MP Iain Stewart on how he was bullied for being gay

Child and bullying Iain Stewart says that bullying can leave deep emotional scars

The MP for Milton Keynes has spoken movingly about feeling introverted and lonely when he was bullied at school for being gay.

Iain Stewart, the former deputy chairman of the LGBT Tory Group (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) told MPs that homophobic bullying was still widespread in schools and the consequences could damage a young person's academic and social development.

"It can leave deep emotional scars and I know this from personal experience," he told the Westminster Hall debate.

"At school I knew I was gay but I didn't dare admit it.

"It was inconceivable to do that as a teenager growing up in the west of Scotland in the '80s."

Offensive words

He joked that it had been easier to admit to being a Tory in Glasgow than to being gay at school.

"I wasn't physically bullied and the verbal bullying was mild and short lived, but I was perceived to be different and it left deep scars.

Start Quote

Iain Stewart

I wasn't physically bullied and the verbal bullying was mild and short lived, but I was perceived to be different and it left deep scars”

End Quote Iain Stewart (Cons) MP Milton Keynes South

"It was enough to make me feel isolated and introverted, and it took me a very long time to overcome it."

He told the chamber that last year in Milton Keynes there were four teenage suicides - three of them young gay men.

"Does that not tell us that there is a problem that needs to be addressed?" he asked.

He also revealed that only last week young people in Milton Keynes told him that they had heard offensive words being used in class - words which went unchecked.

And at one school in the town, pupils set up a Facebook page to 'out' supposedly gay classmates.

He quoted research by the gay rights organisation Stonewall which suggested that 90% of secondary teachers and 40%of primary teachers had regularly witnessed homophobic bullying.

"Teachers want to combat it but feel they lack the training or the support to do it", he said.

There is already a range of anti-bullying guidance for schools. It is one of the things that Ofsted checks on.

Strong stand

But the Schools Minister Nick Gibb accepted that more needs to be done.

"This is an issue the government is committed to tackling," he said.

Depressed young man The government says it is committed to tackling homophobic bullying

"In the programme for government we have said that we will help schools tackle bullying, in particular homophobic bullying.

"And in the White Paper we've said we will empower head teachers to take a strong stand against bullying especially racist, homophobic and other prejudiced-based bullying."

Mr Stewart accepts that bullying is not a new phenomenon.

He also accepts that a lot has been done to tackle it.

But he feels this is one aspect that needs much more attention, and he hopes that by speaking out people will take notice.

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Getting the animal attack instinct arising for many reasons out of the schoolchild or a pack of children is a matter for leadership from teachers. Bullying for sexual orientation is special because we have criminalised it in adults. Teachers who are not immediately intervening to stop or prevent it are inadequate teachers, but having express guidance and structured backup might help them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Completely agree with Iain Stewart: I was picked on in my last 2 yrs of Primary because someone decided I was a lesbian. Part of the problem is teachers stupidly linking homophobia to sex and not wanting to talk about it, because they think it'll be embarrassing. Another issue in my primary was 'religious sensitivites'. I also think that Clause 28 made a lasting impact on teachers, even after 1997

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    @2. Chris and Chantal, while I agree with your comments, the point that he is making here is that kids are being bullied as they are perceived as being gay and that nothing is done about it because teachers feel that they lack the proper training, sexuality is such a sensitive area. Kids who are bullied for other reasons are given the protection that they need unlike victims of homophobic bullying

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    One doesn't need to be homosexual to be bullied. Why wanting to do something just for these kids? Aren't all kids to be protected regardless? Where are the teachers or anybody for that matter whilst kids are not in class? No doubt having their fags and/or forgetting these very kids who are the bullies and trying to protect themselves against these fiends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Well said Iain Stewart. Homophobic Bullying is still endemic in schools, as I can personally vouch for, due to me being bullied for several years. Much still needs to be done, and I sincerely hope that the government will recognise that action is needed. It is difficul to see if comments are banter or bullying, and it often takes the student themselves to have the condifence to come out first


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