Tackling homo, bi and transphobic language can be difficult for many teachers… but it’s essential that we do

Tom Middlehurst, Head of Public Affairs SSAT, writes…

Back in the summer, I attended a partnership meeting with the LGBT charity Stonewall, and was struck by how little I understood the continued prejudices facing some young gay, lesbian, bi and transgender young people.

Even as a gay man, having come out over a decade ago, I was surprised as to the extent that homo, bi and transphobic (HBT) bullying is prevalent in both primary and secondary schools.

I realise how lucky I was: I had supportive parents, an inclusive school environment, and never experienced homophobia at school, aside from the incredibly rare throwaway remark from a peer. However, the statistics from Stonewall’s survey speak for themselves.

More than half of young LGBT people in Britain have suffered HBT bullying, whilst a staggering 99% hear homophobic language such as ‘you’re so gay’ in school.

When I was teaching, I did hear such derogatory language from time to time, and always addressed it immediately. But how confident do other teachers feel to do the same? We need to challenge homophobic language to the same extent that we would always challenge racist or sexist language.

a staggering 99% [of young LGBT people in Britain] hear homophobic language such as ‘you’re so gay’ in school

As a Stonewall training partner, I was aware that while I had a good grasp of the issues faced by gay men and women, I was woefully ignorant about trans issues – including the myriad of terminology that trans young people use to express who they are.

It led me to reflect on how confident I would be in discussing trans issue with my own students. The honest answer is that I would have shamefully shied away from it.

We know that experiencing HBT bullying has a negative impact on student’s attainment – 70% of those who have suffered it say it has directly impacted on their school work.

It’s therefore crucial, that if we are to achieve social justice and an equitable education system, we empower all teachers to talk confidently about LGBT issues in school and directly tackle HBT language whenever it arises.

70% of those who have suffered it [HBT bullying] say it has directly impacted on their school work

Stonewall’s Train the Trainer programme equips a member of your school team to educate other staff in how to confidently tackle HBT bullying and homophobic language in your school.

SSAT is delighted to be a Stonewall training partner, supported by the Department for Education, and are running a Train the Trainer event in the north east of England later this month.

Find out more about the event here.

Relevant links

Visit Stonewall’s website.

Follow Stonewall on Twitter: @stonewalluk

Like Stonewall on Facebook.

Follow SSAT on Twitter: @SSAT

Like SSAT on Facebook.

Read more blogs by Tom.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_Middlehurst

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