Scott De Buitléir writes about a recent weekend in London, and a realistic Yuletide wish
My boyfriend and I took a trip over to London for the weekend, something I had been looking forward to for ages. London at Christmastime is just magical, energetic, and just as romantic as I had hoped.
We weren’t the only couple who were enticed to the Christmas Markets. Just near the Tate Modern, we both spotted this adorable young gay couple, holding hands as they wandered between the crowds and the little huts. They were probably no older than about 21, and both my boyfriend & I couldn’t help but smile at them, clearly completely in love.
London, much like Dublin, is by no means completely devoid of people who could begrudge that young couple their plain-as-day happiness. That said, there were thankfully no protestors around that evening, and it was comforting to see that we’re now entering an age where young love is allowed to simply be, regardless of gender.
Or so I thought, for a blissful but brief moment.
Across the pond in the U.S., a very different story was being told by the media. Earlier this month, a 12-year-old boy, who recently found in himself a passion and joy for cheerleading, took his own life because he had been severely bullied over his hobby. Robin Shimizu, from Folsom, Calif., had been repeatedly called gay by his schoolmates, because he was the only male cheerleader in his school.
Whether or not he was gay makes no difference. There was so much homophobia amongst Robin’s co-students that it led him to take his own precious life, a decision no-one should have to take – least of all a child.
Tragedies like what happened to Robin should remind us all that the fight to protect LGBT youth is nowhere near won yet. There are still so many young LGBT children, teens and young adults who may well be the target of homophobic and transphobic bullying. It can happen in schools, on the way home from classes, or anywhere else.
Back on this side of the Atlantic, charities, like Stonewall in the UK, and BeLonG To & ShoutOut in Ireland, work hard to get the message into schools that being LGBT is normal, but that homophobic bullying is not something to be accepted, by either students or school staff. The message has been difficult to get across at times, but when we see schools taking part in local pride festivals, like St. Paul’s High School participating in Newry Pride earlier this year, progress is clearly being made.
Teachers and other staff in schools – not just in Ireland & UK, but as far and wide as possible – need to realise that a child’s right to a safe environment is crucial to their development. More importantly, it’s vital to their mental health, and ultimately, their lives. No school has the luxury of turning a blind eye to bullying, whether homophobic, racist or otherwise. Any member of staff that would prefer not to ‘rock the boat’ or ’cause trouble’ rather than to take a stand against bullying, quite simply doesn’t deserve to work in a school.
That cold December evening in London, a young gay couple were just one of many couples enjoying themselves at a Christmas Market. No doubt, they probably experienced homophobia at some point growing up. My wish for Christmas is that some day, no child has to experience that growing up. Hopefully, with a bit of hard work from the right people, that wish has a chance of coming true.