Bullying of all flavours can range from subtle to malicious, and often homophobic and transphobic bullying can be presented by the perpetrator in such a cloaked manner that we are uncertain of how to define or act upon it.
School life, for me, was miserable; but isn’t that true for many of us who feel different for whatever reason?
I had the stereotypical experience that many gay youths have and being a half-blind, uncoordinated, introverted gay outsider, I didn’t really excel at sports; the mockery I faced came from both staff and students.
This was thankfully balanced, or perhaps outweighed, by praise, encouragement and support from other staff who nurtured my self-worth in music, creative writing and art.
It is entirely possible that I have been sidelined for promotion or that I have missed out on employment opportunities in education because of my sexuality.
Although employers are required to publish Equality and Diversity policies, there is no promise that any company is culturally evolved enough to encourage and nurture a truly inclusive environment. Similarly, there is no guarantee that all employees are fully versed in these policies enough to act respectfully towards colleagues regardless of their own personal beliefs or feelings towards an individual based upon whatever limiting label they have attached to that person.
I have had veiled concerns from a “superior” that the content of my personal facebook page was “too gay” and that it may offend many parents of the learners that I taught. Had I been less self-assured, I may have felt victimised but, rather than respond with negativity, I saw this as an opportunity to enlighten.
Although not entirely successful, I did leave that situation with a sense that I had responded positively, respectfully and with dignity.
As inspirational motivational speaker Keith Harrell often said, “Attitude is EVERYTHING” and I refuse to be defined as a weak, vulnerable victim who has no response to the cruel words or actions of another.
My partner and I were subjected to 4 years of hostility from a neighbour which involved name-calling, theft, criminal damage and constant intimidation.
To make matters worse, we were completely unsupported by our Housing Association, and subtle hints of homophobia were evident in how we were spoken to and in the lack of seriousness with which our complaint was treated.
It wasn’t until the local police and our MP became involved that any action was taken but perhaps, on reflection, the situation may have been the same regardless of our sexuality; sadly there exist service providers who disregard the needs of those for whom they provide a service.
Of course these negative experiences have an impact and it is often easier to hold on to the limiting judgements of others rather than reinforce the positive experiences in life, but time has taught me to be thankful for the criticism and to see it for what it truly was; not a judgement upon myself or my value as a human being but as a symptom of the oppressor’s (or aggressor’s) limited wisdom or understanding or of their own terror of facing themselves – as John Amaechi told me a few years ago, self-acceptance is about, “recognising your soul in the dark”.
We all have our stories of bullying and, in sharing these, I hope that one message resounds – YOU have as much right to live and love as anyone else, YOU have unending potential and this must not be stifled by the narrow expectations of another.
Living authentically is your greatest gift to both yourself and those with whom you interact.
You or I may not be Buddha, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, but we can all have a positive and significant impact upon this world. You and I can only achieve anything of value for ourselves and others by letting go of limiting labels, by refusing to absorb the judgements of others as true definitions of ourselves and by knowing that someone is only a victor if we choose to be their victim.
Support, encouragement and positive validation is out there; it does get better and there is hope.
Above all this, remember that when you realise that positive validation begins with yourself then not only does it get better, it IS better.
Joy and self-acceptance must never be influenced by external circumstances and a poisonous or toxic attitude towards you is never right.
Learn more about David’s work:
We can all have an impact – Active Citizenship in action. http://youtu.be/fzC0QgOLXnk
Here’s where to leave your endorsement for DAVID’S NDA nomination:
If, like David, you support IDAHOT2015, share your “Coming Out” story with the Give ’em Hope Campaign.
Your written story or your video can have such an impact and would be a welcomed addition to this campaign. Here is a link to the fb group for more info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GiveEmHope/
The annual landmark in global mobilisation for LGBTI Human Rights now stretches over a full week of worldwide action – Over 1000 events in 120 countries – Many allies join in, from the UN to FC Barcelona.
In many countries around the world, IDAHOT has now evolved into a full week of action, often interweaving festive, cultural and political actions.
Some events are truly huge, such as Pride marches in Brussels, Berlin, Santiago (Chile), Caracas, la Havana, and many more. Many iconic building light up in Rainbow colors, from Bridges in Brisbane or Newcastle, to Bangkok city hall or UK intelligence service headquarters.
Over 300 rainbow flags fly over city halls throughout Belgium. At least as many in the UK too, with over 100 in Nottinghamshire alone and more than 36 municipalities and 10 embassies will do so in Chile. Australia also boasts a massive participation, with Brisbane lighting up its iconic bridge in rainbow colors again while Sydney City Hall will raise the flag amidst a range of countless community events, school interventions or cultural initiatives around the country. Hundreds of events will mark the Day in Canada and Brazil, two of the historically most active countries for May 17.
Many important reports and studies are released highlighting the legal worldwide situation, the legal and social situations in Europe or the level of hate crimes directed to Trans people worldwide.
But many event will also be of smaller size, from community cultural events and parties, film screenings, church services, lectures and conferences, and much more. Europe will once again be bustling with colorful Rainbow Flashmobs organised in at least 12 bigger cities across Germany, 10 in Russia in spite of the legal bans, in Ukraine, Greece, Bulgaria, and more.
In Asia, at least 40 events will be held in Indonesia. Cambodia and the Philippines will be particularly eventful too.
In Latin America, all countries but one have reported a programme of action for the IDAHOT week, almost always culminating with a Pride March.
In Africa too, activists will go online and have social events in Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia, Botswana, Kenya and most of Southern Africa to share stories of LGBT people to break the wall of silence.
Early estimates are that over 1000 events reaching over 120 countries will take place again this year.
The Day once more provides an important space for the LGBTI community to be visible. And to provide evidence of the effects of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia on the day-to-day lives of LGBTI youth
With the name of the day now formally mentioning biphobia, many stakeholders now also include this specific issue in their IDAHOT discussions. And with leadership from the Council of Europe, intersex issues also increasingly make it to the light. Both these evolutions build on the most important contribution made in recent years by the Transgender movement to deconstruct the gender and sexual binary, on which the opposition to sexual and gender diversities mainly rests, and which the gay and lesbian communities sometimes perpetuate themselves.
Throughout the world, thousands of members of the LGBTI community share their stories, their writings, their pictures, or simply raise their voices as a visible part of their society. In many countries selfie campaigns, video contributions or publications of personal testimonies mark the IDAHOT campaigns. The Day also successfully manages to be an important window of opportunity for groups living in violently homophobic contexts. Actions are taking place in at least 36 countries of the 76 where homosexuality is illegal, offering a rare moment for visibility, occupying virtual spaces when this is the only option.
But it is equally a Day to rally the support of allies!
Indeed official support keeps increasing.
Countless public authorities take action; UN agencies almost all participate in activities at some level, often with declarations from the highest levels; On Times Square, the UN Free and Equal campaign had their special IDAHOT video screened for a full day on giant screens. Heads of UN agencies and Special procedures also issue statements. Over 200 delegates from institutions, members countries and civil society met in Montenegro for the annual intergovernmental IDAHO Forum.
Embassies support local actions in difficult contexts; The US Congress passed a resolution recognising the Day. In the UK specifically, Police stations, County authorities, medical facilities, schools and universities and many other public and private bodies now routinely (but always passionately!) mark the day.
Corporations issue statements and policies for their LGBT staff and Transport For London even had its first Rainbow Cab hit the city streets to celebrate IDAHOT.
Support from influential opinion leaders is also growing. In Lebanon, local TV celebrities participated in a video calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In Latin America cartoonists took to their pencils while Youtube celebrities shared their message through video.
The world of sports also increasingly steps in, with Rugby legends or FC Barcelona taking specific actions for the Day.
This year, the support from allies is particularly visible around the global focus issue on LGBTI Youth, with major international groups joining over a ‘Thunderclap’ campaign and many Youth organisations taking special initiatives.
But beyond the high level mobilisation and its wave of visibility, individuals too take ownership of the Day.
A couple from Trinidad and Tobago organised their honeymoon to coincide with the day. A rainbow cake ordered for IDAHOT in Ireland, and turned down by the bakery, resulted in a thunderstorm and legal action. These are the best signs that the Day has become a landmark for all and now truly belongs to everyone!
Like every year, some IDAHOT actions will surely face opposition, all too often with shameful violence. But activists increasingly find creative ways to avoid clashes and still be heard by occupying all possible virtual spaces.
Sometimes too activists successfully take it to court, as is the case in Georgia: when let down by police protection when the peaceful IDAHOT 2012 march was brutally attacked, activists took it to the European Court for Human Rights, which just ahead of the IDAHOT 3 years later condemned Georgia for “degrading and inhuman treatment in a discriminatory manner”.