Homophobia and discrimination can have profound negative effects on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (GLBT), and especially on GLBT young people. Young people can grow up in an environment of overwhelmingly negative messages about being gay or lesbian, and school years can be the hardest. As a result, GLBT young people are more likely to start using drugs, self harm or attempt suicide (http://www.thisisoz.com.au/about-thisisoz/).
What do we know about the experiences of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) young people at school?
- School experiences for GLBT young people can be negative.
- Homophobia may be prevalent in schools but is not always visible.
- Homophobia has a huge impact on the achievement and connectedness GLBT young people have to their school and their education.
- Language plays a key role in inclusive education.
- Silence or failure to respond to homophobia sends the message that same sex attraction is not okay.
- There are various staff concerns about discussing same sex attraction.
- We need to teach students about respecting and celebrating diversity.
Young people take on, are shaped and affected by homophobic comments and beliefs. Young people also resist, reject and recreate comments and beliefs in order to build their own resilience to homophobia. We can assist this process by providing them with more effective options for explaining their world.
Are you catering for sexual diversity in your school? Use the checklist. http://safeschoolscoalitionvictoria.org.au/sites/default/files/SexualDiversityInSchools_checklist.pdf
What can be done in schools to cater for sexual diversity?
- Respond to discrimination and harassment based on sexual diversity as effectively as you would acts of racism or sexism.
- Clearly distinguish between sexual orientation, sexual identity and sexual behaviour in any policy or curriculum materials to help ensure that sexual diversity is acknowledged.
- Consider what is age and developmentally appropriate for students to learn about in relation to sexual diversity.
- Provide examples that are gender and sexually diverse when representing families and significant relationships.
- Ensure that students have access to accurate and developmentally appropriate books and other resources on sexuality and gender diversity issues.
- Check existing resources for validity and bias; for example, gay, lesbian or bisexual people may be either invisible or depicted as unhealthy or deviant.
- Within the classroom in teaching and learning activities:
- de-gender language
- use a range of scenarios not just heterosexual characters
- avoid using stereotypical scenarios/roles
- do not tolerate discriminatory language
- develop a suitable vocabulary to express sexual feelings
- challenge stereotypical attitudes and assumptions.
Teaching and learning activities
Sexuality is an important part of a person's identity but is difficult to define. Sexuality is more than just being anatomically or genetically male or female. It is defined differently by different cultures and at different times.
Sexuality is diverse. Sexuality is not simply a person's sexual behaviour, it also involves their sexual orientation and sexual identity. Sexuality becomes easier to understand if it is broken up into 3 parts.
- Sexual orientation - the attraction a person has to other people.
- Sexual behaviour - what a person does sexually e.g. a person may be involved in heterosexual behaviour but feel their orientation is homosexual.
- Sexual identity - how people see themselves and how they present themselves to others.
Sexuality is both fluid and dynamic. A person's sexuality is constantly changing and can vary throughout different periods of their lives. At different times in people's lives their sexuality may differ.
It is important to understand that not everyone is the same. It is important to challenge labelling and boxing of people's sexuality.
To investigate sexual diversity and challenge homophobia, consider the teaching and learning activities below.
This activity enables students to see sexuality in a much broader context than just being about sexual practices. This activity provides students with the opportunity to view sexuality as dynamic and fluid.
This activity provides students with the opportunity to experience someone else’s situation.
This activity explores the meaning of homophobia and the diversity of thoughts, feelings and actions within the school community. This activity also aims to encourage students to think about the role that they and the community can play to address homophobia and abuse against young people who do not identify as exclusively opposite sex attracted or those perceived to be same sex attracted.
Weblinks and resources
These resources and websites encourage an inclusive approach.