Two weekends ago at student LGBT pride, I was part of a panel discussing the various things that young LGBT could be up against in 2016. This ranged from mental wellbeing to drugs, as well as fitting into a new world and gay shame. Having been an advocate of young LGBT rights for the last two years, I was privileged to be on the panel. During the talk I voiced my opinions on the lack of awareness my government gives to homophobic language in schools, and said I don't believe our education secretary, Nicky Morgan, gives a shit about young LGBT rights.
New statistics show that 34% of young LGBT people will make a suicide attempt in comparison to 18% of young heterosexual people. A rise in 10 % since the last findings of 2012.
The reaction I got from the department of education to my comments was interesting, yet perhaps not wholly surprising. One of Nicky Morgan's charges said, 'We urge Will to focus on reviving his pop career'! What a sign of Nicky Morgan's charges that they come out with a statement like this (presumably wanting me to focus on pop instead of young LGBT rights?). Oh department of education... you have let yourself show your true colours.
Petty comments? Who could be so immature and crass? I suppose I will play the game by pointing out I got a number one album with my last record and a sell-out tour. There you go... for what it is worth. This is like the same childish bickering that goes on in the Commons.
And I am sad that Nicky Morgan feels 'vitriol' from gay campaigners. I used my words at the student pride panel carefully, on purpose. I chose the word 'shit' to get some headlines and more importantly to highlight the misuse of language in schools and ask for this to be addressed. I haven't seen this issue, specifically, on the agenda for tackling homophobia in schools, and I believe in my heart of hearts it must be.
I never experienced this twisting of language in my school years. This is not a personal vendetta against the education secretary.
Last year I said something personal about Nicky and I apologised. It stemmed from my frustration that it took five months to even get a reply on Twitter from the Education Secretary, and then only when I copied in three newspapers. It then took another six weeks of promised meetings that fell through (as well as my suggestion that I'd picket outside the department) before I eventually got confirmation that a meeting had been arranged. How could I truly believe Nicky Morgan was dedicated to this issue when I was driven to such measures? But the worst part was that I realised that I came away from the meeting with no hope for young people in this particular area.
But I'm not easily put off. This time I'm looking for actual change, change that is directed in the right areas. Homophobic language and the term 'gay' as a negative statement being one of them. I don't want to fight, I just want results and would prefer to have a dialogue. So instead, I'm happy to declare a truce.
So a refresher. Our minister for education is the MP who voted against gay marriage but was nominated Equalities Minister. Not her fault to get the post but for me, this is just another sign of Conservative 'progression'. Yes she was, and is, entitled to her opinion, but it has not got her onside with the gay community and gay campaigners. However we are a free country and people can do what they will and I celebrate this, even if I don't agree with peoples choices.
My problem is twofold.
Firstly... we have a political system where I believe that politicians genuinely start with hugely good intentions. They do an incredible job. However, to progress up the ladder of politics they take on responsibilities they often know little about, let alone have any particular passion for. People like Jeremy Corbyn have continually shown passion, fire, and an unwavering commitment to not "play the game" throughout his career. He speaks his mind, and even more importantly, he doesn't "smoke and mirrors" his words.
I empathise with MPs too, they have to grapple daily with quotes being taken out of context and then turned against them. Despite this, I believe they have to remain human. A difficult balance and one I think should be attained and encouraged. If they make a mistake, they should own it. If they feel something, for god's sake, they should SAY IT! I suppose at least, I grant the education department has shown some fire with their juvenile retort to my words at student pride recently, but I believe that it wasn't very mature and that fire should've been redirected towards young LGBT people. Two million pounds is a start but we have grossly let down these vulnerable young people for too long and we need to help them if this country is to thrive.
Secondly, I am unfalteringly passionate about the misuse of the word 'gay' in schools. With the attempted suicide rates almost twice that of heterosexual young people (along with self-harming), I simply cannot stand by and watch another generation of young LGBT people be let down by another UK government. On top of what this costs the national health in therapies and hospital admissions etc. Let's end this hijacking of language. It is the rifle in LGBT persecutions. Years ago, 'faggot' was claimed as an abusive word to be hurled at gay people, taken away from its original meaning as an 'off cut of meat'. Gay, too, has been misappropriated to mean 'bad, wrong and faulty' in the last two decades.
It is time to reclaim it, time for teachers and head teachers to be given the education and support to prevent this misuse. Yes, there is support for young LGBT people out there, but again, it is still not enough and there's no focus on harming homophobic language. Educate the teachers, educate the young people and show them that they are harming others. Show them that difference is beautiful and human. We are ALL different, it is part of the human condition.
I am happy to swap retorts with the Department of Education all day long. I'm an adult and strong enough to take it, however, I am also big enough and strong enough to stand up for LBGT young people who might not have this strength or voice yet to stand up and protect themselves.