Koda Sparkes (he/him) is a young, working class LGBT+ person speaking up about bullying in schools. He spoke to us about how important it is that young LGBTQ+ people are informed and supported through inclusive education and across the curriculum.
Koda is proudly part of Reclaim’s Change Makers, a group of young working-class people fighting for change. Koda wants to make sure young, working class trans people’s voices are heard.
What made you want to campaign for LGBT+ inclusion in schools?
First off, the fact I hit 20 and have only just learnt about the process for getting T-shots (Testosterone.) I had to do a lot of my own research to find information about transitioning, and came across a lot of misinformation. But I have a feeling I’m campaigning because the amount of bullying I went through in high school from people who didn’t understand.
I got the usual questions, like 'how do you know you’re trans?' and 'how do you know you’re Bi if you haven’t slept with anyone”. I was the subject of name calling, I got called it all. Every time the teachers and parents would always say ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘they’re just being kids’. I want people to understand that those words snowball in our minds and can lead to young trans people’s suicides. Nearly half of trans people have have had suicide behaviours (Stonewall’s School Report). I want people like you- yes, you reading this- to feel safe being who you are.
How do you hope things change for the better?
I want to be able to teach students, teachers and parents about the LGBTQ+ community, even if it’s just an extra PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) lesson. Sure, we learn about knife crime and bullying, but the only hate crime I ever learnt about was the Sophie Lancaster case (may her soul be at rest), but that was it. We went straight to learning about time keeping. I always felt like the school was told to keep our existence as trans people, and all LGBT+ people on the down low.
Even if young people hear a simplified explanation of the LGBT+ community or the message that 'we’ll accept you and help you,' we could get those suicide percentages down, even if it's by a little.
I want to change the way schools handle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying too. I get where they’re coming from with zero tolerance rules, but it doesn’t make a real difference if the bullies are not educated about LGBTQ+ people and the impact of their actions. There should be assemblies too, talks by people in our community about their life experiences including trans people. All of this would make LGBTQ+ youth feel more accepted.
What message would you give to other young LGBT+ people?
As a final message to all of you: you will be heard, you are being heard, we are all listening, and we all accept you. We are here for you and you’re not alone.
Find out more about Stonewall’s LGBT+ inclusive Relationships and Sex Education campaign here. Stonewall School and College Champion members can access resources and e-learning here. Share this article to support Koda’s message of inclusion, acceptance, and safety for all LGBT+ young people.