New LGBTQ+ charity aims to tackle homophobia in Welsh schools

7 March 2017

A charity who works with LGBTQ+ young people to tackle homophobia in schools is launching in Wales.

Just Like Us say more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying in schools.

They train students to become ambassadors, and then send them into schools to talk about their experiences and challenge discrimination.

At the launch event at the National Assembly today, Just Like Us CEO Tim Ramsey says he wants “the next generation [of LGBTQ+ people] to have a much more positive time”.

He said: “I knew I was gay by the age of 11 but I had no support in school. I spent the first few years trying to teach myself to be straight. I didn’t know anyone else was going through what I was going through and I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was anything other than to be ashamed of.”

“I hope that therefore by giving those voices to kids they’ll know there is hope for them and it won’t ruin their life.”

Bradley Birkholz, a Just Like Us Ambassador, says that when he was growing up he didn’t have any knowledge of the LGBTQ community.

“When I was growing up in school I didn’t have any picture of LGBT identities and I didn’t have any idea that they existed at all.”

“I know it helps a lot just to know that there are other people out there and they have these identities.”

Another ambassador for the charity, George Chousos, says he always felt different, but was afraid to tell anyone in case his friends turned on him.

“In school the word ‘Gay’ was always being used in a derogatory way and even I used it because I wanted to feel part of the group, so I didn’t feel alone and get bullied.”

“We never had anyone talking to us about same-sex couples or about the LGBTQ community at all.”

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams AM, who’s attending the launch event today, says she’s delighted to see the charity doing work in schools across Wales.

She said: “Their work taking LGBT+ role models into schools is inspirational and sends the message that bullying in any form is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in our schools.

“Our pupils must be allowed to be who they are openly in a safe, free, school environment.”

Just Like Us launched a UK School Diversity Week in England last year. In June 2016, around 45000 pupils and 2000 teachers organised events like pride festivals to champion LGBT equality.

CEO Tim Ramsey say they want as many Welsh schools as possible to get involved this year.

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