Every June, Pride Month is celebrated. The LGBTQIA+ community come together to celebrate in honour of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, and it is a reminder of the power of unity, of standing together and being proud of who you are.
What does LGBTQIA+ stand for?
LGBTQIA+ is the acronym used to identify individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual and asexual. The ‘+’ is included because the acronym keeps growing, and it is used for those people who do not know/who do not fall within the other letters, such as pansexuals. It is important to know this terminology because it is at the heart of the community and it allows us to understand, to come together and be able to support each other.
How can you support the LGBTQIA+ people
It is important to be aware and to understand the LGBTQIOA+ community because as you interact with people, whether it be at work or a social situation, there is going to be members of this community around you.
Sometimes, because we are told to understand this terminology and to ask people how they identify or would like to be referred (i.e Him/Her/They), we rush to ‘label’ people so that we don’t offend them by making a mistake; however by doing this, we are asking what they are as opposed to who they are. They may not know who they are and are still figuring it out, so the most supportive thing you can do is to let them lead the conversation, to remain open, kind and understanding of all the people around you. There can sometimes be barriers between the LGBTQIA+ community and others because our lived experiences are different, so continue learning, remain curious and be there for them on the journey.
Supporting LGBTQIA+ people in schools/education settings
During childhood, adolescence, through to puberty and beyond, a lot of changes occur within us (physically, mentally, psychologically, sexually and so on), and it is imperative people can grow up in safe, understanding and supportive environments.
The school environment is a key place where children and young people spend their time, so there needs to be a solid and supportive network here. A recent study from The University of Cambridge found approximately half of LGBTQIA+ school pupils in the UK have experienced some form of homophobic abuse, transphobic abuse or bullying; this can have a big effect on, not just their mental health, but also their attendance levels, engagement and academic performance at school.
Below are several things that be done to support the LGBTQIA+ community within schools. The information provided below is as true for the pupils as it is for the staff.
Be considerate and understanding
The LGBTQIA+ community are often seen as a minority group and the subject still being seen as one of taboo. This shouldn’t be the case. Regardless of somebody’s identity, we should be accepting and understanding of them. Whilst some members may be fearful of expressing their true selves, others are perfectly comfortable with who they are. Visual aids can be put around the school (posters or display banners) to demonstrate that the environment is completely accepting, understanding, inclusive and supportive.
Create a safe space
The LGBTQIA+ community need to feel safe and secure in their surroundings. Their mental health matters just as much as every other person. By creating a safe space for them to go, to talk, to reflect, will help them to feel comfortable. The school may also consider toilet facilities which alleviates the pressure between choosing a male/female toilet to use.
Schools can appoint a designated member of staff to be the Senior Mental Health Lead to ensure a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing across the school for everyone. At Innovating Minds, we offer DfE assured Senior Mental Health Leads Training, and the software (EduPod) for the Mental Health Leads to plan, manage and evaluate their journey to creating a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. To find out more, visit https://www.myedupod.com/
Embed LGBTQIA+ into the school policies
Every school have policies about many things, such as sickness/absence policy, a safeguarding policy and so on. These policies are at the heart of how the school operate. To demonstrate the school’s stance regarding LGBTQIA+, it needs to be embedded into the official school policies; for example, there should be a zero-tolerance policy for homophobic abuse, or any type of bullying behaviour within the environment.
Celebrate and educate
RSE (Relationships & Sex Education) was introduced as part of the school curriculum across England. Integrating LGBTQIA+ topics into these lessons is a good opportunity to teach the pupils and staff about it and is an opportunity to listen to each other.
Schools can also celebrate diversity and inclusivity by enjoying celebrating Pride Month; an assembly could be hosted for example, or celebrations and decorations across the school with pride colours to promote the school’s values that everyone is equal.
The LGBTQIA+ community have been fighting for equal representation for many years, and it is evident that there is more awareness of the community than ever before. At school, at work or any other environment you find yourself in, it is important that we live in an open and fair society whereby everyone can reach their full potential and be themselves.