The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan spoke out about homophobic bullying in a speech at a Brighton school yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 24 November).
She said that overall there was less bullying but victims often retreated from school life – and that affected them later in life.
The Conservative Education Secretary spoke at the Brighton College Autumn Conference. The conference theme this year was “tackling homophobic bullying in schools”.
The 64-year-old actor and politician was one of the stars of EastEnders in the late 1980s when his character Colin Russell kissed his on-screen boyfriend Guido Smith, played by Nicholas Donovan.
The kiss prompted front-page coverage in at least one national newspaper and acres of coverage subsequently.
Lord Cashman was one of the founders of Stonewall, the gay rights organisation, which supported the Brighton conference.
Later it was addressed by the journalist and former Conservative MP Matthew Parris, 66, who writes a column for The Times.
Nicky Morgan spoke after lunch. She said: “Homophobic bullying affects every young person seen as different and many suffer homophobic bullying regardless of their sexual orientation.
“The fact is that bullies will target anyone who doesn’t conform to their own views of gender stereotype. I’m talking about the girl who likes rugby, the boy who doesn’t like football.
“The nature of bullying has changed considerably, with social media providing an anonymous space for abuse and ridicule.
“We must not underestimate the importance of homophobic language which has a huge effect on young people.
“The derogatory use of the word gay is offensive and unacceptable. The impact of homophobic bullying can be devastating.
“A victim is likely to see their grades suffer, experience health issues and they might even consider taking their own life. This is unacceptable.
“I firmly believe that we will see a future where homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying are banished, but we are not complacent.”
Brighton College said: “It matters. All bullying is wrong but this form of bullying is too rarely tackled head on by teachers and school leaders. Together, we can help to change that.”
Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby, whose constituency includes Brighton College, said that he welcomed Nicky Morgan’s visit.
Mr Kirby added: “I have long worked hard to raise awareness of this important issue.
“Bullying someone because of their sexual orientation is completely unacceptable and has no place in a civilised society.
“It can be particularly damaging for young people who may be concerned about coming out to their peers.
“I know that the government takes this issue very seriously and I am glad that they recently announced more measures to tackle online homophobic bullying in particular.”
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