Mia

“To be able to speak to teachers about LGBT+ issues and to be able to support younger children with their sexuality is an amazing feeling for someone who had no one in school.”

When I was 14 coming out as gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (and I’m currently in the middle of my A-levels and that tells you something).

As a 14 year old hormonal teen it was hard to pin point my emotions and how I was feeling, and at school I wasn’t exposed to any help that would make it easier to come to terms with the new person I was becoming and all of these new emotional feelings towards girls. I spent a lot of time googling things relating to sexual identity and the Internet became my best friend, but I can’t help thinking that if an organisation like Educate & Celebrate was predominant in my school in 2011, I would have had an easier time coming to terms with myself. That’s all it came down to someone to tell me what I was feeling was okay, my family were always so supportive but I needed validation from peers to know that I was going to be okay and these feelings were okay too.

I’m 19 now, and after 5 years of finding myself and becoming comfortable in my own skin, I can see the massive influence that Educate & Celebrate has on my school, a school which 5 years ago the words “lesbian, gay, bisexual and Transgender” were never uttered. The training that is provided by Educate & Celebrate, if it’s through talks with students, teacher training, or showcases allows people to realise that LGBT+ issues are important and relevant- To be able to speak to teachers about LGBT+ issues and to be able to support younger children with their sexuality is an amazing feeling for someone who had no one in school.

Educate & Celebrate are so important for young people who used to be like me. Without their integrity, care and support, students who are struggling with their self expression and sexual identity will suffer.

Max

“I KNOW, from experience, that if you talk about LGBT and educate everyone in schools, you will help so many young teenagers across the UK feel safer and more involved in their school community.”

A letter we received from Max

Last Tuesday, Elly Barnes came into my school and presented an assembly on the LGBT community as part of her campaign to try and promote awareness of LGBT equality in schools. During this assembly, Elly taught us about sexual orientation, gender identity, the differences between the two and everything in-between, which is something that my school has never covered before. Because schools don’t often encourage people like Elly to come in and talk about these issues, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia become present in schools – because we haven’t been educated! When Elly was talking about gender identity, she covered the Trans community and, when she asked us what “trans” meant, someone immediately shouted out the derogatory term for a transgendered person without even realising it was a harmful word (perfect example of how the current school curriculum lacks support for the LGBT students).

As someone who came out as gay in year 9, just after I turned 13, I wish there were more programs or lessons about this back then, because when I came out I was bullied and I felt ashamed of who I was because I never had any support and I just felt different and completely isolated from the rest of my friends. After Elly’s assembly wrapped up, I went over to her and told her that I thought the assembly was great and how grateful I was that someone is finally trying to actively take a stand and educate students in hopes to get rid of the phobias that are present towards LGBT people in schools across England. We then started talking and I told her about the absence of ANY attempt to do something she had just done and she was shocked to hear that we haven’t had anything at all about this until this year.

Now to the point of this letter. After the conversation Elly and I had, she told the teacher who arranged for her to come and speak to us in the first place, Mrs Train, who later asked me to put into words why this is so important. In the first year of coming out, I was bullied, shouted at, doubted and called names (you name it, I got called it) and although the school were good at dealing with the bullies, they weren’t good at preventing people from bullying in the first place, because they don’t make any effort to educate them.

I feel that if people like Elly came into schools regularly and taught year 7/8 students about gender identity and sexual orientation, then the school atmosphere would become a better environment for the LGBT students who are struggling to come to terms with who they are because at that age, their minds are still being developed so teaching them that being gay/bi/trans etc. is not weird or a bad thing, then homo/bi/transphobia could be reduced dramatically.

To whoever reads this letter; please consider adding a class or assembly to the school curriculum and talk to your students about difference. Don’t just ignore them when they use derogatory language and pretend you can’t hear it. As teachers, you can make a huge difference because I KNOW, from experience, that if you talk about LGBT and educate everyone in schools, you will help so many young teenagers across the UK feel safer and more involved in their school community. LGBT discrimination is an issue that needs to resolved now.

Charlie

A UK teacher has shared how her pupils reacted when one of their classmates transitioned to Charlie.

Charlie came back to school after the summer holidays to a class who had previously known him as a girl – but the children were quick to adapt to his new name and pronoun, even writing ‘Welcome Charlie!’ with balloons and smiley faces on the classroom whiteboard.‘There was no fuss; a couple of my class who had been away on Monday didn’t bat an eyelid when I called the register,’ the teacher explained in an email to Educate & Celebrate, a charity which works with schools to make them LGBTI-friendly.

‘Some of the class are using Charlie and a she pronoun but they correct themselves quickly!’

She added: ‘He has been really relaxed and I’m so pleased.’

It seems Charlie’s transition has even made him some new friends in the playground, who didn’t make the effort to get to know him before he came out.

‘I watched all the juniors on the playground on Tuesday morning,’ the teacher said.

‘One of the year 6 boys, who I don’t think ever really played with Sarah, was waiting for Charlie so they could play together and did the same yesterday.

‘He seemed to be really looking out for him every break time, which was lovely to see.’

A few parents of pupils from other years questioned what was going on, but the teacher explained staff at the school soon put a stop to any gossip between parents.

Elly Barnes, CEO of Educate & Celebrate said: ‘It’s emails like these that make me smile and know that there is a need for LGBT+ inclusion in our schools.

‘Training gives teachers the confidence to successfully engage their students in an LGBT+Inclusive curriculum to increase visibility.

An important element of our work is to introduce LGBT+ language to better explain the words  ‘trans’ ‘transgender’ ’transsexual’ ’intersex’ and all words on the gender identity spectrum.

‘We should bring these words into the mainstream to help our staff and students to be themselves and have the language to express who they are.’

To aid Charlie’s transition, the teachers took a whole-school approach to inclusion by holding a diversity day where they created bunting about their uniqueness, which included references to trans relatives.

Working with Educate & Celebrate, the school will be continuing to work on inclusivity with their pupils, working through a range of  the PRIDE in Primary Education resources, which includes LGBTI-inclusive books with learning outcomes, keywords, activities and songs that enable gender identity and sexual orientation to be discussed.