Educational Psychology Interview
Marjorie Smith is an educational psychologist who works in London. She has a special interest in LGBT issues because her children are gay. She is a member of Families Together London which provides information and support to parents of LGBT people. Evidence to support the views she gives in this interview can be found on the website http://www.familiestogetherlondon.com./
What do you think the impact of homophobic/transphobic bullying is, and how does it affect the victim?
I think people used to think that bullying doesn’t do any harm, that it ‘toughens you up’. I don’t believe this is true at all. Victims of homophobic/transphobic bullying suffer many problems - isolation, mental health problems like depression and anxiety, an increased risk of self-harm and suicide – the list is shocking.
What do you think is the effect of the current levels of homophobic/transphobic bullying in schools? (bearing in mind that Stonewall's research suggests that 65% of LGB pupils experience bullying, and PACE's more recent research shows that 58% of LGBT pupils experience bullying)
I think bullying damages everyone involved – those who do it because they are learning to be cruel and those who look on and do nothing because they are learning to be cowards. This includes adults as well as young people.
The most serious hate crimes in recent years were committed by young people - so not challenging incidents at the school level leads to hate crime in our streets.
What do you think are the barriers to teachers challenging such behaviour?
Most teachers want to do something about homophobic/transphobic bullying, but they are uncertain as to how to deal with it and don’t feel confident that they know the right things to say. All teachers need training for this, but they also need to see good role models – senior staff talking about the issues and challenging young people on every instance of homophobic/transphobic behaviour.
PACE - is London’s leading charity promoting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.