By Megan Wall

This month, we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a month dedicated to recognising the impact that the LGBTQ+ community and individuals have had on our history. Throughout this month we also commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, in which police raided a gay club and violently arrested and assaulted LGBTQ people in an environment where they had previously felt safe. In light of this, it is important as educators to ensure an inclusive environment in lessons and in schools overall, as well as to understand the appropriate way to tackle incidents of homophobic and transphobic bullying. Tutors can also incorporate more inclusive elements to their classes by following advice issued by various LGBTQ+ charities and educational organisations.

It is important that the curriculum and lesson content taught to students in our schools reflects the diversity of the communities we live in. Therefore, LGBTQ+-inclusive education is vital in order for LGBTQ pupils to feel safe and included in a school environment, and will also help to reduce incidents of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

According to Stonewall, over half of LGBTQ+ students have experienced homophobic bullying in UK schools. Furthermore, when choosing lesson materials, it is important to be aware of bias and discrimination with regards to sexuality and gender identity. The incorporation of LGBTQ+-inclusive teaching will foster more inclusive attitudes in schools, thus allowing LGBTQ+ pupils to feel safe in their learning environment. One example of a key change needed is increased inclusivity in Sex and Relationships Education (SRE). Up until 2000, a British law called Section 28 prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools. Now, however, SRE guidance states that same-sex relationships, sexual orientation and gender identity should be explored when discussing relationships in the classroom. This new guidance outlines became compulsory in 2020.

An active encouragement of inclusivity will encourage the participation of LGBTQ+ pupils in school life, as a curriculum which neglects the incorporation of LGBTQ+-inclusive education isolates and excluded LGBTQ+ young people. Also, it is not just SRE and PSHE lessons which can incorporate LGBTQ+-inclusive content. The promotion of LGBTQ artists or athletes in PE lessons will further promote diversity and inclusion in the educational curriculum, not just in secondary schools but in primary schools as well. As a result, all young people will be given an opportunity to understand LGBTQ+ identities which will consequently diminish the lack of understanding which fuels homophobia and transphobia.

With regards to incidents of bullying, only 27% of secondary students say their school would be safe for LGBTQ+ individuals to ‘come out’ according to a Pathways to LGBT+ Inclusion report. It is important to educate ourselves on how to recognise homophobic bullying in order to ensure a safe learning environment for all students. Charities such as Stonewall, the UK’s largest charity supporting the LGBTQ+ community, offer free courses, resources and training for school staff which provides knowledge on how to effectively support LGBTQ+ students in the school community, and how to adjust school policies to ensure that LGBTQ+ pupils are effectively represented and catered to. Also, schools should clearly define homophobic and transphobic bullying as unacceptable in their anti-bullying policies, an act which demonstrates attentiveness towards the LGBTQ+ community and makes these pupils feel that their school and its staff will support them should they experience homophobic bullying from their classmates. Schools should also make a conscious effort to promote an anti-heterosexist culture through the positive promotion of LGBTQ+ figures in the curriculum. Tutors could also incorporate this into their lessons, for example analysing articles written about an LGBTQ+ figure or which concerns LGBTQ+ issues. Also, if, as a tutor, you come across homophobic or transphobic language in your lessons, it is important to inform the appropriate point of contact in your school and your School Coordinator at Tutor Trust so that the incident can be dealt with swiftly. Language and phrases such as “that’s so gay” are often brushed under the carpet, however the effects language like this has on the mental health of LGBTQ+ pupils are detrimental to LGBTQ+ student wellbeing.

An inclusive teaching approach is easily achievable, and is a huge step towards fighting homophobia through the promotion of inclusive attitudes and acknowledgement of the diverse society we live in. Pride Month celebrates this diversity, and our tuition should do the same consistently.