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  • Biem D'hondt

Tim Malfait

'Every time someone uses gay in a pejorative way - "Are you gay maybe?" or "This is so gay!" - I stop the class and make it clear that an orientation is not a reproach. Among the youth it is still very common to mock someone with their sexuality. Sometimes it's a balance between ignorance and education. If every parent or responsible person did this, the world would be much more tolerant.' This is Tim Malfait, teacher and the muscles from Bruges.

In the day to day trenches of adult existence these small acts of bravery can have a life or death importance. When used with a derisive attitude, the word gay is pejorative. Its use among young people as a general term of disparagement is common.

Being gay can be dangerous; negative attitudes - homophobia, discrimination - increases the chance of experiencing violence such as bullying, teasing, harassment, physical assault and suicide-related behaviors. We sometimes lose family, friends, employment, when and if we are ever brave enough to come out. Those who experienced stronger rejection are also much more vulnerable to high levels of depression.

One way to handle the stress from stigma is by having social support from family, friends, and the gay community. This leads to higher self-esteem and more positive mental health. A positive school environment is associated with less depression, fewer suicidal feelings among LGBTQ students. Schools can help create safer and more supportive environments by encouraging respect for all students, preventing bullying and harassment, promoting school connectedness and parent engagement. Identifying “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, designated classrooms, or student organizations, where gay and bisexual youth can get support from the school staff who have experience providing counseling. Schools should be encouraged to create and publicize trainings on how to create safe and supportive school environments for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and encourage staff to attend these trainings.

'For years I built up walls around myself to not show my true nature, because I was afraid to be who I was. Walls of lies and fear. But the moment you break down these walls around you, your world opens up. A person is gay when he decides he's gay, not when someone says they always thought he was. I used to be afraid of who I was, now I'm proud of who I am. It's so strange that there are still places where I'm not welcome or do not feel safe because of my orientation.

But love is just love. It's that simple.'

Instagram : @timmalfait

Text by Biem D'hondt

Photo by Marijn Achten


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