Research shows that 48% of school pupils have had little to no positive messaging about being LGBTQ+ in school in the last year. On top of this, half of LGBTQ+ students said they hear homophobic slurs “frequently” or “often” at school*.
On a brighter note, research found that pupils whose schools had positive messaging about being LGBTQ+ had reduced suicidal thoughts and feelings, regardless of whether they are LGBTQ+ or not*.
As a company that’s working to promote LGBTQ+ education and create inclusive resources, the Sweet team wanted to find out just how important it is to the LGBTQ+ community that we raise awareness and educate others on their experiences.
Sweet friend, Rhian, came out as transgender in her thirties. We sat down with Rhian to find out more about how attitudes to LGBTQ+ issues in school impacted on her life and transition, how things could be improved, and why education is so important for young people nowadays.
What if any LGBTQ+ representation did you see in school?
We had one gay teacher; he was often the joked about. I didn't really think much about it at the time because frankly it was completely normal to hear homophobic slurs thrown around as casual insults by kids.
How important do you think it is to raise awareness and teach about LGBTQ+ in schools?
I don't recall being taught anything about the existence of the LGBTQ+ community. Any awareness I gained was through my own social experiences much later in life than it should have been.
Even historical events such as Stonewall Riots… I had no idea there could be other people out there like me and concluded everyone else must feel the same way I do at some point.
As a result, it wasn't until long after I left school, I even knew real trans people existed or that transition was even possible. It would have been far, far nicer to have first learned about it in a proper environment and not through a distasteful comedy routine.
Young people should be given the opportunity to understand the LGBTQ+ community and what it means, not some distorted version.
Some of their peers either already are, or will be LGBTQ+, so it’s important to know how to relate to them and how to support them. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an accepting network of people around them.
What important topics do you think young people should be learning about the LGBTQ+ Community and issues they face?
The misconception around Pride. We're not excluding straight/cis people, we need allies now more than ever. Ask questions, join in, come and learn.
And generally, to learn acceptance, there are probably kids in schools with friends who are terrified to “come out” because of what they might think, and what they have been wrongly told about people like them.
They could also learn to scrutinize what they read on social media, it's far too easy for anyone with a big enough following to spread misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community. Speak to real people and find out what they're really like and the challenges they face.
Finally, why do you think it’s important for young people to see LGBTQ+ representation?
Because young people need to know they're not alone, there are people out there like them and they should be given the same opportunities.
To get that information in an educational environment and not on TV or Twitter where the first bits of information you might see are horribly inaccurate or hateful.
We want to thank Rhian for taking the time to talk to the Sweet team and share her experiences with us.
We know that tackling these issues with your students can be sensitive, even daunting, but we are here to help. Through the Sweet PGW Qualification, students will learn about the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, including the Stonewall uprising, LGTBQ+ terms and flags and Pride month. Students will also get to create social media posts to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and awareness events.
If you’re not a Sweet customer but would still like support in discussing these topics with your students, you can access a number of free worksheets at https://www.sweet.education/worksheets.
To find our LGBTQ+ worksheets, search “Pride” or “LGBT+ History Month.”
Finally, if you would like support regarding any of the issues in this blog, here are a few helpful websites:
LGBT Foundation: https://lgbt.foundation/
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline: https://switchboard.lgbt/