Making Schools Safe Spaces for LGBT Teachers

June 6, 2021

Although the Thatcher government’s Section 28 has been off the statute books since 2003, many places in the UK are still opposed to LGBT representation in the classroom. In fact, even though the UK ranked 9th in a list of Europe’s most LGBT-friendly countries, there were 3,000 sexual orientation hate crimes recorded last year in London alone.


Almost a year after England formally required schools to teach relationships, sex, and health education (RSHE), it’s time to discuss how we can make schools as inclusive, comfortable, and encouraging for LGBT teachers, too.


Promote Inclusive Hiring


A truly safe space should reflect a diverse population that includes people of all races, creeds, and gender and sexual orientations. An article by James Gonzales on cultivating queer culture notes the importance of branching out of “traditional” hiring pools by ensuring that recruitment posts echo a similarly inclusive standing. The article goes on to suggest partnering with LGBT employee networks, such as Stonewall, which can connect and guide your future hiring initiatives.


Offer Promotion Opportunities


For far too long, minorities and LGBT peoples have been discriminated against and forced out of leadership opportunities. But the lack of appropriate representation in senior roles means schools are not afforded the intimate understanding and insight from a member of the LGBT community. In response to this, programs like the Courageous Leaders train LGBT teachers for management positions so that they may affect change whilst also learning to fully engage as their genuine selves.


Be An Outspoken Advocate


Subtle advocacy can easily be overlooked or perceived as performative activism. Show your sincerity to nurturing an inclusive school by publicly endorsing LGBT charities and benefits. After the UK government halted funding for its largely successful anti-LGBT bullying program called The Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Challenge Fund last year, many have said that harassment has continued. Rather than waiting for this fund to be reinstated, take the initiative to create programs, workshops, and/or benefits that create awareness and compassion that engages LGBT students and teachers.


Provide Support Groups


According to a study by Catherine Lee, 64% of LGBT teachers have had serious anxiety or depression, with some even receiving threats for teaching RSHE. This is despite the 2010 Equality Act, which was meant to legally protect against workplace and societal discrimination. Considering that, for years, secrecy was the best defense for LGBT teachers. Creating a support group can serve as a means to address LGBT teachers’ mental health concerns as they adapt to this newly inclusive era of teaching.


Practice Inclusive Language


Generations of exclusive language have instilled unconscious biases in both professional and personal settings. As part of normalizing queer identity, schools, officials, and educational materials would benefit from using language that does not ostracize. For instance, instead of lads or ladies, say friends or mates. Rather than mum or dad, say parents. Rather than wife or husband, say partner. This sensitivity should also extend to using a person’s preferred pronouns. Make this a part of your school’s culture by making one’s preferred pronouns a part of your usual introductions. The power and weight of such inclusion fosters an environment where queer people feel valued.


As much as the RSHE aims to usher in a more sensitive and open-minded society, there will be inevitable difficulties that will prove most challenging for LGBT teachers. If school administrations are to create a fully holistic change towards inclusivity, the effort to empower must extend to the teachers themselves. In light of Pride Month, there’s no time like the present to enact more progressive values and empower hardworking educators by creating a space that does not discriminate against them.


Please check this blog for more on Gender Equality and the importance of repurposing the educational system.


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Submitted by: JBrouse