Interview: Why a Glasgow dad is walking 96 miles for LGBTI+ education

Inclusive education crowd-funding intitiative raises 336 per cent of requested amount

NEIL DALLIMORE, the father of an 11-year-old-boy who confided his fears about homophobic bullying, is hiking the 96 miles of the West Highland Way to raise funds for the campaign for LGBTI+ inclusive education.

Dallimore is embarking on the famously arduous walk to raise money and awareness after his son told him he was afraid of being treated differently at school for his sexuality after witnessing negative treatment experienced by another boy who came out as gay.

Dallimore initially aimed to raise £500 for the Time for Inclusive Education (Tie) campaign, organised by Jordan Daly, Liam Stevenson and John Naples-Campbell, to reform Scottish education to make it inclusive and reflective of the whole spectrum of sexualities and sexual and gender identities.

The walk, which will begin on 27 August, had already crowdfunded £1,680 by time of publication, or 336 per cent of the amount initially appealed for.

CommonSpace caught up with Dallimore about his motivations, the conditions faced by LGBTI+ young people, and the work of the Tie campaign.

Tie evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee

What should people know about the conditions faced by LGBTI+ students and young people?

There's a lot of really important issues that Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson [of the Tie campaign] are bringing to light. For me the most important is the number of suicides among LGBTI+ young people. When people are claiming that their religion dictates, for example, that homosexuality is wrong, they think that's just them giving an opinion. They don't see how that opinion is spoken by so many and is incredibly toxic, fatal in some cases, for the young people hearing it. 

Was it a shock for you that young LGBTI+ people still face this sort of difficulty in coming out?

I wish I could say it's a shock but I doubt there's many people who would be. Whether you're a member of the LGBTI+ community, a supporter or even someone fighting against its aims, it's surely not a shock that people still find it difficult to come out.

What are the responsibilities of your generation - of parents and teachers - in light of these problems?

We have to learn about the LGBTI+ community from that community and we need to pass all of those lessons on. We have to hammer it home to young people that no matter your sexuality or your gender, no matter who you are, you are natural and you are equal.

Why are you raising funds for the Tie campaign - what is important about Tie?

Jordan and Liam have already achieved a great deal with Tie and I know they have a lot of work ahead. I found them about a year ago when my son came out to us and asked that teachers at his school do not find out; apparently another kid had been treated differently, in a negative way, when teachers found out about them.

It didn't help that a leaflet from the Catholic Education Service had been handed out and it excluded anything but heterosexual marriage. I feel like Jordan and Liam have done a great deal for children like my son, but also for his siblings and every other kid at school who will benefit from learning all that Tie wants to pass on through teacher training. Basically, I wanted to do something to help them.

Tie campaign presentation to the Scottish Secular Society

How can a better environment for LGBTI+ pupils be created?

I'm no expert, but I believe education is the strongest tool to eradicate phobias. Teach all kids that they are equal but also don't omit the lives of all of those in the LGBTI+ community in school. When you talk about marriage, talk about all marriages. When you talk about family units, teach children about all of the different and beautiful combinations that exist, not just mummy and daddy.

The same goes for sexuality and gender and so many other areas. Schools need to remember and teach about the LGBTI+ community. 

What should education authorities do about this situation? What is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government in dealing with it?

I'm not 100 per cent sure of the powers they have, don't have, claim to have; I know they can make religious observance statutory but not the teaching of LGBTI+ issues and that reeks of rubbish. The government needs to stay behind the Tie campaign and make its support more meaningful.

It's lovely to hear Sturgeon praise the campaign but she needs to make things happen. Same goes for the education authorities, because when all is said and done, further delay to bringing meaningful, visible equality for the LGBTI+ community means delaying change, means more young people missing out on the security school has to offer them and possibly doing the worst to themselves.

Why should readers who aren't directly affected be concerned about this subject?

I don't want to be too philosophical about this or be a downer, but unless someone has empathy, I don't see them caring. If they do then they should enrich that empathy by learning about the plight of the LGBTI+ community (as far as things have gone it needs to go much further) and getting behind it and the Tie campaign.

Perhaps, on a larger scale, if people want to live in a successful country that is desirable to live in, then they ought to value the work Jordan and Liam are doing, see its worth not just for the kids but for the country as a whole, and recognise that eradicating phobias will mean a stronger country in the long run.

Background read: How the LGBTI+ Tie campaign made Scotland sit up and notice

You can contribute to Dallimore’s crowdfund appeal and the ongoing work of the Tie campaign here.

Pictures courtesy of Sue Langford, Tie Campaign

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