LGBT Students In Scotland Driven Out Of School By Homophobic And Transphobic Bullies

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Children are being driven out of schools by transphobic and homophobic bullies | Alamy

Nearly 70% of all LGBT youths in Scotland have experienced homophobic bullying and are being driven out of schools, colleges and universities as a result.

The shocking statistics were revealed in a report written by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Youth Scotland charity, who said the issue is a "worrying situation".

The survey revealed 14.3% of all young LGBT people have left education as a result of homophobic bullying, which rises to 42.3% for those targeted by transphobic bullying.

Nearly 70% of the respondents have experienced homophobic or biphobic bullying in school, while 25% have experienced it in college and 14% in university.

The publication reported a transgender young person stating they were "dealing with the outcome of being bullied almost to suicide by a lecturer and driven out of university".

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The Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People: Education Report questioned 350 young people aged 13 to 25 about their experiences of being LGBT in educational establishments and is the biggest of its kind to date. The survey found education is the environment where LGBT young people faced the most discrimination.

One youth said:

"I faced discrimination during my entire school career. It no longer exists in higher education, but I feel like people treat [me] as a bit of a joke. 'The token gay guy' and don't take me very seriously."

Transgender young people are particular targets for bullies; 76.9% had been bullied at school, 69.2% at college and 37.5% at university.

One girl said told the charity: "I am a female who has dressed like a boy/tomboy my whole life. In both primary and secondary school I was asked 'Are you a boy or a girl?' daily as a method of bullying until I left."

More than 95% of respondents who said they had experienced transphobic bullying in school had also experienced homophobic or biphobic bullying. LGBT Youth says the statistic highlights the fact sexual orientation, gender identity and gender roles tend to be commonly confused into "one pot".

"Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are rooted in gender and as a result a young person may experience them all, when these three types of bullying are in fact very distinct and tend to target individuals who do not conform to, and/or behave in accordance with, gender stereotypes."

The report adds: "The majority of respondents have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in the course of their education is a major concern.

"These young people are more than likely diverting their energy from learning to protecting themselves from physical, mental or emotional harm. Until they are protected from such discrimination, their wellbeing is not ensured."

Shaun Dellenty, on of the UK's only openly gay school leaders, said he was not surprised at the report's findings.

"We have known about the problem of homo and transphobic bullying within our schools for many years now, but every academic year individuals fail to fulfill their potential because schools either don't want to face up to the issues or don't feel equippped to," he told The Huffington Post UK.

"These figures are shameful and disturbing, yet sadly not surprising."

The deputy headteacher, who also runs Inclusion For All, added: "The time for avoidance is past. We owe it to all the individuals in our care to address these issues for once and for all.

"The government and heads of schools, colleges and univertsites have a duty of care and they must act to ensure all pupils are included, feel safe and are free to fulfill their potential."

The report details the experience of one young person, who dropped out of their first university due to homophobic bullying.

"It was a very small minded place full of very sheltered private school individuals," they told the charity. "I think it goes to show that the background of the students and the type of place have a massive impact."

Director of Stonewall Scotland, Colin Macfarlane, said: "Much work still needs to be done".

"Too many young Scots face a daily gauntlet of terror in our playgrounds and in our classrooms simply because of who they are.

"Stonewall Scotland works with schools across Scotland to ensure we equip teachers and young people with the confidence to tackle homophobia. Things are slowly getting better but much work still needs to be done."

One respondent said teachers "don't do much about people being called dykes or poofs," adding: "They only intervened if there was an actual physical assault."

Another echoed the experience of having uninformed teachers:

"I encounter most discrimination from the university staff. Other students will follow the lead of tutors and I have found that, although my tutors don't appear to have any sort of malicious intent, they are extremely uneducated about trans issues and therefore allow confusion and mistreatment of myself by my peers."

Only 30% of school-aged youths surveyed were aware anti-homophobia education has been introduced in schools.

LGBT Youth Scotland recommended more formal inclusive policies be introduced into schools, colleges and universities to ensure students and staff are not discriminated or bullied as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

When asked what could help them or others feel safe, the LGBT youths said they wanted teachers to be more confident in discussing the issues and to address homophobia and transphobia immediately.

One said: "I think if the teachers at school had been more comfortable with the issue it would have been a big help. It's very unnerving to be in class having 'you' being discussed and the teacher being obviously uncomfortable."

While another said they suffered "four years of hell" in school. "The teachers took a back seat. Now, I'm not sure if it was because it was a Catholic school, but regardless. If a student comes out to a teacher or pupil and bullying arises the school must take action."

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Fergus McMillan, chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland, said: "The launch of our research is an appeal to teachers, youth workers and others working with youths to act now to challenge bullying based on prejudice. We're not yet getting it right for young people who experience discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity at school, college and the wider community."

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