Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
Several schoolboys are being targeted for bullying by their peers because they are not as "macho" as expected.
Labelled "sissies" or "gays", these young men are enduring a painful level of bullying, even if they are not homosexuals.
The Sunday Gleaner has confirmed that homophobic bullying in schools is taking a toll on some students.
Most times, with no proof, bullies have taken aim at some boys, driving them to the edge.
Psychologist Claudine Hyatt, who heads the Department of Psychology, Counselling and Allied Services at Mico Care Centre, told The Sunday Gleaner that some youngsters are bullied until they become suicidal.
"I have anecdotal evidence of individuals coming in who have been bullied, they have been physically attacked, they have been verbally abused by individuals, oftentimes these persons pursue or contemplate suicide as a means of resolving the unrest that they experience in their interpersonal relationship," said Hyatt.
"As you can imagine, someone's sexuality is almost similar to their personality in that it is a part of their identity and so in Jamaica when we engage in homophobic bullying you are saying to the individual that they should repudiate who you are; they should get rid of that part of them," added Hyatt .
She called for sensitisation programmes which could help students to be more accepting of people's decision.
"We need a curriculum that promotes respect for diversity. I think once we are embracing that posture it becomes easier for us to accept that differences exist and this is just another manifestation of human difference.
"I think if we promote tolerance in Jamaica and teach it to our students then it will translate in a reduction in homophobic bullying," she argued.
decline in grades
Homophobic bullying, Hyatt said, has also resulted in a dramatic decline in some students' grades and has affected their growth in society.
It is obvious that the tolerance level for these students is low in some schools.
The Sunday Gleaner recently spoke with a group from a prominent secondary school in Kingston who were dead set against homosexuality.
" We bun dem thing deh man, any boy a do them thing deh no fi mix with other students," one boy declared.
"If I personally know of a gay in the school, me personally a make him life miserable," he continued.
Another student argued, "While we can't tell people what to choose, we have to torment them because we don't want them around us."
He admitted that he participated in the act of homophobic bullying as he dislikes the behaviour of students accused of being homosexuals.
It is another problem that teachers are now having to deal with.
One teacher, who recently taught at two prominent schools in the Corporate Area, has charged that guidance counsellors sometimes do not address the issue well.
"There are some (guidance counsellors) who, because their church don't belief in homosexuality, don't deal with the situation properly. But the stakeholders in education need to come on board and assist," said the teacher.
In a letter to the editor of The Gleaner, the teacher argued that the Government and civil society have failed to adequately address the negative impact on human development, caused by the discrimination against youth who are perceived to be homosexuals.
"I recall a particular case in which a young man, who behaved effeminate and was perceived to be gay, was affected by severe bullying by not only his peers but also, shockingly, by his own teachers."
The teacher added, "The mother of this student got frustrated to the point where she, as well as other members of the family reportedly started to physically abuse the young man".
According to the teacher, in addition to the physical scars the young man had emotional scars because of the bullying.