LGBT in schools – Little Girls (and boys) Bully Tirelessly

We officially have a pre teen. She is amazing: funny (I mean stand up comedy funny), creative (it’s amazing what she uses to try and make slime “Mummmm the toothpaste is on fire!”), Caring (“You’re hurt? Sit down, let me get you a wet flannel”) and talented. She recently landed the lead role in her school play as the youngest in the show. Stage is where she is comfortable. Singing is something she does day and night. We call her Little Miss Leather Lungs.

Then came the Pre Teen bit. This snuck up on us until one day we wondered how we had got to this point. When did it start? The eye rolling, the door slamming, the answer for everything. When did the hatred for hair brushing turn into obsessions over new hair styles, and the roll into uniform in the mornings turn into taking an age to put on some lip gloss and accessorize?

When did shoe styles become a thing?

She started secondary school last September. It has been a rollercoaster as all year 7s friendship groups are fluid in their attempts to find their place. Add in the extra learning, homework and longer days and by the end of first term some were exhibiting flagging behaviours.

Abi has two Mums. I have been a part of her life since she was 14 months old. Together we have doted on her ensuring she has everything she needs, though not everything she wants (she saves for some things). We have brought her up with the magic of nature, wand hunting, foraging, home baking, arts and crafts (she can knit, I can’t!), many beach days, camping. We have always taught her that as long as she is happy, healthy, loved and safe then nothing else matters.

Then the teen thing took a turn. She became rude to us, she wouldn’t sleep, she was emotional. She was not happy going to school and insanely happy coming home. Then bedtime would come and she would not be happy again. School had knocked out one of our four “must haves” – happy. As weeks went by, she drip fed us information. It turns out school had knocked out another of our “must haves” – safe. Abi had been experiencing bulling at school.

One girl – one we had known previously – had gathered other children around her and whispered stories about our daughter. The stories were all the same: “don’t go near her she’s a lesbian freak.” “Her Mum’s are fat scabby lesbians.” “Don’t touch that, Abi has touched it – it’s lesbian infected.” And so it went on with the common thread being “lesbian freak.” We were able to pinpoint children who had taken on board these stories as the common thread was uttered time and time again. One afternoon Abi came out of school dripping with cherry coke. Another afternoon she had Seagull excrement smeared over her. She was often tripped up, often had her hair pulled and often threatened that if she told she would die in an ambulance.

Her distress was increasing as we had email conversations and meetings with school. A couple of incidents had been witnessed but school seemed more concerned with Abi’s behaviour: She is often late to class (she doesn’t want to cross paths with bullies en route so hangs back). She has been seen to be antagonistic in class (the teacher turned after another “lesbian freak” moment so caught the tail end, not the whole story. “These incidents are often reported by us not by her.” She is terrified to talk for fear of repercussion. “90% has not been witnessed.” Yet we are dealing with a different child – a very upset child who has had two ruined school shirts and two ruined coats due to the actions of others.

We took Abi out of lessons – putting her in “base.” A time out area for a week until school dealth with the issues. I felt like one of those parents who is constantly phoning, moaning, emailing. I didn’t want the school to view us negatively because of this but we could not stand by and allow this to continue. She was moved to the other half of the year group. She was given a pass to skip the canteen queue and given bolt holes to go to.

She is doing better in her new classes. She is certainly happier and comes home with tales of lessons and new friends. The issues continue inbetween lessons and at break and lunch but she appears to be handling herself better. She is very sensitive and is not the type of child to retaliate. I just hope this positive spell lasts. We have looked at other schools but if things can be worked out we would rather stay. Her school specialises in an subject dear to her, she has made a couple of good friends and she has bonded with many teachers. We don’t want the actions of one (and her group) to spoil what could be an excellent opportunity for Abi.

No child should EVER suffer in silence or be made to feel they cannot speak due to fear.

We have had a meeting with our local MP who is now requesting updates from the school. Homophobia is not acceptable. We are working very hard to bring our daughter back to the point where she once again feels happy, healthy loved and safe. This blog will be continued as things progress.

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Cue the over the glasses stare: “And which one are you?”

ImageWe all have labels, right? Mum, career seeker, health conscious, OCD (I believe most of us have an element of OCD – a need for routine of some sort). I have many labels. Although I don’t like the labeling society seems to crave! Why should we be put into neat little boxes and filed into the consciousness of the many?

I hid my sexuality until I was nineteen. From that moment on, I have been “filed!” I have a label which has been an interesting one to wear. I met a very unsavoury female and traveled each month to meet up with her. Of course I felt liberated. I had waited my whole life to be me and here was a door to a world I had only dreamed of. It was unhealthy though. Far too many negatives surrounded this relationship. My mother was worried and used to ask what I was up to every time I went away. One day she shone lights in my eyes and checked my arms to see if I had been taking drugs. I snapped. “I’m gay!” I shouted. “I’m seeing someone.”

“Oh I always knew that.” Mum said. Nineteen years of hiding my “label” and worrying about how Mum would react and she was fine. She knew all along! Her only worry was the absence of grandchildren. Now Mum knew, the rest of the world could. I worked with young people with special needs and had done for some years. I went to my boss and explained my sexuality. I did this because some male members of staff can’t do personal care for the girls and I wanted to check I wasn’t going to be in that bracket. I wasn’t. My honesty was appreciated and I carried on as normal. I went through school with some of my colleagues and their only problem was that I hadn’t told them earlier. It turns out one, who was in my “friendship group” (I was always on the outskirts of any group) also wore the secret label. I am pleased to report that she is now happily married to her wife, has a steady job in the police force and is doing very well for herself.

 

I met my current partner , Cath, seven years ago when I was 24. Eight years older than me, she had only worn her label openly for a year. The response from her family was different. Her Mum took baby Abi out of her arms believing it was an infectious disease. She was told it was a phase. Something she would try out then leave behind. Her parents have always been nice to me after all “If I had the right equipment, I would be the best thing since sliced bread.” So I have been told. Cath drip fed the label to her family for fear of being disowned. Her Aunt was fine. Her Nonna knew all along. Her Brother and sister in law were also accepting and this was a huge relief for Cath. It took her five years from meeting me to inform the family. They know but it is not talked about. Cath’s parents have really come to terms with this in the last two years. Maybe I have proven my worth. I have been supportive, loving and providing and always will be. In return, they are supportive and hello’s and goodbyes now involve a kiss on the cheek. The first time this happened I was elated! I felt acceptance. Nothing beats that feeling.

The negative reactions are still present. At Abi’s fifth birthday party (she is now eight), one Mum told her children to say “thank you for inviting me” to Abi’s Mum. She pointed to me. I said “oh, no. This is Abi’s Mum,” and pointed to Cath. (This often confuses people because ironically Abi does look more like me!) The mother said “Oh.” Threw us a filthy look and promptly dragged her children away from the party. If our paths cross now, she still blanks us. We are not worried by this but we do worry about how Abi will feel. She is, thankfully, savvy and headstrong. She knows that she is happy, healthy, loved and safe and that is all that matters.

More recently, a drunk man unfortunate enough to be homeless yelled “lesbians” at us from across the street. Our previous neighbours would shout “dirty f***ing dyke” at Cath and another parent from Abi’s school has targeted us in some kind of witch hunt which has seen him banned from school grounds.

On the other side of the coin, school have been excellent. We have solid friends old and new and family around us. Abi is growing up with an open mind to different lifestyles. We are used to the “so which one are you?” when people try to figure out who is the Mum. We are used to the “I thought one was meant to be more masculine?” (neither of us are) We are used to the surprise when people realise we are in a long term forever relationship. Stereotype seems to label us as sexual deviants who flit from one person to the other.  We are not.

We are also used to the “and who are you?” Which I often get.

Abi ended up in hospital with suspected meningitis when she was six. The doctor asked who “Mum” was. Cath verified it was her. She looked over her glasses and me and said “and who are you?!” I said I was Abi’s other mother. My name was scribbled into the margins of her paperwork. This happens often too. Hence the self made title “margin mother.”

We are no different to any other family! We do school runs and after school clubs, we deal with tantrums, illnesses and fads. We love to snuggle on the sofa and watch films or walk along the beaches to see what we can find. We bake, we read, we write, we love, we cry, we have routine and standards.  It isn’t easy but where there is acceptance, it is accepted whole heartedly. We also have labels but we wear them proudly.