LGBT young people too often miss out on vital information and support at school. Inclusive sex and relationships education (SRE) can help to remedy their isolation
All young people should have access to high quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education (SRE) in school. But all too often this isn’t the case and LGBT young people are missing out on vital information, putting their emotional and physical wellbeing at risk.
More than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people say they are not taught anything about lesbian, gay and bisexual issues, suggests research by the University of Cambridge for Stonewall. Research by the National Union of Students earlier this year also found that less than a fifth of all university students were taught about LGBT issues in SRE at school.
Stonewall’s School Champions programme works with primary and secondary schools to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and to support LGBT young people. Based on the many examples of good practice we’ve seen, here are some top tips on LGBT-inclusive SRE.
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume that all students are heterosexual or that there are no trans students in your class. Think carefully about the examples and language used when talking about relationships. Use gender neutral terms such as “partner” and embed examples of LGBT people and relationships. Be explicit in your school’s policy that SRE is there to prepare all students for the future, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ensure all young people learn about LGBT people and relationships
All students should learn about key concepts such as sexual orientation, gender identity and the difference between biological sex and gender. Embed positive examples of LGBT people and relationships and discuss relevant LGBT rights and equality (for example, that LGBT people can marry and have children). This ensures that all students understand the diversity of people and relationships in 21st century Britain and that young people who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity get the information they need.
Include information that is relevant to LGBT young people
Make sure you include specific information where relevant – for example, on sexual health or coming out. At the same time, avoid promoting the stereotype that all LGBT people have certain types of sex and relationships. The easiest way to do this is to talk about the similarities and differences there might be across different types of relationships.
A lot of the information that LGBT young people need to know will be the same as their heterosexual peers (what a healthy relationship looks like). Using LGBT examples will signal that the information you are giving is relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and will help to tackle assumptions about LGBT people and relationships more generally.
Challenge gender stereotypes
Challenge these both in the content of SRE and in the way the lessons are delivered. Think carefully about whether to separate students by gender for SRE. Trans students or those questioning their gender identity may feel uncomfortable or miss out on vital information if classes and lesson content are divided (for example, a trans man who may need to know about cervical screening). If students are separated, deliver the same content across groups. All students will gain valuable information and skills by considering situations from the point of view of different genders.
Encourage students to understand and celebrate difference and diversity
SRE can be a great opportunity for discussion, for students to learn about difference and to develop respect and understanding towards others. This should include exploring and challenging stereotypes about LGBT people and feed into the school’s wider work on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. SRE is also the perfect opportunity to encourage every student to feel positive and confident about themselves.
Staff will need training, alongside an updated SRE policy to deliver effectively across these areas. As well as Stonewall’s resources and training, the Sex Education Forum and Gendered Intelligence and Allsorts Youth Project look specifically at LGBT relationships and sexual health.
Visit stonewall.org.uk/education for more information