Will Young voices concern about derogatory use of the word ‘gay’ in schools

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Singer Will Young has said that children’s use of ‘gay’ as an insult is a problem that is not being dealt with properly in schools.

Writing in The Independent on Sunday, the gay pop star wrote that while adults in 2013 need have no concern about being openly gay, “this is not the case for young people”.

He wrote: ‘We as a country are failing our children within education. We are failing them if teachers don’t immediately clamp down on homophobia and the negative hijacking of language. We are failing our children if we don’t allow them to grow up in a nurturing educational environment of acceptance and love for everyone”.

Young argued that while racist and anti-religious language is usually dealt with quickly by teachers, homophobic language is seen as more acceptable, and homophobic bullying is not being taken seriously enough by local councils.

“This is not a small statistic, this is an epidemic, but still we find teachers not wanting to tackle homophobia. Whether they lack the power, the empathy or they have an overriding fear of parental reaction, it isn’t good enough”.

Young revealed that he has voiced his concerns to Education Secretary Michael Gove at an education conference organised by gay rights charity Stonewall. Of this meeting, he says: “I put it to him that the derogatory use of the word gay should be addressed. I am pleased to say his reaction was attentive and encouraging. Let’s see words turn into actions, Michael”.

According to Stonewall, almost two thirds of young LGBT people have experienced homophobic bullying, and nine out of ten and more than two in five primary school teachers say that homophobic bullying occurs in their schools.

Young’s article also mentioned Tesco’s recent blunder in which the supermarket chain advertised a “g*y best friend” inflatable doll on their website, saying “here was a paradox. A product that I presume had some vague intent of promoting equality and understanding was being sold with the actual word being obscured, as if it was something that shouldn’t be uttered out loud or displayed in print”.

Young is now working with Stonewall to set up a programme to train teachers in how to tackle homophobic language in the classroom.