EDUCATION minister and Sussex MP Nick Gibb has vowed to stamp out homophobic playground bullying as he opened up about his personal battle to publicly admit his sexuality.
The Tory MP, for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton who kept his relationship a secret for 29 years, wants to wipe out the use of the word “gay” as a term of abuse in schools.
Mr Gibb, who married his long-term partner Michael two years ago, said widespread intolerance and discrimination meant it had been easier previously not to tell people they were together.
But he told the Mail On Sunday the secrecy of his past had made him determined to make a difference for LGBT people.
In an article for the newspaper, he wrote: “Having felt the need to be silent for decades about my sexuality, I am determined to make a positive difference.
“I will be tireless in ensuring that all gay, lesbian, bi and trans people can live free, happy and fulfilling lives.”
Mr Gibb said he expected teachers to discipline pupils who use the word “gay” in a bullying manner.
Around £3 million is being spent on anti-homophobic and transphobic programmes.
A national survey is being launched that will ask 1.5 million LGBT people in the UK to give their views on public services to help inform government policy.
Mr Gibb wrote: “As a gay man who has been in a loving and stable relationship for more than 30 years, I have seen social attitudes change significantly.
“I met Michael in a different era, and one that was much harder than today.
“There was widespread intolerance, discrimination in the professions and a very hostile press – not least towards politicians.
“It was easier for us to have a relationship that wasn’t known about.
“This meant we missed out on things that most people take for granted.
“Having children was out of the question.
“We didn’t go to parties or attend family dinners as a couple.
“We spent every Christmas apart.
“Many other LGBT people had a much more difficult and challenging time.”
He added: “Bullying at school is cruel, particularly as LGBT pupils are coming to terms with their sexuality or gender. I am determined that we stamp out the use of the word gay as a pejorative term.”
Mr Gibb, who has been an MP since 1997, was schools minister in the coalition government in 2010-12 when he was sacked from the post.
He was reinstated by David Cameron in 2015 and has previously praised the Prime Minister for its attitude towards gay marriage, calling for the Church of England to do the same.
When he came out as being gay Mr Gibb told The Times: “I think my mother was initially shocked – that’s an age thing – but then very supportive and what she wants is for me to be happy.”
He denied he had made the revelation to liberate himself and instead thought it was necessary to let people know as he was getting married.
He said that the couple had never been in favour of civil partnerships and wanted to wait until same sex marriage was legal.
Source: The Argus