THE moderator of the Free Church of Scotland has been denounced as homophobic for claiming LGBT campaigners are trying to “indoctrinate children” by teaching them about gay relationships in schools in order to end discrimination.

Reverend David Robertson said children should not be introduced to ideas about gay or transgender relationships by their class teachers.

Campaign group Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) is calling for mandatory education of LGBT issues to be brought in to schools as young people are self-harming and taking their own lives as a result of homophobia and transphobia.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Robertson said: “Primary school children do not need to be taught what gay and transgender is.

“We are concerned that what is being proposed is not teaching children facts but indoctrinating them with a particular political/sexual philosophy.”

He claimed mandatory LGBT education would go against the human rights act, and added: “The bottom line is that we are opposed to our state education system being used for social engineering and for foisting propaganda upon children.

“We believe that no one should be subject to bullying but that the way to combat bullying is to teach people respect for all human beings, not to indoctrinate children.”

Garry Otton, founder of Secular Scotland, said: “David Robertson is obsessed with gay sex. Hardly a day goes by when he is not making some foamy-mouthed condemnation of a subject he has an extraordinary interest in. If he wants to talk about what is unnatural about any aspect of sexual orientation he need look no further than his own reflection - denial of what is an everyday reality for many people is certainly not natural.”

Fellow secularist Megan Crawford, Chairwoman of the Scottish Secular Society, said the debate could be described as Scotland’s new Section 28 - which banned the 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools until its repeal.

She said: “To cherry-pick where you can and cannot speak about normal human issues that are non-offensive, non-violent and normal is ridiculous.”

Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie, who supports the TIE campaign, attacked Robertson’s views as hypocritical and coming from “the most extremist fringes of religion” .

The MSP and equalities spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “David Robertson’s long history of opposing equality and promoting homophobic and transphobic ideas is no secret - though it’s scarcely credible to see a voice from the more extremist fringes of religion innocently claiming to be against the indoctrination of children. In truth, I suspect he’d just prefer to indoctrinate them with ideas at odds with equality and human rights.”


AS campaigners call for the teaching of LGBT issues in schools in order to tackle homophobia and transphobia, three young members of Scotland's LGBT community spoke to the Sunday Herald of their experiences at school, and how their lives would have been different if their peers and teachers had been more aware of the issues affecting them.

Dean Coyle, 18, from Balloch

In Dean Coyle's house, he has a small black box containing around 30 pencil sharpeners.

They act as a reminder of the transgender 18-year-old's not-too-distant past - of his school days, and times that he is not quite ready to let go of.

For the last four years, he carried the box wherever he went, and every so often he would open it, find one he liked, carefully unscrew the blade and cut himself.

As it tore the skin on his arms or thighs, the tension, anxiety, and negative thoughts would wash from his mind, he says, and he could think, at last.

Coyle, who was designated female at birth but came out as transgender last year, still considers himself one of the “lucky ones”.

Despite experiencing periods of severe depression, suffering from anxiety and self-esteem issues, as well as self-harming almost daily for years, he has a supportive family and went to a school which placed an emphasis on equality.

Coyle said: “I was very lucky. I had no idea until I was about 14 that something really wasn't right. I learned what trans was, and what it meant, and it made sense to me.

“I started to change the way I looked to the way I wanted to. It happened quite fast. I cut my hair and dress as a boy, I present as that. I've transitioned socially but medically, I'm on the waiting list and I can't really do much about that.”

A lot of his abuse he suffers come from online.

“I wrote something on Twitter, and a group of people jumped on it, started retweeting it, writing nasty things about me.” he explained.

They would say things like 'you're pathetic, you're a girl. You're a chick.' They were making fun of things I'd said when I was feeling good.”

A budding musician, Coyle has had to change the way he performs and thinks about music since he came out as trans, and still has difficulty with everyday things such as going to his local shop.

“I don't regret coming out as trans.” he said, confidently. “I'm getting there eventually. I would like to be a singer/songwriter but I struggle with singing now as I don't sound like a guy, I sound like a girl.

“Socially I don't like going out and talking to people in shops I don't like being misgendered, as most transpeople don't.”

Coyle said education is an essential part of making members of the LGBT community completely equal, and can see the benefits, having been to a more tolerant school.

He said: “A lot of people, when they get to adulthood, they are set in their thoughts about LGBT people, and telling young people about it will hopefully help change things permanently for the future.

“Adults have said they are worried about people 'turning their children gay' by teaching them about LGBT education. That's complete nonsense.

“My school had an LGBT committee, and it was great. It had the LGBT flag up, people came in and talked at assemblies about their experiences and I think it made people much more open. It changes people's minds, makes them aware of the LGBT struggle within school and society.”

Gemma Clark, 22, from Gourock

This time last year, Gemma Clark weighed 5 stone and had just been admitted to a mental hospital in Glasgow, where she would remain for the next four months.

The 22-year-old, bisexual woman had suffered from major organ failure, and her heart had begun wasting away along with the rest of her muscles.

Clark, a trainee journalist, suffered with depression and an eating disorder for a large part of her adolescence, which she believes was brought on in part by the difficulties she faced with her sexuality and the torment she suffered trying to hide the fact she was attracted to both men and women.

Growing up in Gourock, Clark said she knew nobody else who was part of the LGBT community except one transgender person in her school.

She watched as they were bullied and shunned by teachers and pupils, and was too afraid to admit to her peers she was part of the same community.

She began to stop eating and would go for days without a single piece of food passing her lips.

Existing on up to 17 cups of coffee a day, she would starve herself until she was so weak she was unable to stand, and had to be sectioned and given medical help to stop her from dying.

Clark said: “I just felt like it wasn't safe for me to come out. I was really confused. I liked boys, but I also liked girls. I didn't feel that it was safe to say anything."

In the last 12 months, Clark has started a new relationship and is the happiest she's ever been. Having gained weight, and completed her degree at Glasgow Caledonian University, she is looking forward to starting a new chapter in her life.

She said having proper teaching of LGBT issues in schools would have helped her to be more at ease with her sexuality.

“Trying to suppress my sexuality was a definite part of my problem, and what contributed to my mental breakdown and eating disorder. When you're seeing a transgender girl pilloried in school, it doesn't inspire courage to come out.”

Niall Gillon, 23, a drag performer living in Glasgow

Niall Gillon, is a confident, intelligent man in his 20s, with a broad smile, great fashion sense and a sharp tongue.

Educated in a Catholic school, Gillon said being gay was not well received by the majority of his teachers and the impact of their treatment has been long-lasting in his life.

Five years since leaving school, Gillon said he still has difficulty trusting people, and doesn't make friends easily.

He feels as though he missed out on education and as though many of his chances have been ruined due to the homophobia and bullying he experienced at school.

Gillon said: “I was a really camp kid, and was told by a teacher I had gone to talk to that I didn't help myself because of the way I acted. I just thought I was being me, I couldn't help it

“People would say horrendous things about me too - I felt really alone and insular.”

He added: “After I came out, it became the school scandal for that week and I didn't get help from the school, it just got worse.”

An avid performer from a young age, Gillon said he was heavily involved in his school's drama department but when he came out as being gay, his progress in the subject “was made very difficult.”

He explained: “The head teacher for example was an older, very Catholic man, who didn't get me and I don't think he wanted to.

“It wasn't in their agenda to help LGBT kids. They would miss out my name from programmes of school shows we had done, not thank me when they were thanking everyone else, stuff like that.

“It made a lot of people frightened to come out and be themselves, as they didn't want to be the next person who was treated that way...It f****d with my education.”

After leaving school, Gillon started university but faced more homophobic attitudes and decided to drop out.

He said: “I got thrown out of a nightclub for kissing a guy...I didn't want to leave but I just felt isolated.

“I was in a pub once and a group of old men started hurling abuse at me. I was 18. There was no point in me trying to hide who I was.”

Gillon admitted he does want to return to studying but he doesn't know if he will ever be able to due to the bad experiences he faced before.

He is determined that other young people should not have to go through the same ordeal he did, and has joined the TIE campaign to help tackle homophobia.

He said: “If teachers have to teach it, they have to embrace what they are teaching. That is so important. Nobody's education should be ruined because of attitudes like that.”

Fact-file: Scotland and LGBT rights

SIXTEEN years ago, the Scottish Parliament made history as the first government in the UK to repeal section 28. The act banned local authorities from promoting homosexuality, publishing anything which could promote homosexuality, or teaching children that homosexuality was a “pretended family relationship.”

It was repealed by MSPs on June 21, 2000, and was one of the first pieces of legislation that passed through Holyrood after the Scottish Parliament's formation.

Since then, equality has progressed for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) people in Scotland with the country now considered one of the best at offering legal protection for the LGBT community. Holyrood itself has been described as the “gayest” parliament in the world with four out of the six main party leaders openly gay.

However, campaigners say there is still more to be done to tackle homophobia and transphobic attitudes, and LGBT people are still suffering - particularly in schools.

Campaign group Time for inclusive Education (TIE) is calling for mandatory education of LGBT issues to be brought in to schools.

They argue that children and teenagers are self-harming, and at the most extreme level taking their own lives as a result of some of the abuse they have faced by school staff and their peers.

The campaign has attracted high profile support from Scottish politicians, legal professionals and teaching staff, including Patrick Harvie, Willie Rennie and prominent human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar.