On average two young people in every average classroom admit to having an LGBT experience and over 725,000 people in the UK declare they are part of the LGBT community, but talking about this sort of stuff is taboo to many people.
We believe that at the moment British schools do not provide sufficient amounts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans education. The subject is often overlooked in lessons like life skills which only provide information about heterosexual relationships. It seems that LGBT relationships are often left out.
Not matter what your personal opinion on LGBT people is, don’t you agree that all students need to be given enough information to live healthily?
Research has shown that two thirds of young gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced direct bullying in Britain’s schools. 92% of 1,145 lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils reported being subject to general verbal abuse, and 41% had been physically assaulted. LGBT education in schools will help improve the students’ outlook on the world and at the same time reduce bullying of the LGBT community. If the schools take more action in trying to educate students, it will definitely ensure that students understand it and therefore they won’t bully LGBT people. LGBT people will then feel safer and more comfortable in the school environment and, by connection, in the entire local community.
Most schools have a section in their anti-bullying policy against homophobia but I found that most schools have never addressed it fully. Whereas the importance of preventing racist bullying and cyberbullying has been highlighted countless times, homophobia is constantly overlooked. Schools educate the students well when dealing with religion and racism, so we believe they should take the same front with education on LGBT people and relationships and try to make it a more open subject of discussion. It is the school’s responsibility to address all anti-bullying policies fully.
Homophobic comments can be heard every day whilst walking around school across England; whether it is a use of a derogatory term to try offend a non LGBT person or statements made loudly across a classroom about a fellow student’s sexual orientation. These comments are a regular occurrence and even if they aren’t intended to be hateful, their effect can be quite damaging to hear. In some schools, one can also notice some teachers ignoring such comments or even becoming involved with student’s discussions. Even though I respect everybody’s right to an opinion, some should just not be spoken at inappropriate times. Staff engaging in bullying makes the students lose respect and trust for them, as well as making the students feel unsafe in their classes.
Elly Barnes is a music teacher and a coordinator of the LGBT History Month After at Stoke Newington School. Her lessons about the LGBT community have achieved such a great success that she has opened up her school as a Diversity Training Centre for teachers to learn how to educate young people on the matters of sexuality and stopping homophobia. Ofsted marked her efforts as a “centre of best practice”. She has made talking about LGBT matters natural to her pupils via the LGBT History Month.
LGBT History Month in the UK, is observed during February to include the major celebration of the 2005 abolition of Section 28. Section 28 of the 1986 Local Government Act stated that a local authority, “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This meant that schools were not allowed to discuss LGBT issues or counsel LGBT or questioning students.
It is important that the portrayal of LGBT is not influenced by money-seeking over-dramatised storylines created by soap dramas like BBC’s EastEnders and ITV’s Coronation Street. BBC’s gay storyline, where Syed repeatedly cheats on his fiancee with Christian has been heavily criticised, even by celebrities like George Michael as “insulting” as “gay people deserve better than the BBC’s pathetic attempts to represent us”. Christian has also been beaten up several times because of his sexuality. This can make young people feel that being gay is unacceptable and they will be punished for it. It’s also important that the next generation of media people understand LGBT issues and do not spread homophobia any further.
None of the things mentioned above are going to get any better without someone intervening. Whether you’re still in school yourself or you’ve have moved onto greater ventures, there’s always something you can do. Speak to staff in school to see whether they’re already doing something you’re unaware of, or are planning to do something. Subtly speak to pupils to see whether they have any concerns. Phone the school or write a letter to see whether anything can be improved.
However, most importantly (if you’re still in school), observe. If you see someone is clearly unhappy or is getting bullied, speak to someone who you know they trust, or maybe speak to them yourself if they look like they need a friendly face around. If all else fails, you can also speak to a local LGBT group about your problem. For example, see here for a list of groups in the Lancashire area. They are often linked to the Council, so they have a certain amount of power over schools as well as being educated to help out with these kinds of issues. Good luck!
Tiana Campbell contributed to this post.