INTERVIEW | The Men Who Want To Change LGBT Teacher Training In Scotland
Two men from Scotland are set to change schools’ training in Scotland by ensuring that every teacher has access to LGBTI knowledge and training on how to deal with homophobic bullying as well as how to deal with coming out. They are Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson.
1) So tell us why this campaign is so important to you?
Jordan: I went to a school that wasn’t very welcoming of its LGBTI+ pupils, and that didn’t help when I was struggling to come to terms with being gay. This campaign is important because we have to put an end to LGBTI+ youth feeling unsafe and victimised in their schools. As someone who understands the struggle that these kids go through, this campaign is like a way for me to prevent other kids going through what I went through.
2) Is anti-LGBT bullying still happening in schools in
Liam: Absolutely – the statistics in this area speak for themselves. 1/4 LGBTI+ kids are attempting suicide – often more than once – and over half are regularly self harming as a result of LGBTI-phobic bullying. We are in the midst of a social epidemic – LGBTI-phobic bullying is plaguing the hallways of our schools. Some LGBTI+ people that we have spoken to have admitted that they themselves were guilty of bullying other LGBTI+ kids at school, so that they could fit in and avoid being targeted themselves.
3) Were you surprised that the petition was rejected?
Jordan: Yes – after visiting parliament in October the committee unanimously expressed their support for our aims. We outlined, amongst other things, that teacher training should be prioritised and that the Scottish Government should allocate specific funding for schools: so to reject the case on its wording was a cop out. We’re up against Presbyterian Scotland though.
4) What do you think about the statement that Michael McMahon released where he stated that Scotland’s education system is not prescriptive and that there was little support for teaching LGBTI+ issues?
Liam: That isn’t the attitude that we receive when we speak to teachers – in our experience, teachers understand the need and importance of LGBTI+ inclusive education. As for the curriculum not being prescriptive, it seems to be so when it suits – with Religious Education being statutory. We addressed the concerns regarding statutory inclusion with various different solutions and options that could have been taken, such as teacher training, all of which seem to have been disregarded.
5) The fight’s not over right?
Jordan: Definitely not. In fact, if anything, this has given us more opportunity. Being outside of a parliamentary process means that more direct action can be taken, and we no longer have to bite our tongues and play it cute. We have quite a lot of ideas for the coming weeks. If the parliament won’t listen to us now, we’ll keep enormous pressure on them until they do. When 1/4 of LGBTI+ kids are attempting suicide, we have no time to wait.
6) What kind of education would you like to see in Scottish schools for young LGBTIs?
Liam: We would like to see the contributions of the LGBTI+ community, and issues affecting LGBTI+ pupils, taught and recognised within school environments. I’d like to see our kids learning about Stonewall, Harvey Milk and ACT UP for example – but we should also be teaching kids about LGBTI-phobia and the impact it can have. This education benefits all school pupils, not just those that are LGBTI+, as it can create a level of understanding of the struggles that the LGBTI+ community face – that, in itself, will benefit society greatly.
Would it include sexual health education for young gay and bi men?
Jordan: Speaking personally, I’d like to see this. Up until my fifth year of secondary school, I thought that HIV could be cured with a pill – the sex education I received was appalling. We need to accept, first of all, that kids are having sex – and then we need to make sure that they’re doing it safely and they have all of the information that they need. I’d personally like to see schools linked with youth sexual health clinics.
Scotland was recently heralded as one of the best places in the world for LGBTs to live – does this tarnish that reputation somewhat?
Liam: Yes, I think it does. Scotland is one of the best places in the world legislatively for LGBTI+ people – but it’s not good enough to tell school kids who are suicidal or self harming that we’ve topped a list somewhere and that things are great at a legislative level, without tackling the issues that affect them right now. We had an opportunity to take massive strides forward in starting to build a truly inclusive society from the bottom up but the Committee chose to ignore that.
What are your fears if LGBTI education is not added to Scotland’s education system?
Jordan: That these statistics just get worse. Things are horrific just now, and they won’t get better without a commitment to tackle the issues – which we don’t have. I fear that it’s going to take a high profile suicide before the Scottish Government will listen to us.
TIE have launched a crowd funder to start their campaign you can donate here.