A former gay student of Eton College has written an open letter detailing his experiences of bullying after a famous alumnus claimed the school was devoid of homophobia.
Jamie Jackson felt compelled to respond to the claims made by Pier Torday, who said he was Eton's "only openly gay schoolboy".
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Torday says there was "very little" bullying: "There was some sniggering, but there was certainly no upsetting or traumatic bullying.. everyone at school was pretty supportive.
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"People’s response was curiosity. I didn’t get one classic, ‘You’re a faggot,’ there was none of that."
But Jackson's experience was different. In a public Facebook post, he addressed Torday, saying the claims were "irresponsible".
"The idea that Eton does not have a problem with homophobia allows the school to ignore these issues, rather than tackling them head on," Jackson wrote. "As a small, blonde kid, with effeminate mannerisms and a voice that refused to break, I was pretty acquainted with the insult 'gay' and even 'fag'/'faggot' at the school, especially in E and F block (years 9 and 10)."
Jackson continues: "I, and half a dozen of my friends I either privately knew were gay/bi at school or who have subsequently told me, were not 'out' at school. It is extraordinary to think that out of 263 students in my year who, even if we are to use the most conservative estimates, at least around 15 were gay/bi, none felt able to truly come out publicly.
"I think I was aware of three 'out' Etonians in my whole time school - one was publicly outed, one came out 6 months before leaving, and the other was taunted about it. Coming out was easily the scariest thing I have done in my life so far: we need to create the best possible environment in which to do so."
Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, Jackson said he expected the Facebook note to "inspire a few responses, and then disappear".
"I did not expect about 50 Etonians and Old Etonians to get in touch with their own, often quite emotional, experiences," he explained. "It is clear that Eton, like every other school, struggles with a homophobic atmosphere that makes teenagers feel unable to be themselves, whether that be in terms of sexuality or simply not conforming to boarding school standards of masculinity."
As a result, Jackson has now written an open letter to the headmaster of the college, Tony Little, to start a conversation about how [the school] can take active steps to change that atmosphere". He is appealing to other current and former students to get in touch with their experiences, in order to include them in the letter - which will be sent to the headmaster on Friday.
Richard Lane, of LGBT campaign charity Stonewall, told HuffPost UK: "We know that homophobic bullying remains a problem in schools right across the country. That is why we work with all types of schools – including private, public, academies, free and faith schools - to help teachers tackle and prevent bullying and abuse.
"Our resources and training could help Eton build an inclusive environment where all pupils can excel academically, regardless of their sexual orientation."
Eton College has been contacted for comment.
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