Young people have shared their heartbreaking stories of the verbal and physical abuse they have experienced because of their sexuality.
To mark the start of Anti-Bullying Week, from November 14 to 18, three Wigan teenagers have spoken of how they have been hit, kicked and called names because of their sexuality.
The trio are all ambassadors for Wigan Council’s #BelieveImOnlyHuman campaign which aims to challenge prejudice in the borough and unite its residents.
The campaign was launched in the summer in response to an increase in the number of hate crimes and concerns voiced in the community about a rise in intolerance and prejudice.
It aims to challenges all prejudice based on race, religion, sexuality, mental health and physical disability, age and gender.
Coun Jo Platt, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for young people, said: “Lives can be completely destroyed by bullying. Judging and abusing someone because of their sexuality, race, religion or any other reason is completely unacceptable.
“It is vital that victims of bullying, especially young victims, know that people are on their side and that they can get the support from their families, school, college or work to prevent it from happening again.
“It is heartbreaking to hear some of our young people’s stories about the difficulties they have had to endure in their young lives because of bullies.
“Everyone has the right to live a safe and happy life free from bullying and we are determined to help everyone feel accepted and welcome.”
Sam Miller, 13 and from Ashton, said: “I knew I was gay in primary school. I went to two different primary schools but was severely bullied at both. I got called all the usual names; ‘fag’, ‘queer’. I was hit, kicked and pushed around a lot. I experienced hate for about two years.
“One day someone grabbed me and I ended up bursting his nose. I defended myself but I was put in detention. In the end I left and was home educated.
“High school has been better although sometimes that’s also an experience in itself.
“There are more people there who understand things now and some of the teachers are more understanding so it’s getting better.”
Alex Butler, 17 from Hindley, said: “I wanted to get involved in this campaign because I really want more equality in our community. As an LGBTQ+ member I feel it’s important not just for me but for other people around me.
“I think there are some tolerant people in Wigan but there are also groups that are the complete opposite. I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice as I’ve got older and come out. Like any other guy I bottled it up, I’m not good at talking.
“I’d say to anyone who is experiencing prejudice that those doing it don’t know anything about you and they’re not educated. They mustn’t know you well because if you’re in my position and you’re still here, then you’re very strong.
“Everyone’s told to be individual but then society says that you have to be a certain type of individual. So if you’re not a certain kind of unique, they don’t want you to be unique. They just want you to conform to be like everyone else.
“Everyone should just love everyone, that’s what matters. If people are being themselves, that’s what’s important.”
Kamila Gondko, 15 from Ince, said: “I came to the UK from Poland but I’ve been here for several years now and I’ve had a good experience, everyone has always treated me well.
“I have witnessed other people being bullied and it is absolutely disgraceful that people still think it’s ok to do that. If you’re being bullied I think you should definitely tell someone. Tell a teacher, your parents, or even your friends.
“I’d say to anyone to just be nice to people who are new in your community, be friendly, make them welcome.”