Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tom Daley, kids and school...

So Tom Daley has announced that he was in a relationship with another man yesterday. Good on him.

I have to be honest in saying that I was a little cynical - my belief was that Tom's confession was probably precipitated by a newspaper threat to out him - the youtube clip just seemed too well planned for me, mentioning  his book and tv documentary and his previous denials of being gay, plus throwing in a couple of mentions about his late father and bullying to ensure we were all completely sympathetic to his cause - it smacked of a publicity writer's hand (I know a few - no offence guys!). I also doubted whether or not this should have been 'Headline' news as shouted by the BBC lunchtime newsteam.

But.. I had a long conversation with some old friends via the social media site that is Facebook and soon came round to seeing that, despite all my own personal misgivings, Tom's 'outing' may actually be a good thing for young people everywhere and that regardless of the whys and hows of this story anything that brings these issues up in front of young people has to be a good thing.

A friend, who teaches at a post 16 college, pointed out that the performing arts centre is next to the sports hall and the level of abuse hurled by the sporting types to the performing arts students is horrendous. Another friend of mine has a teenage son who has also recently come out and her and her families acceptance of him and his partner has been humbling. My own mother flipped when as a teenager I even broached the subject of being gay and my own coming out story is long and protracted and ended up becoming incredibly public - albeit on a much smaller scale and in a foreign country, so I do sympathise with Tom about having your private life interfered with by the press - but this is not about me its about the boys.

In a blogpost I wrote last year, regarding IDAHO and school (incidentally the blog post that went a bit bonkers worldwide) I commented on how homophobia needs to be addressed at primary school level in order to avoid the very attitudes my friend is facing in his post 16 college. I hoped that had finally been addressed in the boy's school.

It hasn't.

Newsround, the BBC's news programme aimed specifically at children, ran a very sympathetic piece on Tom Daley - I was quite surprised that they did, but it was well done and it meant that the boys were able to understand and talk about what Tom had been through.

The Sprog is so much more open than his younger brother - he now attends a small independant school and everyone knows everyone else - they are very open and the Sprog is able to talk freely about his home life, being adopted, having two dads - all of that is run of the mill there.

TJ is still at the local primary and his friends are all members of the 'football' crowd - who are in real danger of turning into the post 16 crowd mentioned above.

As soon as TJ saw the story on TV he said; "Tom Daley is gay - that's gross." Those of you that read the article last year will remember that he said something similar then and we ended up in a long conversation about how Daddy and Papa are gay, two of his Godfathers are gay, we have gay friends - are they all 'gross'? But TJ still doesn't put the language of the school playground into context with his own life - and this is where school is at fault.

I have stood in school and heard children banding about the term 'gay' as if it means nothing more than 'rubbish'. I even heard a teacher telling a child, 'Please don't use that word - you know its not politically correct." She then looked over at me and nodded as if to say, 'See I told him off didn't I". Well, no actually you have given him permission to use it whenever he likes. I made the point that schools wouldn't allow racist langauge in school so why do they allow homophobic 'banter' - a point that the headteacher told me she 'took very seriously'. A point that the local council's anti bullying co-ordinator told me she 'took very seriously'... if everyone is taking my point very seriously then why don't they do anything about it.

So to Tom Daley, I say well done for 'coming out' - I'll keep that in inverted commas - but equally well done for raising this issue among young people - I could never have imagined even a few years ago that I would be sitting and listening to a 7 and 8 year old have a full on argument about whether being gay is gross or not.

I won't repeat what I said before but I will say here is still a lot of work to be done - especially in primary schools and if Tom Daley's story can kick start that then I take my hat off to him!!!!

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