Kettering man speaks of school torment as MP votes against LGBT education

Tom Coles (right) with partner Ben.
Tom Coles (right) with partner Ben.

A former Kettering schoolboy has spoken of the torment he faced after coming out as gay.

Tom Coles, 31, came out to his family when he was a 13-year-old Bishop Stopford School pupil and suffered daily bullying.

Philip Hollobone - UK Parliament official portraits 2017 NNL-170726-161825005

Philip Hollobone - UK Parliament official portraits 2017 NNL-170726-161825005

He has backed the recent decision to adopt LGBT-inclusive education at schools - a plan rejected by 21 MPs including Kettering’s Philip Hollobone last week.

From September 2020 primary school pupils will be taught about different family models including same-sex families.

At secondary school, the curriculum will address LGBT+ issues including how damaging stereotypes can be, including those based on sexual orientation or gender.

Tom said a lack of LGBT education when he was at school led to him being told he would “grow up to be a paedophile, catch HIV and die”.

He said: “What initially started out as name calling became increasingly relentless, threatening and aggressive and came from kids younger and older than me.

“On a daily basis I was told I would amount to nothing, that being gay meant I would grow up to be a paedophile, catch HIV and die and live a sad and lonely life.

“I would hide at break times, try to arrive early and wait after school before walking home to avoid bullies who threatened more physical violence.

“I didn’t tell my parents for a long time. Eventually when I did and we raised it with the school the complaints were not addressed.”

Conservative Mr Hollobone, who voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2013, was one of just 21 MPs to vote against the bill on March 27.

A total of 538 voted to adopt the new LGBT-inclusive guidance for compulsory relationships and sex education.

Others to vote against the bill included Conservative Sir Christopher Chope, notorious for blocking an anti-FGM bill, and disgraced former Labour MP Fiona Onasanya who was recently released from prison.

Arch-Brexiter Mr Hollobone said he feels that parents should be able to withdraw their children from lessons involving LGBT life.

He said: “I always do my best to listen to the views of local constituents when it comes to votes in Parliament.

“Members of local faith communities have contacted me objecting to the dilution of the right of parents to withdraw children from these lessons.

“I appreciate that the subject matter of these lessons needs updating for our modern times, but I also feel that the right of parental withdrawal is important and should be protected.”

The vote came after schools in Birmingham had to drop LGBT-inclusive classes after a group of religious parents protested against them.

Tom said the bullying he faced tormented him, saw him develop insomnia and depression and drove him to consider self-harm and suicide.

He said LGBT-inclusive education would hopefully stop other youngsters facing the same and said he was “disappointed” by Mr Hollobone’s vote.

Tom said: “LGBT-inclusive education simply explains the world as it is today, that there are many different types of people and no-one should grow up feeling like they don’t belong.

“It is not promoting one group over the other and remains completely factual.

“I believe that the bullying I experienced was mostly born out of a fear of the unknown, both by the bullies and teachers.

“LGBT-inclusive education would help address this fear of the unknown by educating on the value of difference and hopefully stop others losing their young adulthood to fear and depression as I did.”

But Tom had one final message of positivity for any youngster going through the same emotions he did - that it will get better.

He is now working in Sydney, Australia, as a strategy consultant for PwC and lives with his partner Ben.

He said: “I really am living a very fulfilled and happy life now with my partner - a life that I didn’t think I would have when I was going through this as a teenager.”