“Here in Britain we’re currently marking Anti-Bullying Week, a national campaign to get schools to work harder to make playgrounds and classrooms safe and fun places to learn and grow up,” writes Sir Ian McKellan in an editorial appearing on today’s Huffington Post. “Those of us who were bullied at school, for whatever reason, will empathise keenly with young people who dread bullies’ taunts and violence. Bullying isn’t just a ‘rite of passage’ that we should expect as part of growing up. Its effects – low exam scores, depression and anxiety – can affect our whole adult lives. It’s appropriate that this year’s Anti-Bullying Week theme is ‘we’re better without bullying’.
“Those of us who also happen to be lesbian, gay or bisexual might feel yet more empathetic. For many of us bullying doesn’t stop after we exit the school gate for the last time, and we’ve become familiar with taunts and smears from prominent bullies in politics, faith and business. In the last 12 months alone, here in Britain gay people have been told we’re little better than bestialists (by a senior politician); our relationships have been insulted as ‘grotesque’ or belittled as just ‘profound friendships’ (by senior church leaders); and we’ve been told we’re sick or perverse (by voodoo ‘gay cure’ therapists and their supporters). Some adults, it seems, can’t leave damaging and childish dislikes and prejudices behind them.