Speaking at an event hosted by Just Like Us to launch School Diversity Week 2017 last night (19 April), the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, said coming out was ‘the best thing I've done in many, many, many a year. And actually it gets better every day.’ School Diversity Week is the annual celebration of LGBT+ equality in education.
Describing her own coming out journey, the Secretary of State added ‘I think it was a choice that I needed to make. I needed to be true to myself about who I am and I also felt I did and I do have a responsibility to the broader LGBT community.
‘To me in the end, I’m somebody who wants to stand up for the things I believe in and this is one of them. I wasn’t really being true to myself unless I was clear cut about it after that. Yes it is a big step, andactually...it’s tough whenever you do this.
‘But I realised I had a choice to make and in a way it’s been a long path - we’re all a paving stone on it, but every time somebody goes and makes a statement saying this is fine it makes it a bit easier for the next person.’
With 9 in 10 secondary school teachers witnessing homophobic bullying, the charity Just Like Us provides a free toolkit for pupils and teachers to hold an event during School Diversity Week (3-7 July) that celebrates the value of LGBT+ equality in education and challenges prejudice.
Last year, over 45,000 pupils and teachers organised events across the UK
to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and empower students to become active allies for LGBT+ peers. Just Like Us is looking forward to School Diversity Week 2017 involving even more young people. Interested schools can find out more at justlikeus.org.
Speaking alongside the Secretary of State for Education, Ellie Dibben, Just Like Us Student Ambassador, explained the importance of having LGBT role models like Justine Greening “It’s inspirational...we need more people like the Secretary of State for Education to speak out and act as role models for LGBT+ people everywhere.”
Speaking for the first time about the support she received from her partner to come out, Justine Greening discussed her own LGBT+ role models: ‘David Mundell was amazing in terms of being a Cabinet minister and saying: I'm gay and that's that. It made me think I should do that.
'Then of course John Browne who wrote his book. My other half Tess bought me a copy and gave it to me. It was her way of saying: think about this. She was right and I realised that actually if I was not going to be part of the solution, then I was implicitly part of the problem.
'I needed to have the confidence and the courage to say this is fine, in fact it's better than fine.'
Praising the work of Just Like Us to improve the quality of life of LGBT+ pupils in schools, she added “'I think it would have been really helpful for people like me growing up.”