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Advice for Workers

Needs of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender young people

Young people who are thinking about or are in the process of 'coming out' can often feel confused, isolated and vulnerable.  Negative messages about being LGBT that are reflected by the media, religion, families, peers etc. can, and do, have a profound and detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people.  Research and experience clearly show that LGBT people are more likely to experience depression and mental health issues, and have a higher incidence of self-harming and substance use issues, than heterosexual people – this is often linked to early messages about their sexuality and worth in society.  Figures for teenage suicide attempts also indicate that LGBT young people account for a disproportionately high number of all young people who attempt suicide.

Working appropriately with LGBT young people at an early age can really help them to develop a positive self-image and counter feelings of negativity, isolation and low self-esteem, giving them a much better chance of making a happy transition to adulthood.

At Fruitbowl we believe in supporting and affirming all sexualities. If a young person seeks advice or comes to the group, they will be given the space and support to talk about and explore their feelings about their own sexuality. Whether they subsequently identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual this will be accepted, valued and affirmed.

Bullying

We recognise that any form of bullying can have long term effects on the person who is subjected to it. When someone is bullied due to his or her sexuality or gender identity, whether real or perceived, it can be even more difficult to cope with. Young people may not want to disclose to parents/teachers why they are being verbally or physically harassed.

Recent research by Stonewall has highlighted the extent and impact of homophobic bullying in schools on LGB young people. For instance two thirds of LGB young people are homophobically bullied. If you are working with a young person in school or another youth setting who is being bullied because of their sexuality then Fruitbowl may be able to help. We can offer advice on how you as a worker could support the young person, or we could support the young person ourselves. We can also support you in developing anti-homophobic bullying policies and procedures.

Schools and LGBT young people

Sheffield schools have signed up for Stonewall Education Champions status and as a result are being supported by Stonewall in their work to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. Click here for more general information about the Education Champions programme. To find out more about the work that is happening in Sheffield contact Bashir Khan.

We also run a very successful peer education programme, Side by Side, which uses drama and workshops in PSHE lessons to address homophobic bullying. Our peer educators are aged 16-19 and have developed a play and a series of workshop activities that are delivered to Year 9 students. The Fruitbowl workers are also the youth workers for Side by Side so get in touch with us if you want to find out more about or book Side by Side.

If you would like more support or information about supporting LGBT students in your school then get in touch with us. We can offer a range of types of support such as supporting teachers who want to integrate more work around sexuality or gender identity into their PSHE or curriculum lessons; doing one-to-one support with pupils who are dealing with issues around their sexuality or gender or delivering drop-in sessions.

Section 28

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prohibited the 'intentional promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship' by local authorities was removed from the statute books in 2003. This piece of legislation was not only discriminatory but damaging for LGBT young people. In fact it never applied to the activities of schools, school governors or teachers and did not prevent the objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom nor the counselling of pupils concerned about their sexuality (Dept of Ed circular 12/88).

Now that Section 28 no longer exists, there should be no barrier for teachers and other professionals in talking to young people about their emerging sexuality, and in helping young people to access relevant and appropriate advice and support on LGBT issues.

For more information on current legislation relating to schools and sexuality see our guidance document in the Info Bank.


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