IT'S only a year ago that Scott Gorman, now just 17, came out as gay while still at school in Edinburgh.

He was spat on, had hot soup poured over him and his school books torn up.

His life became unbearable and he eventually left the school – sickened not just by the attitude of his peers but also disgusted by the failure of teachers to stamp out homophobia, and even tacitly encouraging it at times. Gorman has asked the Sunday Herald not to name his school as he has relatives there.

His story puts a human face on a new report released tomorrow by the gay rights group Stonewall Scotland called School Report. It is the first-ever report into the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual schoolchildren in Scotland.

Gorman's sexual journey went from a rather confused and naive 12-year-old who wasn't even aware of homosexuality to him being the subject of homophobic bullying in the space of two years: "It was a real struggle as I didn't know that there was this thing called gay – that two men could go out with each other," he said.

When his sexuality became known, the news spread quickly, with reactions ranging from "shock and disgust" to support from his closest friends.

He was targeted by a regular group of bullies. "I was never actually hit but always seemed to be having liquids getting thrown over me. I got spat on and hot soup and chocolate milk thrown at me."

But where Scott could have expected protection from his school, he encountered discrimination with his PE teacher insisting he change away from the rest of his class.

"In PE I was asked to use the disabled changing rooms as the other boys weren't comfortable with me sharing with them," he adds.

It was this incident which led to him leaving school early. He swore at the PE teacher and was suspended. Later, he was asked to leave the school on the grounds of his "personal choices".

Gorman says: "I was disgusted." He firmly believes he was asked to leave because "I was gay and open about it. I was seen as a bad role model".

Ironically, Gorman once had ambitions to train as a teacher. His time at school, he says, "gave me the sense that being straight was normal so I was not normal".

He is getting over the experience now, he says. "It was annoying what happened to me but it has made me a stronger person. I was the only openly gay person at school but I have two or three friends who have just left school now, who are now coming out as gay.

"They have big ambitions to go on to university and become lawyers and doctors but couldn't risk getting kicked out of school."

Gorman is just one of thousands of young gay and lesbian boys and girls in Scotland today. More and more are coming out about their sexuality while still at school. Stonewall Scotland's School Report will tomorrow reveal the barriers these kids still have to overcome on a daily basis.

More than half of the young people who took part in the study – which follows similar research carried out for Stonewall UK last week – said they had experienced homophobic bullying in school, with one in four reporting that they tried to take their own life at some point, and more than half deliberately harming themselves. Half of those surveyed didn't feel they were working to their full potential at school and seven out of 10 admitted skipping school at some point because of homophobic bullying.

One 16-year-old girl told Stonewall researchers: "It has really demotivated me to strive and reach for my dreams. It's knocked my confidence completely. It's made me angry at my school for not taking it seriously so I stopped trying the work."

Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, told the Sunday Herald: "The report shows the stark reality of the situation in our schools today. It is very worrying that only 11% of our respondents hear their teacher repeatedly challenge homophobic bullying when they encounter it. There is clearly a major issue in Scottish schools about tackling homophobia."

But life is improving for Scotland's gay and lesbian kids. Macfarlane says the situation has improved since the last UK-wide School Report was published five years ago: "The main report shows levels of homophobic bullying have fallen by more than 10% since 2007 and the number of schools saying that homophobic bullying is wrong has more than doubled, to 50%.

"This research also provides clear evidence that in those schools that are taking simple steps to tackle homophobia, pupils are both much less likely to have been bullied and much more likely to feel happy and welcome in their schools."

The failure of schools to deal with homophobia is revealed in tomorrow's report, which questioned 158 gay teenagers aged 12 to 19. Just over half of the respondents claimed their school sent out the message that bullying is wrong while less than one-third said their school reacted quickly to homophobia when it occurred.

One-quarter of teachers never challenge homophobic language – which the reports classes as words or phrases such as "you're so gay", "lezza" or "poof" – when they heard it. Stonewall Scotland has issued 10 recommendations with the report, which include training teachers in how to deal with homophobic bullying, encouraging pupils to create their school's anti-bullying policy and asking headteachers to take the lead against homophobia.

Despite how tough it still is, greater numbers of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils are coming out at school. McFarlane believes this is happening in schools which have created a positive environment where pupils feel confident to be open about their sexuality: "Compared to even 10 years ago, there are more kids out in school and that is fantastic, but that is where schools have worked with groups like us to create the confidence and the ethos of tolerance to allow them to do so.

"In the schools with a complete zero tolerance to homophobic bullying, pupils are free to be who they want to be and feel safe, it is easier to come out. But in other schools that is still not the case. Where you are hearing phrases like 'you're so gay', or homophobic abuse is used against you, you're not going to come out."

Cara Spence, who has been visiting schools across the country for the past seven years in her role as schools development officer for LGBT Youth Scotland, has seen an increase in teenage pupils coming out. "These young people tend to be quite confident and have supportive friends or family or are linked into the support systems, but for the majority of young people it is really difficult especially as they hear negative messages and language around being gay."

Spence also said that many kids who aren't gay are also victims of homophobic bullying. "If you receive homophobic bullying, whether you are LGBT or not, this sends quite a powerful message about the environment you could be coming out into," she adds.

Although homophobic attitudes are starting to decline thanks to good teachers and an increasingly enlightened education programme, Spence says more needs to be done. "If you have heard negative messages all your life," she says, "to do one class for one hour is not going to do much to alleviate your concerns."

Sociologist Dr Mark McCormack, who recently published The Declining Influence of Homophobia based on a study of three schools, said: "I think there is a change in masculine behaviour; there is more routine tactility and more emotional openness which I attribute to the decrease in homophobia." More and more young men, he believes, "don't have to 'man up' or be homophobic themselves to avoid others calling them as gay".

McCormack points to the BBC radio schedule for proof that gay people no longer have to hide their sexuality. "If you were to listen to Radio Two a couple of months ago on the weekend, you would hear Graham Norton on Saturday morning, Alan Carr on Saturday evening, and then Paul O'Grady on Sunday lunch – and they aren't closeted about their sexuality, they are just open about it.

"There are remarkably few legal or institutionally subscribed differences between gay and straight. When I was at school there was a different age of consent. Kids aren't being structured into homophobia any more. Before we just assumed kids were naturally homophobic."

While McCormack shows evidence of barriers coming down there are still far fewer openly gay pupils in the classroom than in the wider population, commonly estimated between 5% and 10%, which would translate to as many as three gay pupils in every class of 30.

However, his study has found that the age of revealing your sexual preference is becoming younger, with teenagers coming out at 14 or 15, rather than waiting to leave school as many gays and lesbians did in the past.

Educational psychologist Dr Liz McIntyre, who has worked in the field of LGBT issues in schools for 12 years, also believes that changes in masculinity will have a greater effect on the number of pupils coming out than school initiatives.

She said: "There is a lot of anti-discrimination work taking place in schools but that can only go so far. The change around gender and masculinity is the change that needs to happen. Perhaps young people are moving things forward immaterial to the culture of the school, and that is encouraging."

McIntyre says young people need to have openly gay role models not on the screen or in celebrity magazines but in the school community – teachers, dinner ladies and janitors. "Teachers who are out at teacher training college and out to their families have asked me about coming out to their schools during their probationary year, and they have tended to choose not to. I think they are still not confident that they wouldn't be subjected to some kind of stigmatisation and not fit the culture of the school. And they are thinking, 'why take the chance?'

"You want the janitor to come out, the dinner lady to come out. You want the people that matter in your life to be out. You are looking for models, you are looking for your life to be replicated somewhere."

'It has helped me being open and honest'


James Smyth is one young Scot who had an easier time than most kids coming out as gay at school today.

He came out at 14, a few months after realising he was gay. "I didn't go around telling everyone I was gay, but if the subject came up in conversation, I would say I was gay. I would just slip it in if it was relevant," says Smyth, now aged 18.

"There was never a bad reaction, people were just surprised. I wanted people to know. Sometimes I would drive a conversation around to it. I thought it was a better way to come out than saying, 'I have something to tell you – I'm gay'. It just seemed less confrontational."

Such was the atmosphere in his school of around 500 pupils, that Smyth says he would have happily have held hands with a boyfriend in the school yard. "I would have been comfortable showing affection at school but I didn't have a boyfriend. There were only a couple of openly gay guys at the school, and they weren't great lookers either, so I didn't have the opportunity."

However, Smyth saw a distinction in the treatment of teenage boys who were seen as effeminate compared to the more masculine majority – which included him. "At school, people didn't have a problem with gay people, only with people not being manly," he said.

"The assumption is that everyone who behaves as if they are heterosexual are heterosexual, but if you are camp or have a certain hairstyle or wear certain clothes you must be gay. I know people who aren't gay but get bullied for being gay.

"Because I adhere satisfactorily to male pursuits and am not an inherently camp person, people don't think I am gay.

"I think it has helped me being open and honest and having a laugh about things has also helped. When I was closeted at 14, I didn't have that feeling of internal torture."

'I didn't know what being gay meant'


IT might be getting a little easier to come out as a kid in 2012 – but it was hell back in the 1990s when being gay in the schoolyard spelled social death at best and violence at worst.

Euan Platt went to school in Glasgow in the 1990s and was subjected to homophobic bullying almost immediately on entering first year, even before he realised he was gay himself.

"At that point I didn't even know what being gay meant, but I soon got it," the 31-year-old says. "I learned it was the worst possible thing you could be, the biggest insult someone could throw at you. For that reason, I fought against it for a long time, refusing to accept that the growing number of people who were now calling me 'gay boy', 'poof' and other such words, were right."

The atmosphere of intimidation meant that a number of pupils in Platt's year had to keep secret their sexuality: "While I was at school, no-one was openly gay; the thought of being out at school was never a consideration. It was bad enough to be suspected or perceived to be gay without actually admitting it.

"I spent so much time trying to convince people that I wasn't gay, that it took me a couple of years after I had left school to be comfortable with it myself."

It wasn't until he was 19 that he was able to accept his sexuality: "I wasn't able to be myself, and for a lot of my teenage years, I felt I wasn't a full person. Friends talked about their first crushes, shared what they were feeling, whereas I couldn't tell anyone about what I was going through."

Platt was ostracised by other pupils. "People didn't want to sit beside me in class and often people were reluctant to be associated with me. I never fully realised I was being bullied because it just became a normal part of my day.

"I just accepted it. Teachers were aware of the name-calling, but none ever challenged the issue. I never approached a teacher about it, as I didn't consider that things could be different."

Like Platt, Amy Murphy was also a product of the 1990s education system. She had no choice about coming out as lesbian at school. A "friend" did that for her by outing her when she was just 14.

Now 30, Murphy, from South Lanarkshire, recalls her first day at school after the outing. "I remember going into school on the Monday and sitting at my desk. Over the course of the hour I heard this rumour about me start in the back corner and spread from desk to desk all the way through the desks until it got to the person sitting beside me. When you are 14 what your peers think of you is very important. What was strange was that all of these people I didn't know, suddenly knew who I was."

Murphy describes the experience of being the subject of gossip, name-calling, threats, jostling and petty acts of bullying like tripping up as "tough but within manageable bounds".

"The worst time was passing between classes – that was the bit I dreaded because there was a bit of a law of the jungle when you are not in a class and I felt a bit of a target then."

But she thinks her decision to be honest about her sexuality helped her deal with bullying head-on. "Quite quickly I made a decision that to anyone who asked me, 'Was I a lesbian?', I wasn't going to deny that I was.

"There were a couple of years that weren't particularly pleasant. But I think it was a fundamental thing for me that it shaped how I have been as an adult."