My name is Stuart Russell and in light of anti-bullying week, I thought I would share my own homophobic bullying story that earlier this year led me to appear on BBC Radio Scotland. My story was part of the Scottish LGBT Equality Report with the Equality Network, an article in the Times Educational Supplement and the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign.
I was bullied throughout my time at high school for being gay. I was “outed” before I even had time to figure myself out. The bullying was all day, every day. At lunch times I would have younger kids throw food at me and shout abusive comments at me. People would occasionally follow me home, shouting abuse and try to beat me up. The police were involved a few times. I had very few friends so high school was very lonely. I was made to be an outsider and felt so insecure about myself.
When I went to teachers about the abuse I was suffering, nothing was done. I was sent to a therapist and nothing happened to these bullies. By sending me to therapy, my school made me feel even more insecure, as if I was in the wrong. They pawned me off on someone else and swept it under the rug, something that happens a lot in Scottish schools.
I made numerous attempts on my life as a teenager, my mother was the only other person who knew about it. Art Club was my saviour, as it gave me a place to hide and be invisible for a lunchtime. When I left school I began to gain confidence and wonder, why should I be invisible? I’m great the way I am! It was tough but I managed to fully embrace myself and ultimately became a widely successful person recognised by the Queen, the Commonwealth and more recently the House of Lords. I used my personal skills to make my life better and threw myself into the arts. My passion for the arts saved my sanity and made me forget that I was classed as a minority.
I still occasionally experience bullying in my adult life. I am still made out to be this outsider and I still spend the vast majority of my time alone. I think gay equality has a long way to go here, especially in small towns, where closed mindedness remains such a signficant issue. Many people believe that now same-sex marriage is a thing, that’s it, that’s equality achieved. That is not the case! There is a lot more to equality!
I am not sure if people in remote parts of Scotland are as supported as those in cities. I certainly had no support network growing up in Fife. Children and young people need role models and they need to know its okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer etc. People need to know there are no set paths in life, you are absolutely entitled to carve your own path, away from bullies.
Being LGBTI+ is not the thing that makes you a minority, you are not the minority and should never feel that way! All it determines is your own sexual attraction and/or gender identity. You never need to answer for your being. I hope young people read this and gain courage to say I am me and I am not accepting this behaviour – all bullying, homophobic or otherwise, is wrong! Stay true to yourself and live however you wish to!
I created a radio programme for Xpress Radio Scotland about LGBTI+ bullying in education because it is still such a major issue. I spoke to experts who agree more needs to be done to protect and inform young LGBTI+ people. Teachers also need training, as too often they are not trained to support LGBTI+ issues.