“They bullied me for being fat, being different, liking different things and then when they got wind of the fact I liked girls, that’s when the physical abuse started.”
At just 18 years old, Megan McIntyre is like any other teenage girl – she goes to college, she meets up with friends, she drinks coffee, but that’s not all she does. Megan’s a fighter, in more ways than you can ever imagine.
Meeting in a coffee shop in Glasgow’s city centre, Megan opened up to me without any hesitation, without any holding back, without any worry that other people would hear what she was saying. She wants people to know her story and she wants it to be used to show how important it is that Scotland’s education system is reformed to be more inclusive for everyone going through it.
“It’s the old stodgy men in grey trousers sitting at the top; they don’t listen.” She told me. “They’re too focused on their ‘positive destinations’ but there’s people in their schools now who are suffering. Deal with that. It doesn’t matter if they go off to college – if they get a job, they get a job – but why let them leave in fourth year because they feel like they are being pushed out of the school community?”
Identifying as bisexual now, Megan told me she reckons she was gay before she was even straight. Her mum had loads of gay friends and she was brought up in a very open environment. It wasn’t until she got to high school that Megan began to realise that not everybody was OK with gay.
“I ended up getting physically attacked by a group of boys when I was 12. They bullied me for being fat, liking different things and then when they got wind of the fact I liked girls – which for me wasn’t a strange thing, until they made it a strange thing – that’s when the physical abuse started.
“I had a lot of online hate and verbal abuse as well. It was the worst of the worst. It would literally just be an onslaught as I walked down the corridor. They would shout everything you could imagine at me. Fat cow. Dyke. Homo. You name it, they’ve said it.”
At the time, Megan also had an Ask FM account – a controversial social media site where users could anonymously post messages to each other, including hate and abuse.
“People would say things to me online, and they were really attacking me – my Ask FM was going through the roof. I remember not liking having it. I just wanted to sink back in to the shadows and really wanted to delete it. Then when I eventually did, I remember getting a lot of hate for that too.
“I keep seeing some of the abuse pop up on Facebook memories and I mean it was brutal. I was 12 at the time and the sh*t that they were saying would honestly get most adults. I must have been so resilient.”
Back at school, Megan’s mental health began to weigh her down and she went to speak to her guidance teacher – the one person in school that pupils should feel comfortable talking to, but she really wasn’t much help.
“I went to [my guidance teacher] about my mental health. I was 13 at the time, and she ended up calling my mum and leaving a voicemail.
“She said, ‘Hi, Megan’s just come to us saying that she’s struggling with her mental health. We think it’s because she’s bisexual. Would you mind giving us a call back?’
“My guidance teacher outed me to my mum. I didn’t even mention [the fact that I’m bisexual], she just said ‘oh but didn’t I hear somewhere that you’re bi?’ so she just took that and outed me to my mum.”
The one teacher that Megan had confided in at school was her media teacher, and when she found out about the situation Megan was in, she had followed protocol and made her guidance teacher aware of it. Protocol, however, also states that school staff should ‘consider, at all times, what is in the best interests of the child’.
“Luckily I was out to my mum but she couldn’t have gauged that reaction. That guidance teacher couldn’t have known my mum’s reaction. She had no right.”
After being introduced to LGBT Youth Scotland through one of her older friends, Megan started to get involved in campaigns and activities with the group. As she progressed through high school, she found herself speaking on panels, discussing LGBT issues with politicians, professionals, and other young people alike, and even began to consider a future in politics.
I asked Megan if she was to become a politician, what would she change, and she had absolutely no hesitation in saying education policies were at the very top of her list.
“Teachers can’t teach about LGBT people because of policies they think exist that don’t exist and the people in schools don’t get them the training that they need.
“[Pupils] don’t feel comfortable in school; they don’t know who to turn to. It’s got to the point – as it did with me – where if you need help, you don’t go to the guidance teacher, you go elsewhere.”
“It’s time to change the f**king world”
And how should policies be changed? With young people at the heart, she assured me.
“I have a mad idea – we put young people on the board of education, telling teachers what’s going on in schools.
“We know for a fact that reporting doesn’t work. Things fall through the cracks, teachers don’t get the right information and things don’t go high enough a lot of the time – and it’s proven that young people representing young people works.
“Inclusive education is something we need to push for and especially sex education. I went to a catholic school and it just didn’t happen there.”
Megan told me of how excited she feels and the buzz she gets from knowing that she’s working to make a change. She tells her story boldly knowing that nobody else should have to go through what she did at school.
As I get up to leave, Megan thanks me, looks at me, and says: “Fraser, it’s time to change the f**king world.”
Yes, yes it is.
Header image from Daily Record article: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/real-life/being-lgbt-isnt-something-bad-9903649