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Pride in schools: Making education LGBTQ+ inclusive

As part of Pride Month, today we’re revisiting a written piece from Chris, one of our City Year UK alumni. Chris served in Greater Manchester last year, with Team Diamonds, and has shared some thoughts regarding education and available classes as they relate to LGBTQ+.

CYUK alum, Chris, who served with Greater Manchester

As some of you may know, June is Pride Month. As a Queer volunteer mentor for City Year, I’m here to tell you all about my experience as a mentor, and about the need for LGBTQ+ inclusive education.

For those of you unsure of what LGBTQ+ means, it’s an acronym which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning. The plus is to cover any other identities under the umbrella such as Asexual or Intersex.

I wanted to start by talking about how amazed I am with the improvement that I’ve seen since starting my year of service when compared to my own experiences in school. During my years in education, LGBTQ+ topics were rarely mentioned. As far as I remember, being gay was only mentioned in a religious context and gender identity was never discussed. Outside of what people were assigned at birth, it was never even discussed as something that people experienced. Since starting working in a high school, I can see how far we have progressed since those days. I’ve seen young people feel more able to open up about their identities, assemblies held on both sexuality and gender, students being referred to external organisations for extra support and said external organisations being brought in by schools to host assemblies on LGBTQ+ identities. The fact that schools are taking steps to support students is fantastic. Students knowing that different identities exist and feeling able to discuss and explore their own identities is a huge step forward.

However, I feel that more needs to be done. Homophobic and transphobic bullying is still rife in schools. Education surrounding LGBTQ+ issues, as well as support of LGBTQ+ students very much depends on the school in question. Many students report that even their Sex and Relationships Education in schools is lacklustre, and any SRE that students receive uses the assumption that all students are straight and identify as the gender which they were assigned at birth (This is called heteronormativity and cisnormativity respectively).

Group of volunteer mentors
“I strongly believe that the measures which have already been taken are vital, but are only the beginning. Volunteering with City Year has shown me how far some places have come and I feel that now is the time to push to improve even more. An LGBTQ+ inclusive SRE needs to be taught in a consistent approach across the country. By educating people on the existence of LGBTQ+ people from an early stage, we can truly begin to tackle LGBTphobia in schools and in further society. We’ve reached the stage where the majority of society are aware of LGBTQ+ issues, but without a comprehensive education about these topics, some of the most vulnerable young people in our society are at risk of alienation. Until we allow young people to learn across the country about identities outside of what many of them may know, we only allow those who wish to seize the narrative about those issues to do so all the more easily. We make their task to demonise those who are different so much simpler. LGBTQ+ young people exist, and we owe it to them to make it known that we are not controversial, we are not something to be ashamed of and we have not made a choice. We are who we are – and even if that’s different from others, that’s fine and it’s something to be proud of. Thank you for reading.

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