End ‘gay’ as slur, says Will Young

We know him as the man who beat Gareth Gates to win Pop Idol all those years ago. He later came out the closet and went on to a long music career so far.

Well now, Will Young has spoken out about the need for a clamp down on homophobic language and the use of the word ‘gay’ as an insult in schools. The singer told the Murnaghan programme he had taken up the issue with Education Secretary Michael Gove because he believes it to be a “crisis”.

Young highlighted statistics that show 23% of young gay people attempt suicide and 56% will self harm.

He has been working with the charity Stonewall to address the issue of perjorative language used in relation to homosexuality. He said 81% of gay people who hear the word used as a derogatory term feel distressed about it. “Gay was claimed as a negative term in the 80s so I grew up with people saying ‘That’s so gay, this is so gay’ and it’s never really been addressed.”

Ofsted does not currently have a set agenda for tackling homophobic language but Young said there is a “huge opportunity” to change that. The star said only one in 10 teachers is trained in how to communicate to children that it is the wrong language to use. Young is now working with Stonewall to set up a programme to train more teachers.

This isn’t a new problem, in fact it hasn’t been too long that homosexuality was even legal in the UK, and there are still countries in the world where homosexuality is still a criminal offence. The language that has arisen from this is surprising. In Old English, ‘gay’ describes someone who is happy and joyful. These days it’s become a derogatory term for homophobic behaviour.

I find it disappointing that this happens in schools, especially as I’ve seen children as young as 6 use this kind of language in that way. I went to an all boy school, so you can imagine all the homophobic bullying that comes from that. It is utterly disgraceful, and it surprises me that Ofsted don’t have an agenda to tackle that like they do with ethnicity and gender. I would like to see an agenda in as a matter of importance.


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