York & North Yorkshire

LGBT teens in Yorkshire forced to meet in secret

gay couple holding hands Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Nationally, 55% of LGBT pupils have experienced bullying, the report revealed

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers say they are having to meet in secret in areas of North Yorkshire for fear of abuse.

Groups in Harrogate and Scarborough are too afraid to meet openly.

Support groups advertise by word of mouth but youth leaders say this means LGBT teenagers are not getting the support they need.

The 'Growing Up in North Yorkshire' report carried out by the County Council surveyed Year 10 pupils.

Just under 20,000 pupils were surveyed by the Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee with 1,195 (6%) identifying themselves as LGBT.

In the report, only 66% of LGBT pupils said safety at their school was "very good or good", compared to 81% of their peers.

'Left stranded'

Among LGBT girls 54% said they had self-harmed, compared to 16% of their peers.

Nationally, more than half of LGBT pupils have experienced direct bullying.

County councillor Val Arnold said: "The two local LGBT youth groups within North Yorkshire meet in covert locations, afraid to hold their meetings in open due to their real fears of physical or verbal attacks on their way to or during the meetings."

At a secret group in Harrogate, one girl told BBC Radio York she was bullied for being bisexual.

She said: "One time I was sat on top of a railway track in Bilton on a bridge and if one of my mates hadn't been walking past, I don't think I'd be here right now."

Simon Rodgers, a volunteer youth worker in Yorkshire schools, said: "I think this is a sad indication, this idea of a 'secret club' sounds like the 60s, 70s and 80s when gay people had to meet in secret."

A member of a youth group cited in the council report. said: "I was left stranded, my school didn't want to know, neither did my parents, so the youth advice centre has been my home since I was 11."

Ms Arnold said the report's findings would help schools tackle bullying targeted against sexual identity.

As a result, the council has pledged to encourage more organisations to sign up to an anti-bullying pledge, train all its staff working with young people in handling LGBT issues and increase access to LGBT youth groups.

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