On World Mental Health Day, Snapchatter and business owner James Kavanagh gives some tips to help put an end to homophobic bullying and gives some advice to young LGBT+ people who are experiencing it.
After James Kavanagh’s appearance on The Late Late Show last weekend where he talked about dealing with homophobic bullying we thought he’d be the perfect person to discuss how Irish society can finally end the disgusting practice.
On Saturday, James’ mother revealed he was a “terror” before he turned twenty, something the Currabinny owner now attributes to the homophobic bullying that he suffered in school.
James had some suggestions to help reduce homophobic bullying in schools and the workplace:
Think Before You Speak
I think people throwing the slurs don’t even think of the impact it has on the person, but it had a huge effect on me.
It shattered my confidence, I had no friends at all because I felt that since I was receiving all of this negative attention that I wasn’t worthy of having friends and I never made the effort. I always felt like such an outsider.
I’d just say to people, really do think twice about what words can do to someone and that saying that ‘sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me’ it’s such a stupid saying. It’s actually quite the opposite.
I’m proof that it can have a devastating effect on you. I went three years without having any friends or wanting to make friends and feeling like such an outsider until someone actually stood up for me.
Be The Person Who Stands Up
One person actually intervened and stopped a note going around about me in class. Literally, after that tiny gesture, my whole view on everything completely switched.
I know that sounds maybe over the top, but literally, that’s the way it was. I thought ‘Actually, someone cares so there are obviously other people who care.’
When I was in school, that was the only world I knew of – it was my entire world.
Then I was like, actually maybe there are other people beyond this that are nice.
So even if you are witnessing someone else in your workplace or in school or in life having a hard time, if you just do a small gesture and show them that there are people in the world [who are nice] it can really change someone’s life around.
How Can Schools Help?
I think it’s just introducing gay films or people in the public eye that are also gay, introducing them into the curriculum, like our Taoiseach is gay.
Sex ed is another thing I’m a bit obsessed about because it’s so bad in schools!
Education needs to go beyond long division and what’s on the periodic table. It needs to be more about life.
I’ve spoken to some teachers and – especially in the more conservative schools -there’s pressure from the board on keeping sex education very much just for having a baby, not for anything else.
I think it’s about teachers standing up and taking a stand against these archaic ways of educating kids.
I think education needs to go beyond long division and what’s on the periodic table. It needs to be more about life.
The onus should be on the government, workplaces, schools and other individuals to put an end to homophobic bullying.
That said, Kavanagh identified one vital point to remember that helped him to deal with bullying and that LGBT+ people can do to improve their mental health…
I think it’s really all about surrounding yourself with positive people and a strong network of people around you. That was the key to me being happy.
I spoke to BeLonG To – well my sister spoke to BeLonG To on my behalf – when I was about fourteen and got me going to the little Sunday meetups. I think connecting with like-minded people is always key.
There are so many support networks out there, so it’s just about finding a connection with other people like you.
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