Mr. Gay Limerick is a teacher who believes the Minister for Education needs to do more to stop homophobic bullying
Gay novelist and teacher Dr. Christian Moretti has chosen to use his title as Mr. Gay Limerick to raise awareness of homophobic bullying in schools. The Italian native has lived in Ireland for five years teaching Italian, Spanish and SPHE (Social Personal and Health Education).
“Since I won Mr. Gay Limerick, you know, I have been very active on the bullying aspect in general, being a teacher,” Dr. Moretti explained.
“I just thought especially when I decided to take part in the competition that a lot of people were saying ‘Oh well you probably shouldn’t be doing it because you’re a teacher.’ I said exactly because of that I should probably do it, put myself out there and give an example to people.”
Silence Isn’t Golden
“It’s very important to keep talking about these things, because sometimes people in general tend to be very silent on any issue, and they think probably, OK, if you don’t talk about it, you don’t discuss it, it will eventually go away.
“So I decided to go out there and start talking about bullying in general, but specifically in schools because it’s a big dark side really.”
“Sometimes people, especially kids, need to be educated on certain topics and certain terms. Sometimes you know, they don’t even think about what they do, especially teenagers, they just use words in a very inappropriate way, especially the lads they say oh you’re so gay and stuff like that.
“And that’s happened a few times in class. I just stopped the class and I made them reflect on the type of term that was used, [explaining] that it’s not OK to use something like that.”
A report from GLEN indicated that LGBT people suffered homophobic bullying, felt threatened and even left school early because of homophobic bullying:
- 58% reported homophobic bullying in their schools
- 53% had been called abusive names related to their LGBT identity by fellow students
- 40% had been verbally threatened and 25% physically threatened by school peers because they were LGBT
- 34% reported homophobic comments by teachers
- 20% missed or skipped school because they felt threatened or were afraid of getting hurt at school because they were LGBT
- 8% were called homophobic names by teachers
- 5% left school early because of homophobic bullying
“Statistics from the GLEN report here, it said here two times the level of harm in young LGBT students, three times the level of attempted suicide, four times the level of severe stress, anxiety and depression,” Dr. Moretti said, referencing another report from GLEN.
“50% of young LGBT students attempted suicide in the last year. Half of all the LGBT kids going to school are attempting suicide. What are we doing about it?”
Teachers Get Bullied Too
Although homophobic bullying towards LGBT students is an issue, students are not the only victims of homophobic bullying at school, Dr. Moretti explained. In fact, he suffered cyber-bullying as a teacher in Limerick because of his sexuality.
Twenty-eight students were involved in this bullying incident in 2013, which saw a photo of the teacher alongside homophobic comments being posted to social media.
“The principal back then in 2013 decided to suspend all the kids that liked that picture. Obviously they couldn’t really disclose much information about it, but actually that picture was about me.”
“It was a picture of me that had basically been taken from the website and they all liked that picture and there was some derogatory language about my sexuality there. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to be honest to address first person all the effects of bullying and cyber-bullying nowadays.”
The children who had been suspended all apologised sincerely to Dr. Moretti for their inappropriate behaviour, he said.
Banter or Bullying?
“There is a huge amount of bullying going on from other members of staff. School managers, principals, deputy principals,” Dr. Moretti indicated.
“There is a lot bullying going on there and sometimes or most of the time, it’s very subtle and sometimes they’re afraid to come forward, or they don’t even realise, you know, they just think ‘Oh, they’re having the banter, they’re having the craic.’
“There’s a culture of having the banter here in the workplace which is great, it’s fantastic, but there are things that we can say and things that we can’t say because they’re just wrong. I feel that it’s important to raise awareness on that.”
Break The Cycle
“But if we don’t do anything about it, it will just go on and on and on and on forever. At some point you have to put the foot down and say this is not OK, I’m sorry that these 28 kids have been suspended, but it’s just not OK.”
When asked about the grip that the church had on Ireland, Dr. Moretti said: “Irish people at some point felt […] this is what the church is telling me but I don’t know, I’m not entirely sure about this and the result of this [questioning] was last year’s referendum.”
“There’s still a lot to do, we still need to keep discussing certain issues, whether its bullying, whether it’s equality, whether it’s homophobia or transphobia. The important thing is to keep on talking about it and keep on educating people about it because only through that [increased awareness] do you eradicate any sort of discrimination.”
Minister For Education
“Fifty per cent of young LGBT students attempted suicide in the last year. Half of all the LGBT kids going to school are attempting suicide. What are we doing about it?”
“We need to keep talking about it, we need to go to the politicians and ask them what are we doing about this. I know there is policies and education for anti-homophobia and stuff like that, but they’re not pushed properly.
It shouldn’t be up to the LGBT teacher in a school to shoulder the burden of enforcing anti-homophobia policies in the school, Dr. Moretti asserted.
“I’t’s not up to the LGBT teacher there to go to the principal and say ‘Listen, how are we going to push that policy into our school, how’re we going to apply it?’
“There has to be something coming from the Minister for Education saying ‘This is the rule now, and we have to stick to it whether we like it or not.'”
“I would like to see politicians and the Minister for Education going around the schools and talking about these issues, organising workshops and saying we just can’t be isolated voices there trying to do something.
“We have to have all the people in power they have to come down and say ‘We actually support you, but we support you effectively, not just coming down for pride and showing the banner there.”
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