don’t know about the show and want to find out more, you can read a bit about Jock Tamson’s Bairns on our website, or just contact us for a chat.
And if you want to support the project, we are currently looking for 250 champions of LGBT equality, willing to donate £10 each (or more) towards the development of the show.
To us, this is personal for obvious reasons; our scared-ass, 10-year-old queer selves can’t even imagine how different life could’ve been in a school that encouraged open-minded discussions and an inclusive environment. That said, I’d argue that this should be personal for any decent person who believes in equality and the fundamental right of children to feel safe, loved and accepted just the way they are.
Alternatively, simply sharing our Just Giving page with your family and friends, helping us spread the word, would also be a great help.
Thank you so much, it really does mean the world to us!