A NEW campaign to make the teaching of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues in schools statutory has been described as one of the “most inspiring” since the referendum.
Liam Stevenson, 36 and Jordan Daly, 20, met after the referendum vote last year, having been involved in different branches of the Yes campaign.
Yesterday the two came together to call for an end to something that had affected one of their lives drastically, while the other had not even previously considered it.
The Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign calls for the statutory teaching of LGBT issues in all schools across the country, due to statistics showing disproportionately high rates of self-harm and attempted suicide amongst LGBT students.
According to the statistics from LGBT Youth Scotland and campaign group Stonewall, 54 per cent of LGBT students who have experienced direct homophobic bullying are regularly deliberately self-harming. One in four of those who are bullied attempted suicide at least once in their time at school.
The petition to the Scottish Parliament demands a reform of the mandatory school curriculum, recommending the teaching of the equal rights movement, sexualities, gender identity and a more comprehensive sexual health education.
If the Scottish Government follows through on the reforms, it will be the first government in the world to have LGBT education as a statutory requirement. The only subject that Scottish schools currently must cover by law is religious education.
Father-of-one Liam had not previously had any involvement in gay rights issues. It was only after meeting Jordan, who told Liam he was gay, that the 36-year-old became aware of the struggle LGBT children face every day in schools.
Inspired by the referendum campaign, the pair decided it was “no longer enough to just write to your MSP” and are now making their first foray into the political world.
“Had it not been for the referendum I wouldn’t have realised that you can actually get out and make a difference yourself,” said Jordan. “There would have been no TIE campaign.”
“Despite not getting the Yes vote another Scotland is still possible – we just have to shape it ourselves,” said Liam.
“The campaign gave me the confidence to go and stand up at meetings and approach subjects like this.”
As a youngster, Jordan was frightened to be gay, and tried to change his sexuality, even contemplating suicide, because he felt he could not speak to anyone about it.
The situation Jordan faced is not uncommon. Fifty-three per cent of LGBT students feel unable to talk openly to any adult within their school about their sexual orientation, and 71 per cent regularly play truant.
When Jordan told Liam he had considered suicide as a teenager, the 36-year-old had to go to the bathroom to compose himself. Although he had read the statistics, he didn’t expect to hear about it first-hand.
Moved by his account, Liam decided to join with Jordan in trying to change school life for future students.
Since the launch, Scottish Greens co-Convenor Patrick Harvie, human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and Unite’s Bryan Simpson have all backed the TIE campaign, as have leading LGBT groups.
Encouraging others to sign the petition to make teaching of LGBT issues mandatory, Anwar said the freedom to love who you want was “one of the most fundamental human rights”.
“When people are being murdered because of their sexuality, or forced to live a lie for fear of attack, it is essential that our schools take the lead in exposing and tackling such discrimination,” he said.
Cat Boyd and Jonathon Shafi from the Radical Independence Campaign and Common Weal’s Robin McAlpine have also spoken in support of the movement.
McAlpine described the campaign as one of the “most inspiring to have emerged from the recent political awakening of Scotland”, while Boyd said that “education absolutely must be accessible to everyone”.
Jordan said: “Education is one of the big last dominoes which need to topple, and I would like to see Scotland being the first to set an example and tackle this.”
The petition will be live online for six weeks before it goes to a parliamentary committee at Holyrood in August. More than 300 people signed it on the first day.
ARTICLE BY – STEFAN SCHMID FOR THE NATIONAL – JUNE 30TH, 2015