November 26, 2007

Publication: Tipperary Voice

Date: Friday, November 9, 2007 Page: M 22


By Christina Hott

Homophobic bullying is on the increase in
our schools. Homophobia is a resentment or
fear of gay and lesbian people. The teen
years for any young girl or boy can be a
challenging time but for some homosexual teens,
 it can often turn into living nightmare. Daily,
many homosexual teens suffer in silence in a
confused state of mind,dealing with emotional
and physical harassment.

Homosexuality has been around for as long
 as heterosexuality. Six  per cent of  Irish
 adults are believed to be lesbian or gay, yet
 the question needs to be asked why is there
 so much stigma and ignorance around when
 it comes to homosexuality?
   "Children can be very cruel to each other,
 especially when they are reared in families
 who have hang ups about homosexuality. I
 think the Vatican needs to take some responsibility
for the foundation of homophobic beliefs," said
Kay, an eighteen-year-old who has
 come "out" about her sexuality and who is now
 in a healthy homosexual relationship.
   When it comes to Christian values, the question
 that we need to ask ourselves is, where
 in the Bible does it say that God's lesbian and
 gay children should not receive the same love,
 care and respect as heterosexual children?
   Homophobic bullying needs to be recognize
as a serious problem for young lesbians
 and gay men.

Bullying in our schools and streets put the
 wellbeing of these youngsters at risk, homosexual
 and bisexual youths are two to three
 times more likely to attempt suicide than their
 heterosexual counterparts. The distress these
 youngsters experience is a direct result of ignorance,
 hatred and prejudice that they are
 bombarded with from heterosexual teens.
   "Gay teens' academic development is suffering
 because of  homophobic bullying,"
 said seventeen-year-old Liam. "Many
homosexual teens are struggling with their
sexuality and are slow to come forward and
report the bullying to teachers."
Four out of five homosexual teens interviewed
felt that they had no supportive
adult they could thrust in their school. These
youngsters were more likely to drop out of
school thus adding to the added burden of
other  negative social issues  within their
Our school curriculum should offer a safe
and effective learning environment for all children
regardless of their sexuality, religion or
cultural belief.  A respectful and supportive
attitude towards homosexuality in our schools
would lead to a healthier social attitude
amongst children and give them a sense of
belonging with their school and community.
"By educating our teenagers to their acceptance
 of their sexuality, we would break through the
 silence and stigma that surrounds the lives of
 so many gay teens that are victims
 of homophobia and hate crime,"  said
Robert who emotionally struggled with coming
 "out" about his sexuality. "It's time our
schools had zero tolerance for homophobic behaviour."
A survey of 100 homosexual teens living in
South East of Ireland revealed:
• Twenty said they were currently in a relationship.

• Thirty-eight reported that they were open
about their sexuality with their friends.
9 Twenty had come "out" to their family.
• They all reported that they knew of
 someone who had been a victim of homophobic abuse.

• They all reported that homophobic
language in the classroom is common.
Slur words such as, gay, poof, faggot and
lezzie were used continuously amongst
 teens. Boys being the worst offenders.
They all agreed that homophobic bullying
  should be made a criminal offence.
raquo; They all felt that the Irish State should
  recognise gay marriages.
  "Victims of homosexual bullying have experienced
damage to their school and personal property, blackmail,
threatened, mocking and verbal assault, many have
been spat at,many more have been isolated from social
and school activities by their peers," explained Kay.
School bullying has a serious impact on our
health service. Up to fifteen per cent of pupils
are being bullied at any one time. Many young
people attending our hospital A&E units with
physical and self-harm injuries are victims
of bullying.

The emotion and psychological effects of
bullying can produce flashbacks in the victim's

daily life. The victim's daily life is often
overcome by an obsessive fear of the bully.
This obsessive fear results in poor concen
tration and often leads to accidents.  The victim

often suffers from bouts of trembling,
tearfulness, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks

and fretting over trivial things. Hyper
vigilance amongst  victims of bullying is
common. Many of them live with an emotional

hypersensitivity of their surrounds, while
withdrawal and isolation from social events
and friends often result in reactive depression

or a feeling of hopelessness.  Anger, low
self-confidence and low self-worth are the results

of the destructive impairment effects of any form of bullying.

If you are a victim of homophobic byliying:

• Break the silence. Speak out.
• Report the incident to the gardai and tell them to record the incident as homophobic.
• Never destroy any evidence of any attack made on you. Store all clothing in a plastic bag and do not shower.
Samples can be taken for forensic evidence.
• Take photos of all injuries or any damage to your personal property.
• Keep a diary and record dates and times of incidents and details of all people involved.

Even though it is estimated that there are 200,000 gay and lesbian people in Ireland,
many remain in the "closet" at work, because of social stigma. Many lesbians and gay men
would not reveal their sexuality to their fellow workers especially those who are employed
in our garda force, navy or army.

In August of this year, at the International Association of Suicide Prevention Conference,
which took place in Killarney, President Mary McAleese alerted the public to the affects
of homophobic bullying on young gay people. The only way to stamp out homophobic bullying
is to make it a criminal offence. In life, the only time, silence is not golden is when we
fail to speak out about injustices!