The scourge of LGBTQ+ bullying at schools must be tackled urgently

LGBT communities across the world have been in mourning for the past week, following the death of Australian teenager Tyrone Unsworth last Thursday. After years of homophobic bullying, Unsworth took his own life at the age of 13 after following a violent clash – allegedly with another student – outside school, which left him afraid to return to school. In the light of his death, questions are being raised: how could it go so far? 

Here in Britain, the organisation LGBT Youth Scotland has found out that school children are often reluctant to report abuse to staff fearing they will not be taken seriously. This has led the group to call for stronger reactions from schools and local authorities on homophobic bullying.

According to Galop, a LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity, “young LGBT people often experience high levels of homophobic or transphobic hate crime at school or college” stating that anything people tell them is confidential and people who are too afraid to use their own name can contact them anonymously.

It has been argued that UK needs to make an extra effort to fully implement the Equality Act (2010) to eliminate discrimination and promote equality of opportunity for all, as this no longer constitute an issue for young LGBTQ. A research conducted by LGBT Youth Scotland shows that 88.5 per cent of those who have experienced transphobic bullying in education, and 54.3 per cent of homophobic or biphobic  bullying in education.

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Maud Sørum Vestnes, student at Falmouth University and member of their LGBTQ+ society says that schools needs to “include sexual education early on to normalise sexuality and gender” arguing it would “decrease bullying of LBGTQ+ drastically”. Speaking of her personal experience, Maud said that she considers herself lucky for coming out at the age of 19, arguing the whole situation would have been harder to process at a younger age.

#BetterThanThat is a campaign against hate-crime launched after the EU referendum, when “thousands of people living in Britain have been abused or attacked because of their nationally, race or religion”.

Already in July 2016, the Home Office revealed a 41% rise in hate crime. The victims, however, found the support of many public figures and politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May. She stated: “Hate crime has absolutely no place in Britain and I’m delighted to see people and groups from all communities coming together to support the #BetterThanThat campaign.”

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Galop reported that the number of homophobic attacks has doubled in the three months after the Brexit vote. Only in July there were 5,468 racially or religiously aggravated offences reported by the police, the Guardian reports.

One can blame the education system, authorities figures and bullies. The fault lies within everyone. Times might have changed, but homophobia and racism are still pressing issues and they’re going through a process of evolution. Social Media have opened up a whole new world, taking bullying to a new, dangerous level. Never before it has been so easy to offend, insult, intimidate or humiliate others, hiding behind the shield of a virtual identity. And all of this is happening right in front of our eyes and in broad daylight.

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