‘MORE needs to be done to kick homophobia out of Kirklees.’
That’s the message from people at the Out and About conference held at the Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield.
The conference aimed to raise issues encountered by young gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) people and promote good practice in the workplace.
Representatives from Kirklees Council, NHS Kirklees and private organisations met to discuss LGBT needs in work, education, housing and other fields.
The meeting included workshops and a play by Yorkshire Mixtures LGBT youth group highlighting homophobic abuse that LGBT people experience regularly.
The meeting was held as three young people – two of them girls – went on trial accused of killing a gay man in London.
Ian Baynham died 18 days after the alleged attack in central London in September last year.
Joel Alexander, 19, of Thornton Heath, south London, Rachel Burke, 18, of Three Oaks, East Sussex, and Ruby Thomas, 18, of Lichfield, Staffs, deny manslaughter.
Kirklees has between 20,000 and 28,000 LGBT people.
The conference, the first of its kind in the borough, was regarded as a step in the right direction.
But there is a long way to go according to Jean Hatton, a senior lecturer in youth and community work at Huddersfield University.
Homophobia, like any other hate crime, should be treated the same as racism, Ms Hatton said.
Ms Hatton said: “Within Kirklees they’ve a long way to go, and in the play it’s highlighted that LGBT people aren’t properly supported.
“People think because there’s legislation making it OK to be gay that’s it done and dusted.
“But every day LGBT people are facing bullying and don’t feel safe to be out in public, in school and within housing.
“There needs to be more networking between agencies; housing, the police and schools to put it on the agenda.”
Helen and Joe, 15 and 18, both from Dewsbury, have encountered homophobic abuse at school and feel schools lack the framework for eradicating it.
Helen said: “There’s a general lack of understanding. If you say you’re gay people stereotype you.
“It got out (that I was gay) and in PE someone said: ‘I’m not getting changed in front of her’, and the school hasn’t been much help.”
Joe added: “School was not good. It was really homophobic. I got lots of names and abuse, but now I’ve started college I feel people are more accepting and more mature.
“There needs to be more publicity and more advice. There needs to be more LGBT community groups because there’s only one in Kirklees.”
In January, LGBT charity Stonewall named Kirklees Council in its top 100 equal opportunity employers.
For help tackling homophobic abuse and discrimination visit Stonewall’s website: www.stonewall.org.uk or call: 08000 502020.