Bullying Cuts & Fairytale of New York
Fairytale of New York, screenshot from YouTube
You could be forgiven for thinking that the biggest story in the LGBTQ+ community over the Christmas period was the censoring of much-loved Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. However, if you listened carefully over the cries of “Snowflakes!” and people drunkenly belting out that line to the song, you might have heard the quiet (so quiet it's metaphorical) snip of some scissors.
That snip was the government cutting £4 million of educational funds that go to tackling bullying against LGBT students in schools. That’s training and workshops for staff, parents, and students (who had all expected the funding to continue) gone. Though the programmes were not compulsory, they were generally well received by all involved.
According to the Stonewall School’s Report last published in 2017, 86% of students still hear phrases like “that’s so gay” at school with more than half of LGBT students frequently hearing discriminatory language related to sexuality or gender. The report also found 45% of LGB pupils are bullied at school, with this rising to 64% for transgender pupils.
There were no LGBT+ awareness or workshops when I was at school. I was regularly called slurs by other pupils without any teachers stepping in, my woodwork teaching even enjoyed making not so subtle innuendos about my sexuality himself. As you can imagine this was wonderful for my self-esteem at 11 years old. And that was only 17 years ago!
Despite British society becoming more tolerant in recent years, we have some way to go before all who identify as LGBT+ are fully accepted into society. The current vilification of trans people shows there is still much work to be done in educating society at large.
Furthermore, society doesn’t always reflect the reality around children. In fact, society largely shows children from a young age that male-female relationships are the norm. Just think of children’s films. It took until 2020 for Pixar to unveil their first official LGBT character in Onward and they didn’t exactly get a lot of screen time. Just two scenes to be exact.
It could be argued that the social ‘norm’ still excludes the LGBT community. Research has documented beyond doubt that LGBT young people have a higher risk of mental health issues than their counterparts who identify as straight. Stonewall’s School Report also showed that 22% of LGB young people have attempted to take their own life, while that figure is even higher for trans people at 45%.
More inclusive school environments would go some way to making students who identify as LGBT feel safer in schools and be able to open up, and hopefully reduce, some of these damning figures. Even if it empowers someone to come out to a parent or one close friend, that can make a world of difference.
LGBT people are not asking for special treatment in education. But In 2021, inclusivity should be for everyone, no matter what. Asking for a better future for all students, and for LGBT students not to suffer the same levels of bullying and mental health issues that our generation, and past generations, have had is a good place to start. Removing anti bullying programmes and workshops from school is a huge step backwards for LGBT equality in the UK.
And it’s a much bigger issue than Fairytale of bloody New York.
If you’d like to sign a government petition to continue to fund LGBT anti-bullying in schools, you can do so here.
This article was written by Daniel Hall. Daniel is a freelance writer from Newcastle upon Tyne and as well as writing on LGBTQ+ issues, he is a travel journalist and English teacher. Follow him on Twitter here.