LGBT School in Manchester – The Real Story

Isn’t it amazing how the media can create a drama out of a simple comment. Yesterday I saw a number of press and blog articles announcing “UK’s first LGBT school planned for Manchester”. The story seems to have gone viral and has attracted a huge amount of negative comment from everywhere.  Even the comments from members of the LGBT community expressed concerns about the idea and of course the usual homophobes including the Daily Mail have had a field day.

Reading the articles and comments I decided that this was a bad idea and clearly someone had been pretty stupid. The press articles included lots of quotes from a representative of LGBT Youth North West which made it look as if they really had announced this and not considered the consequences. I was struggling to understand how they were even going to do it and not fall foul of the Equalities Act and that was confirmed by quotes from funders and government sources denying that they had either funded such a school or approved the idea.

So I visited the LGBT Youth North West web site and the truth was immediately revealed.  The actual story is a long way from the twisted stories the media have presented. LGBT Youth North West are planning to develop their building, the Joyce Layland LGBT Centre which opened in 1988, and expand the support they provide o the LGBT community. They have received £63,000 from the Social Investment Fund to conduct a full feasibility study, including researching the LGBT community to find out what people want.

In their press release they explain this and happened to drop in this comment:

One of the plans from LGBT Youth North West, which manages the building, is to use the centre to create an LGBT-inclusive school, similar to the famous Harvey Milk school in New York City
Harvey Milk School in New York City

Harvey Milk School in New York City

That was the only reference to the LGBT school and that seems to have come about because Amelia Lee, Strategic Director at LGBT Youth North West visited the Harvey Milk School in New York City last year at her own expense, which happened to coincide with a visit by Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

So the real truth about this LGBT School is that its an idea born out of a visit to a project in the US founded in 1985 when LGBT people received little or no support anywhere. We have come a long way since then, but sadly many, if not most, schools are still not tackling gender based bullying effectively. From my experience in running a support service I know that huge numbers of LGBT children are bullied out of school and eventually, in constant fear for their safety, drop out of school.

When that happens they are either home schooled or are redirected into special needs schools where they have the resources to help kids catch up and can deal with behavioral problems effectively. One of my own children attended such a school and I can say from experience that they are not the most LGBT friendly schools around.  So I can see why special needs schools that are LGBT friendly would be a good idea – ie that they have a absolute ZERO tolerance of any form of harassment or bullying and are 100% supportive of children who wish to express themselves in a way that is atypical for their sex.  Gender variant children need to be able to dress in a way that reflects their gender identity.

So I can see exactly where LGBT Youth North West is coming from and its a great idea.  But that is all it is at this stage which is very clear from the statement on their web site, which also emphasises their commitment to helping to make all mainstream schools LGBT friendly.

I have been a freelance journalist for a long time and although I have not spoken to anyone regarding this story, I can see from what I have read why this has ended up as a huge negative story. One of the press, probably Pink News, picked up the press release, saw the LGBT School comment and decided that was a great idea so called Amelia to get more information. She is super excited about the school idea and was happy to talk to a gay friendly journalist about why this is needed. Once the Pink News story broke, the homophobic press led by the Daily Mail were on it like vultures and turned it into a massive anti gay story and as usual many of the following stories largely regurgitate the earlier stories with no new research.

It just shows how careful we all have to be.  In the present climate anything that looks as if a minority group is receiving special treatment is likely to be turned into a negative story by the protagonists of the minority group. The sad thing is that this may mean that a great idea has been nipped in the bud and will never see the light of day – because no politician is going to want to be seen to support an idea that has attracted so much negative comment.  Lets hope that LGBT Youth North West has more success with their campaign to make mainstream schools more LGBT friendly so this LGBT school becomes unnecessary.

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2 Comments

  1. I think it’s scandalous that Britain has to have an apartheid for LGBT à la Harvey Milk Foundation School in New York, just because it’s too dangerous to attend the school their parents’ taxes are PAYING FOR. Can you imagine the LGBT school bus, and the taunts being yelled at it from the street?

    No, the onus is on the Department of Education to make ALL schools welcoming places and to have the bullies taken down. It’s always the bullied kid who has to find another school in another town, while the bullies wrecking lives get punished with the wet feather of a jolly good telling off, after which they are allowed to remain smirking in their school, handy to home, waiting to pounce on their next victim.

  2. You are absolutely right derek, although as I pointed out on my post there actually are no plans for an LGBT school. The problem is that while what you suggest should be the way forward, we all know that will take a while to achieve and meanwhile hundreds of kids will continue to be bullied out of school or will take their own lives.

    What do we do now to help them. I don’t think an LGBT school is either practical or legally possible, but perhaps some form of educational resource for the LGBT kids who have dropped out or are at rick might be ab option. What is needed is a clear plan and proposal for how to tackle the problem both short term and long term and I suspect that LGBT Youth North West may be able to demonstrate a possible way forward I’d we all support them rather than rejecting the idea out of hand

    Rikki

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