Decision makers sat on their hands while children died
Liam Stevenson of Time For Inclusive Education on their fight for justice for LGBT+ young people.
Almost a year ago, with no previous experience, I co-founded co-founded Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) - a campaign that is calling for LGBT+ inclusive education in all Scottish schools, in an attempt to tackle LGBT-phobia and it’s alarming consequences - such as one in four LGBT+ young people having attempted suicide as a result of bullying.
Recently, the SNP backed our proposals at their Spring Conference, and a manifesto commitment to ensure that schools are inclusive of LGBT+ is expected over the coming weeks, ultimately meaning that the next government should be the one to step up to the mark and get serious about tackling LGBT-phobia within schools.
This didn’t come easy though - TIE is completely unfunded: we have no corporate backers and no government grants; our campaign, thus far, has been self funded - with any donations being used to cover the cost of LGBT+ training courses for teachers. We began with nothing but some friendly media connections, a pasting table to set up stall, some flyers and a drive for change.
It is clear to me that the reason we have taken this issue so far and shaped the narrative in this field in such a short time is because of our campaigning style.
Get straight to the point; don’t be cute - tell the truth, shame those responsible, grab the issue and shape the debate
We have, from the beginning, been very direct - our language blunt and to the point. We had no qualms in accusing decision makers of sitting on their hands whilst young children committed suicide; we shamed the government by publicly crowd funding to cover the cost of teacher training ourselves and we have always put the personal stories of those who have been directly impacted by the climate of heterosexism in Scottish schools at the forefront of our campaign.
Whilst we publicly pushed the issue in the media and generated debate around LGBT+ inclusive education; behind the scenes, we were tabling motions with various national trade unions and securing the support of as many people as we could. Building connections with different organisers and movements is pivotal for any unfunded grassroots campaign - launching TIE would have been much more difficult without the help of Common Weal, for example.
The fact that we have no corporate stakeholders or government funding is one of our biggest assets - it has allowed us to steer the narrative and go further than any organisation or campaign in this field has before: we can say what the others can’t, because we have no strings and no income to protect. Sometimes, you need radicalism, as comfort zones are often difficult to vacate.
My advice to any fresh campaign tackling a hard issue would be to get straight to the point; don’t be cute - tell the truth, shame those responsible, grab the issue and shape the debate. Eventually, pressure will mount and support will grow to a point whereby you can no longer be ignored.
At the SNP conference, I said that “the children of tomorrow must be allowed to grow up without the prejudices of today” - that is why, until our education system is fully inclusive of LGBT+ identities, we will continue with our campaign.