Xtra
2 min

Homophobic bullying in Ireland

BY NOREEN FAGAN
Homophobic bullying may be a problem in the United States and
in Canada, but according to Pink News
it’s pretty bad in
Northern Ireland, too.

On Oct 12, The Rainbow Project and Cara-Friend, two
queer organizations that offer counselling, social support and other services
for adults and youth, launched a report called “Left Out of the Equation: A Report
on the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People at School.”

The introduction states simply: “homophobic bullying is
rife in schools across Northern Ireland and it continues, unchallenged, because
school staff lack the capacity, confidence or will to tackle it.”

At the launch of the report, Gavin Boyd, the education
equality officer for The Rainbow Project, was more direct:

“This report shows that when it comes to education, young
people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual are left out of the equation. They get
severely bullied but frequently don’t tell anyone because they don’t believe their
school will do anything about it. They hear homophobic slurs every day but
teachers don’t intervene. They aren’t taught that they can have stable and
fulfilling relationships. They aren’t taught how to gauge risk and protect
themselves from mental and sexual ill health. They are simply expected to
suffer in silence,” said Boyd.

The key findings in the report are frightening and should be
a wake-up call for the Department of Education. Here are three of them: 98 percent of queer kids reported
hearing homophobic slurs from students, teachers, support staff and visitors;
72 percent of survey respondents said that when teachers heard homophobic
language they ignored it; and 94 percent reported that they were not taught
anything in sexual health that was relevant to them as gay kids.

That is disturbing, and it will be interesting to see what,
if anything, comes out of the report. I guess we should be happy in Canada, or at
least in Ontario, that the schools do have an equity policy — although we
really do need Ontario’s Catholic schools to get their act together. Luckily, we
have Xtra reporter Andrea Houston to
keep them on their toes.

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