Anti-LGBT+ bullying forced my daughter out of school – School Diversity Week could have made all the difference

by Sarah Lodge
June 2023

Sarah Lodge with her daughter

Sarah Lodge, a straight parent of an LGBT+ child, explains how School Diversity Week could have changed her daughter’s life.

During my time in primary school in the 1970s and secondary school in the 1980s, being called gay was the ultimate insult. As a straight person who is happy with the gender I was assigned at birth, I was lucky to have not had to directly experience discrimination at school, but I watched as Section 28 went into effect, and blame was levelled at the gay community left, right and centre. 

But decades later, when my own happy, confident daughter went to school, things didn’t seem to have improved much. In fact, for no other reason than being gay, she was bullied to such an extent that I took her out of school. She didn’t go back into education until she made the choice to go to university. 

School Diversity Week could have helped my daughter enjoy a happy, safe school experience

I wasn’t initially aware of what had prompted the bullying, but eventually she told me she was gay. When she was outed at school, the bullying only increased. Unfortunately the school did not have the resources to deal with this, and there seemed to be a reluctance to deal with the problem. 

I strongly feel that if the school had been involved with Just Like Us, and had their resources, then staff would have been able to deal more effectively with the whole situation. 

I first heard of Just Like Us in 2020. I am part of the Marsh Pride Colleague Resource Group (CRG) and sit on the committee as an ally. When the pandemic hit, Marsh took the step of giving all the CRGs an extra budget to give to a charity aligned with them. We chose Just Like Us, became involved with the ambassador programme, and since then we have continued to support Just Like Us by sponsoring School Diversity Week. 

As I’ve learned about School Diversity Week, as well as talks by Just Like Us ambassadors, I cannot help but think that if my daughter had had access to these programmes, it would have made all the difference. Just Like Us gives schools all the resources they need to encourage allyship among their pupils, and so there would have been an openness and implicit acceptance from the school that being LGBT+ is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Without education, we can’t move forward on LGBT+ inclusion

I am so happy that overall things have moved on from when I was in school, but I still hear school age children using ‘gay’ as a slur, and without education and positive representation in their daily lives, for example using programmes like School Diversity Week, it’s harder to keep moving forward.

Children should not need to wait until their late teens, after leaving school, to express who they truly are. I am happy and proud to be the mother of my daughter and I am very glad to work for Marsh who put their money where their mouth is in continuing to support Just Like Us’ work.