FAQs

How can I make my school/organisation a safe, inclusive place for LGBT young people?

• Include ‘normalising’ references about LGBT people’s lives (e.g. relationships and sex education information) throughout your school or organisation – LGBT people aren’t ‘out there’, in a separate community, they are in your class/youth group or in the young people’s families and communities

• Don’t make assumptions about a young person’s sexual orientation. Be careful of the language you use e.g. ‘do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?’

• Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying whenever it arises

• Keep detailed records of LGBT bullying and regularly review these records and take appropriate action to reduce anti-LGBT bullying

• Challenge stereotypes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (e.g. ‘all sporty girls are lesbians’, ‘all gay men are promiscuous’ etc)

• Challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language (including the negative use of the word ‘gay’) whenever it arises

• Refer to sexual orientation as a spectrum which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual and emphasize that everyone will identify as being somewhere on this spectrum and that their position may change over time

• Refer to gender as fluid rather than as a fixed and rigid identity

• Put up leaflets and posters on notice boards that provide positive representations of LGBT young people

• Display and distribute information about the support that is available to LGBT young people (e.g. local LGBT youth projects)

• Encourage positive role models for LGBT pupils (for example, information about LGBT History Month or visiting speakers/guests)

 

How can I challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language used by young people at my school/organisation?

The main purpose of challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language is to signal the unacceptability of prejudiced language use and to encourage learning. The purpose is not  to shame individuals.

Ensure you are aware of your school or organisations policy on bullying and equal opportunities and that you follow this policy and any legal requirements.

• Challenge all homophobic, biphobic and transphobic behaviour, language and incidents

• Be calm and constructive (responding and helping build skills). Take time, remain silent if you are upset or angry until you regain control

• If appropriate, remove the perpetrator from an audience or the scene of the incident

• Role model how to challenge/how to take a stand in a non-aggressive way so that the group can be effective without you. In other words, role model the opposite of bullying and bigotry.

• Be mindful of what happens next with friendships and other spin-offs

• Show that you are delaying judgement (in some cases) by asking questions (e.g. “Come on… what was that about?”)

• Allow them space to reflect on what they have just said or done

• Give them a chance to back-track: self-justify, own or modify their behaviour

• Be critical of behaviour and language, but not of individuals and so allowing the criticised child/person to still feel OK and able to move on

• Remember, young people are voicing the prejudice that they have learnt from the adults around them and society in general. Help them to explore where that prejudice comes from and why it has developed

• Build a sense of empathy, co-operation and shared rules – “we all agreed…” Linking back to ground rules at all times. In particular, help them to empathise with how an LGBT young person must feel when encountering homo/bi/transphobic language and behaviour – “how would you feel if that were you…”

• Be firm and clear about diversity and rights – and what is not acceptable. This should be supported by policy

• Show upset and hurt if appropriate

• Search for the personal, individual concerns which may lie behind their words or actions

• Use stories/scenarios as distancing techniques – to help find solutions to issues that have arisen within the group

• Ensure that the person targeted by the language is appropriately supported

 

It is important that all homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language is challenged, but the challenge or response will depend on a variety of factors. This section offers a variety of responses to suit different situations.

 

Question

What makes you think that?

What do you mean by that?

Do you mean that as a compliment or an insult?

Do you realise that what you said is homo/bi/transphobic?

Would you feel happy if someone was talking like that about your sister/brother etc?

Can you explain what you mean by calling that {object} gay?

How would you feel if someone spoke about you in that way?

 

Confront

Language like that is not acceptable

You might not think that remark’s offensive, but many would

Let’s talk about why people think like that

 

Personal response

I’m not happy with what you said

When you use homo/bi/transphobic language it offends me. I don’t want to hear it again. (KS2)

What you’ve said really disturbs/upsets/angers me

I’m really surprised and disappointed to hear you say that. I hoped you would recognise that it is important to treat everyone, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, with respect and that it is therefore wrong to use such homo/bi/transphobic language

 

Organisational response

The ground rules we agreed at the beginning of the session said we would show respect to each other

The anti-bullying policy is clear that homo/bi/transphobic language will not be tolerated etc

This school/youth club doesn’t tolerate language like that

The school/youth centre policy says that we are all responsible for making this a safe place for everyone. That kind of language is homo/bi/transphobic and will make people feel unsafe. Therefore it is not acceptable

 

If a young person at my school/organisation comes out to me as LGBT, how should I respond?

• Listen and be supportive

• Be non-judgemental and validate their sexual orientation or gender identity – make it clear that you accept them for who they are

• Tell the young person that their confidentiality will be respected – that you won’t be ‘outing’ them to other people

• Ask them whether they’ve told anyone else and whether they’re getting any support

• Make it clear that it’s important to ‘come out’ at their own pace – do not pressurise them to tell their family or friends before they are ready

• If the young person is unsure about their sexual orientation or gender identity, reassure them that’s ok – it may take them a while to work out who they are or they may decide that their sexuality or gender is fluid and doesn’t fit into any category

• Ask the young person how they’d like to proceed and whether they would like further information

• If they would like further information, signpost them to LGBT youth projects like Allsorts and/or LGBT youth websites and resources

• Let them know that they can come and talk to you again or recommend someone else they can speak to