Fear of Difference


Watching 'Is it safe to be gay in the UK?' tonight has really brought the reality home to me of the prejudice that still exists in our society.

I am not naive, I have lots of LGBT friends who have told me tales of the verbal and physical abuse they have experienced, I have witnessed a few incidents on nights out, ironically in LGBT-friendly hot spots like Brighton, but the reconstructions on this documentary were harrowing.  

How as a country can we pride ourselves on our democracy but tolerate such ignorant behaviour?

There has been a lot of twitter chat this week about #diversity and the language of 'tolerance' from the British Values definition - which many of us would prefer to be changed to 'acceptance' as there is a significant different between these 2 values. Furthermore, there have been discussions about #inclusion  and 'belonging' as more powerful values for ensuring that we celebrate individual differences. 

We have come a long way when it comes to the discrimination of racism - in 15 years of teaching the number of incidents I have had deal with have significantly reduced. More tended to be out of school with our students as victims than in school with our students as the aggressors. In my experience, our schools are safe spaces for #bameed students.

By contrast the number of LGBT hate crimes I have had to investigate and sanction have not been notable in number, perhaps due to the small number of openly gay students I have taught. This leads me to question: how safe are our schools for #lgbted students? If our students do not feel like they can come out, be themselves at school, how are we preparing them for the real world? How many of our students are living with the constant fear of being unsafe/ under attack?

The documentary explored the different factors contributing to the rise of HBT hate crimes and a common factor about affecting change for the future was to educate and change our young people by challenging the messages that they receive from parents, friends and families.

The common theme was that the majority of the aggressors were straight men - there has also been a lot of chat recently about how we can teach 'modern masculinity' in our schools. I am not confident that we look at social power enough in our classrooms? 

We know that hate hurts all of those involved. With diversity and equality we need to collectively and systematically challenge the discrimination, prejudice and barriers that hold individuals back.  


Why are some people threatened by difference?

How can we promote 'Hope not Hate' in our schools? 

How can we teach our young men that others being gay does not threaten their masculinity?

How we can support our LGBT students to have the confidence to report HBT hate crimes?

What impact could restorative justice have on giving the victims and families of victims closure whilst also helping the offenders grow as humans?

Author Profile

Hannah Wilson

Hannah Wilson

Executive Headteacher | DfE Coach | #WomenEd Co-Founder | SLE | NPQML/SL facilitator | NPQH | Governor | Leadership Matters Ambassador

238 stories


Lisa Hannay Lisa Hannay @lisahan 4 months ago
This complexity is what keeps people in the closet, the fear of being alienated yes, but the uncertainty of " is this person safe to tell?" Will they still want me in their life, will they still accept me? Truthfully, it is why I don't bother coming out to people I won't see again... i.e people I meet on holidays. I let them have their own safe beliefs about women marrying men etc. This might be cowardice-i am not sure but it can be hard enough living my life with "friendlies", never mind spending a week with people I will never see again giving me the stink eye ( or not) . Someone on my trip even suggested ( intimated) that there are lots of men in the world who would PAY to holiday with a woman like me. Yes better to be an escort than gay!
Victoria  Cane Victoria Cane @victoriaannecane 4 months ago
It's on my list but I need some ideas to implement. I was thinking of starting with a sneaky sticker project to give some support and awareness. I think we're a long way from teachers and students feeling confident to be openly LGBT. I wish I could do more.
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