Queer Kids Are Dying, Do They Really Need To “Toughen Up”?

Queer Kids Are Dying, Do They Really Need To “Toughen Up”?

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During my time at Attitude, I have met parent after parent whose children have been bullied to death. One of them was Mark Houghton, a young man from Bournemouth whose mother was told he should toughen up when she complained about homophobic bullying. Years later, Mark died of an unintentional heroin overdose at the age of 27. Or Anthony Stubbs, a 16-year-old from Leyland, Lancashire, who took his own life as he struggled to accept his sexuality. Or 15-year-old Dominic Crouch, who was bullied after he kissed a boy on a school trip, and then jumped off a building, his devastated father also taking his own life the year after. And yet the media, unable to understand that young children can know they are gay (and be bullied for it – I was 10 or 11 when I realized) almost never explicitly address homo/bi/transphobic bullying or examine its consequences, such as the families that are left devastated. We – the media, parents, the country – just don’t seem to care.


Gay people are extremely lucky if we do not grow up experiencing chronic recurrent humiliation. For most of us, absorbing other people’s beliefs that we are worthless, disgusting, sometimes evil, and then suppressing our true selves is, simply put, our childhood.

Matthew Todd, author of Straight Jacket: How To Be Gay And Happy and editor of Attitude, writing for The Guardian on how institutional homophobia and bullying leads to PTSD. The need to teach proper techniques to handle trauma is absolute — but more importantly, we need to fix our culture so gay children aren’t traumatized in the first place. 

Likewise, as Todd points out, just because things are better in most big cities doesn’t mean it’s the same everywhere — he quotes an email sent to him: “If there has been some massive change or revolution in the past few years, it has passed me by.”

(Featured image via Thomas Ricker/Flickr)

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