Actions speak louder than statements
From our new writer Charley
The LGBT community can allow themselves a feeling of contentment this week after statements have been made, from some our more influential politicians, regarding homophobia and bullying in Ireland. Former President, Mary McAleese, has addressed not only the issues of homophobia but also the staggering impact it has over those who are the victims of it, and what their actions are as a result of this victimisation.
Irish research has revealed that most of us realise we are gay at around the age of 12, although we don’t divulge this information to anyone else until approximately 17 years of age. That means that during 5 years of the mental strain of keeping that secret, homosexual youngsters are lingering within the environments that are most likely to attack them. Mrs. McAleese herself has commented on this issue, noting that many gay youths go to Christian or Catholic schools where they will inevitably hear negative remarks made about homosexuality; a bitter irony given that schools should be a place of comfort and support.
GLEN’s (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) Director of Mental Health Odhrán Allen has also commented on these issues, explaining that, “Supportive schools and families have a positive protective effect on their [young gay people] mental health.”
While the issue is being brought into the light to a larger extent than it was two decades ago, it cannot be ignored that there are still serious problems imbedded within this particular area of bullying. Statistics show that 58% of homosexual people reported homophobic bullying during their time spent at school, with a worrying 34% reporting homophobic comments being made by their own teachers!
While Mrs. McAleese may appreciate these issues and comprehend the startling figures that are attached to them, it still begs the question of what is actually being done about this problem. Granted we have seen a significant step forwards recently, by this I am of course referring to the developments in civil partnerships, with many people now agreeing with Mrs. McAleese’s statement that what gay people are striving for is “the joy of an open, happy family”. While we might be one step closer to achieving that desire, it still doesn’t detract or compensate for the issues that are still in existence and seem no closer to being resolve.
The statements are all well and good and while I’m sure many of us are relieved to see that these problems are being acknowledged, acknowledgement doesn’t do much in terms of the problems being fixed. If actions speak louder than words, then we have a long way to go before these statements actually evolve into something that young gay people will benefit from.
* All figures quoted are from the Irish research - Supporting LGBT Lives – a study of mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Key findings are available here