Bullying like this is alive and kicking

Stansfield Street, Todmorden. I WRITE in response to the latest letter from Frank McManus (September 20).

I am surprised that in Frank's days at school "we accommodated one another's traits without comment and without stereotyping".

Admittedly, I do not go back as far as Frank, but my experience 40 years ago was of being the target of homophobic bullying at school and, as Jan Bridget's figures show, it is still alive and kicking for young people today.

In the light of this, Jan, Liz and other workers at GALYIC have done a wonderful job over the years with young people who are, or who think they may be, lesbian, gay bisexual or transgendered and I am very happy to support them as a member of the project's management board.

The GALYIC regulars are a fabulous group of young people, mutually supportive and tolerant of one another's differences.

Better news, if recent surveys are to be believed, is that most adults, at least, are becoming more relaxed about same-sex relationships. These days it feels safe for me to kiss my boyfriend goodbye on Todmorden Railway Station, even if we do get looks we would not get if we were a heterosexual couple.

And attending this year's Mayor's Day together was, for both of us, a wholly positive experience.

The change in atmosphere is mirrored in the legislation.

The last 10 years of Labour government has seen a bonfire of anti-gay laws, many of them dating back to the 19th century.

The most recent piece of positive legislation has been the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 to which Frank refers.

In many ways this is an unexceptional piece of law-making which simply extends the principle of non-discrimination already widely accept(ted in relation to race, gender and disability. As Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman wrote earlier this year: "You can either be against discrimination or you can allow for it. You can't be a little bit against discrimination."

Finally, let us not forget the wider world. It is still the case that over 80 countries punish women, men and children because of their sexuality, and in 11 of those the punishments include the death penalty.

Last month I was pleased and honoured to participate in the Manchester Gay Pride parade, as part of the Amnesty International contingent. We marches under the slogan "Protect the Human, Love is a Human Right".

If any of this makes me, in Frank's words, a "militant homosexual lobbyist", I am proud of the description.