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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Son bullied because dad is gay

Posted in: Family Matters
By - 13th July 2006

Jacquie Grant affectionately known as the "tranny granny", Jacquie's had a colourful life which has seen her go from being harassed by police and arrested on the streets of King's Cross in Sydney in the late 1950s, to a happier life in New Zealand, where she has fostered more than 60 children, and now has numerous grandchildren. Jacquie lives in Hokitika.

Bill Logan is a counsellor, celebrant, gay activist and revolutionist in his fifties, Bill's been on the Gay Helpline in Wellington since 1982, was a co-founder of the NZ AIDS Foundation, and played a significant role in the struggle for homosexual law reform.

A J Marsh was voted Mr. Gay Wellington 2007. AJ’s a down-to-earth, community conscious, country-dweller whose experience in the community with UniQ and standing up against the Destiny Church shows he takes his role as the capital’s ‘Out and Proud’ ambassador seriously.

Previous advisors include secondary school teacher Carol Bartlett, gay activist Jim Peron and editor Jay Bennie.

If you have a question you'd like to put to our panel, please complete our

Sloanne writes:
My 16-year old son is straight and because I am gay he is getting bullied at a school which is being lazy about it, and the homophobic headmaster can't be arsed to do much about it!!!
I am so angry and feeling frustrated at the moment. Do you have any good strategies to help my son???

Jacquie comments:

You are angry and justifiably so, the school environment can be one of the loneliest and cruelest of places... kids have never needed much of a reason to bully their peers.

To many, freckles, hair color, obesity, glasses, and just about anything else that suits the moment, can provoke a devastating time - and one that can take years if ever to heal the scars. Unfortunately, this appears to be the nature of adolescence especially when in a group and stumbling to find their individual place in the scheme of things.

Your son is 16 and I am assuming he is in fifth or sixth form, and has obviously survived school reasonably well up until now, or possibly has not told you of the problems he has had before this.

The fact the headmaster is not reacting to your concern does not surprise me at all, in fact from experience I would be more surprised if he had.

I have looked after many kids who have been in the high school system and have observed how some kids at the same school from my home got a hard time and some did not. This seemed to me to be a completely random happening and possibly had more to do with the individual personality of the kids involved.

I use several strategies to help my kids cope when being bullied because they were foster kids or because I was a Trannie. I pushed myself to become heavily involved in the school community, running school camps and other activities. I was always open with the kids and their questions, and I soon just turned into part of the establishment.

I remember one particular incident when one of my sons, Josh, was getting a hard time over me and I had said to him tell the little bastard if he doesn't leave you alone "I'll get it out of the pickle jar and come to school and wrap it around his ears. " His sister immediately went to school and told a friend who told a friend, etc., etc.
Not long after that my kids were the most popular in school and had more friends than they could handle, I always seemed to have a house full of their mates for years. Josh is 22 now and I remember boasting to him how I had stopped the kids bullying him at school by being involved, he burst my bubble by telling me that's not what did it, they all wanted to stay to find the pickle bottle, and they all searched for it for years, he also told me that in the end at school it went like this “Who's that” “Oh that's Jacquie she's Josh's mum she's a Trannie but she's cool! But the pickle bottle legend still remains.

What I am trying to say is you need to develop strategies and positive actions I strongly suggest getting as involved as you can, and keep close to the situation.

Bill comments:

Yes—very angering and very frustrating!

Anything done needs to be agreeable to your son, of course, and possibly the other parent(s). And one of the difficulties is that complaining about being bullied, especially being bullied about a gay father, is often not seen as cool.

Try to find some individual who is able to be your key support person in this—to give a second opinion on draft letters, to talk over strategies and go to meetings with you. Perhaps you can find a support person via your local gayline or Safer Schools for Queers (SS4Q). The key person there is Nathan Brown (04 381 6640), and he might be able to refer you to useful local contacts.

It is worth talking the matter over with the offices of Human Rights Commission (0800 496 877) and of the Children's Commissioner (0800 224 453).

And make sure that there is a written record on the problem. One possible first move is to write to the principal along the following lines:

Dear [Name of the principal]

As you know I am concerned about by son, [Name], being bullied at school on account of my sexual orientation. [Then very briefly outline the incidents, and your previous discussions on the matter with the school.]

I hope that I am wrong but I have the impression that you do not intend to take action on this matter. I have discussed the problem with the offices of the Human Rights Commission and the Children's Commissioner, and they would both be prepared to look into the matter if I were to make a complaint. However, I hope the school is capable of effective action without that kind of intervention.

I expect the school to develop a plan of action on this problem in consultation with me and my son, and I would like an early meeting to discuss the matter with you. I would like to bring [Name] as a support person.

Yours sincerely

cc: Education Review Office, P O Box 2799, Wellington
cc: [Name], Chair, [Name of school] Board.

A letter like that would warn the school—and the school would be wise to start cooperating. - 13th July 2006