The shift towards the left in social attitudes over the last ten years has meant that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have won important rights in Britain.
These include an equal age of consent and the abolition of Section 28 of the Local Government Act, freeing schools from the constraints they felt were stopping them from discussing LGBT relationships.
But the hangover from 20 years of government-sanctioned homophobia is still felt by many young people, especially in the form of homophobic bullying, which is still a massive problem. Estimates put the number of schools affected by homophobic bullying at over 60,000.
On top of this the word gay is often used as a derogatory word. Radio One DJ Chris Moyles recently provoked anger when he described a mobile phone ring tone as ’gay’ on his show. The BBC announced it was acceptable for him to do so and the outburst wasn’t considered as homophobic.
The main parties have all made comments against homophobic bullying but hot air from them won’t solve anything. In fact their educational policies are likely to make it worse. All three main parties support the dismantling of free, publicly owned education in favour of City Academies and PFI schools.
City Academies have their lessons and rules affected by whoever pays the initial £2 million. If the sponsor has right-wing views (as many of the City Academies are already attracting) then students can wave goodbye to any decent education on LGBT issues, policies to deal with homophobic bullying or sex and relationship education in general.
Even in schools that are publicly owned, there may be few resources to help equip teachers and staff on how to deal with homophobic bullying or provide education on relationship issues.
Homophobic bullying isn’t just restricted to LGBT youth. Anyone can find themselves targeted for being slightly different such as a hairstyle or different clothing. Gender stereotypes play a large role in this. There are still ideas that men and women should look a certain way and should only do certain activities and the idea that gay men and lesbians should look and act in a certain way.
The idea that all gay men are camp, and should be dressed ’fabulously’ is of course ridiculous. Yet it is still present on TV shows and in newspapers, even on supposedly ’gay-friendly’ shows such as the US comedy Will and Grace.
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) campaigns against homophobic bullying in schools, workplaces and society in general. To fight homophobic bullying, we need a decently funded education system with clear anti-bullying policies. Training needs to be available for teachers and educational support staff.
We also need to challenge gender stereotyping and sexism. These measures will go some way to fighting homophobia but ultimately we must fight against the system that creates and uses homophobia to divide the working class – capitalism. Only by the creation of a socialist society can homophobia and other forms of prejudice finally be eliminated.