When I turned on Channel 4 last night and tuned into a programme called Underage and Gay, I was expecting an hour of pure emotion. I was right – but not in the way I expected. What I thought would be a highly negative hour of my life, turned out to be the complete opposite. Kudos to Channel 4 for that.
The real heroes here though are of course the starring teenagers. The sheer courage, intellect and resilience shown through the daily struggles in their lives can be described as no less than awe-inspiring.
Positive. Moved. Hopeful. Angry.
Anger is what I felt whilst watching this programme – what was, in my opinion, the most accurate insight we’ve seen in a long while into the lives of LGBTIQ young people growing up in modern Britain. All I could think is how much we’re failing these young people.
Last night introduced us to Alex – a 17-year-old trans male who was left homeless and is now living in social housing. He is unfortunately not alone. Just 2 weeks ago, the Albert Kennedy Trust published their report about LGBT youth homelessness which stated that up to a staggering 24% of the homeless youth population identify as LGBT. It puts this down to a higher exposure to experiences of parental rejection and familial abuse and violence.
The other young people in the show shared their experiences of being bullied, including whilst at school. Now this might not come as a surprise, especially as the all-too-frequent reports of LGBTIQ young people self-harming and tragically committing suicide hits the screens of our phones and tablets in this increasingly social media obsessed world that we now all live in (which of course comes with its own problems!). Not to mention the fantastic work done by charities to highlight the prevalence of homophobia in schools, and run campaigns around the inappropriate use of the word “gay” amongst other things.
This week, however, things became that little bit more bleak. An article published by the Independent quoting figures from the National AIDS Trust broke the news that 1 in 5 or a shocking 20% of gay and bisexual teenagers reported having been bullied or discriminated against by a teacher or another member of staff at school. This is personally incomprehensible, simply unacceptable and something needs to change.
If we ever needed an argument against the disbandment of pride events or for the introduction of compulsory inclusive sex and relationship education and a curriculum that harnesses diversity and prepares young people for life, this is it. We still have a long way to go.