I was in London yesterday at the Stonewall Education for All conference. I hadn’t realised that it’s the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots from which the organisation takes it’s name. Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of women and men who had been active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act. For those that don’t know, Section 28 was legislation designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. Ultimately, as well as stigmatising gay people it galvanised the gay community and brought about an organisation to lobby and campaign on equality issues for gay people.
As Sir Ian McKellen says “The legal situation is better now but there is still a hangover from Section 28 in schools. Gay issues are not discussed. Gay kids and teachers feel isolated. That’s why I go to schools — faith, comprehensive and private — to talk. And think about it, more and more of the parents who are sending their children to schools are gay themselves. They are not “pretend” families, as Section 28 called them.” From The Times June 23, 2009
The conference built upon the shocking facts about homophobic bullying presented in the School Report. There are some interesting facts in the Teachers report. What I found interesting regarding the facts about who experiences homophobic bullying outlined below is how much gender stereotyping plays such a large part in the bullying that goes on. Whilst those young people who are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual are being bullied boys, in particular, who aren’t conforming to their gender stereotype are bullied more. I am keen to ensure that we tackle homophobic bullying in our youth centres as part of the LGBT Strategy we are developing and will make sure that we pick up on this when we finalise the draft. I am also interested in these statistics as they appear to point to the need for more work on gender. It made me reflect once more on some of the sessions we run at youth centres which have the potential to conform to these stereotypes (the all womens dance groups, the young mens football sessions, the ‘beauty’ sessions) and how we need to ensure that colleagues are clear as to why they are running single gender sessions. An unexpected outcome from today is that I am now reflecting on what further training and support we may need to give in order to ensure that we are not perpetuating gender stereotypes in our work, how about you?