UK Government

Tower Hamlets, London Borough of (London): X-Men star tackles homophobic bullying

Press Release   •   Oct 22, 2010 13:57 BST

X-Men star Sir Ian McKellen tackles homophobic bullying

Photograph attached: Ian McKellen talks to pupils at Bethnal Green Technology College

Sir Ian McKellen is touring schools nationwide on behalf of leading gay rights charity Stonewall to raise awareness of homophobia.

The X-Men and Lord of the Rings star visited two schools in Tower Hamlets on October 19 as part of the campaign where he spoke about his own experiences of being bullied and what it was like growing up during an age where homosexuality was illegal.

Sir Ian said: "Until I visited secondary schools recently, I hadn’t realised how much anti-gay bullying goes on throughout the education system. By talking frankly about my own life as a gay man and listening to the concerns of staff and students, parents and governors, I hope the visits arranged by Stonewall may make a difference in the classroom and the playground and also give confidence to gay students about their lives in the future."

The actor co-founded Stonewall in response to Section 28 of the Local Government Act that legislated against what it considered promotion of homosexuality within the education system.

Sir Ian met with pupils at Bethnal Green Technology College where he was quizzed about how he coped with being bullied and how it affected him and if he had also met anti-gay bullies in later life.

Sir Ian said: "I remember 10 years ago when I was called a 'batty boy' and then pushed against a wall in broad daylight in London. I was very shocked by the incident."

Sir Ian spoke about how escaping into the world of theatre helped him to deal with accepting his sexuality.

He said: "I did go through a phase of trying to hide my sexuality as a young man and remember losing one film part as a producer thought I couldn’t play a straight part."

Mark Keary, head teacher at Bethnal Green Technology College added: "Homophobia damages, sometimes permanently, those young people who face the challenges of coming to terms with the reality that they are gay or lesbian in a society that can still be lacking in genuine understanding.

"We must challenge the threat openly and develop a shared understanding that passive collusion or acceptance of homophobia is moral cowardice of the worst form."

Research carried out for Stonewall by You.Gov revealed that teachers thought homophobic bullying was more prevalent within schools than racist bullying.

Sir Ian also visited Morpeth School in the borough and will be visiting schools in Wigan, North Yorkshire, Bristol, Cambridge, Newcastle and Leeds over the next couple of week.

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Notes to editors

 

Notes to editors

For more details contact:
Shalina Hussain
Communications
Tower Hamlets Council
Mulberry Place
6th Floor
5 Clove Crescent
London
E14 2BG

Tel: 020 7364 4754
Email: shalina.hussain@towerhamlets.gov.uk

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