Life > Educate & Celebrate – inclusive charity giving LGBT youth a voice

Posted on January 26, 2017

Educate

Jessica Aldridge discusses the importance of educating teenagers about gender equality
I experience gender dysphoria, which is a term meaning an extreme unhappiness, discomfort or distress caused by your gender or biological sex, or a certain aspect of your body, which you feel doesn’t fit your gender identity.

The aspect of my body I feel most uncomfortable about is my chest. I wear special undershirts called ‘binders’ which bind the female chest to give a flatter and more masculine (or androgynous) appearance. How I look on the outside now, is more like how I feel on the inside. It’s just a shame it took so long for me to discover the different aspects of gender identity.

Thankfully, organisations like Educate & Celebrate are working to end the fear of discrimination and raise awareness of LGBT issues and identities.

Educate & Celebrate is an LGBT charity founded in 2005, which works directly with young people, from early years to university and beyond, empowering teenagers to make their schools safe and welcoming for LGBT people.

My own school years were a confusing time, and I struggled to fit in with my classmates. The pressure to do well academically was huge. I had to make new friends at secondary school, and I was juggling exams with work and volunteering. On top of that, everyone else seemed quite comfortable with their gender, but I knew I didn’t feel the same way they did.

It’s just a shame it took so long for me to discover the different aspects of gender identity

At the time, I didn’t know how to explain how I felt to my friends and family, which compounded my feelings of isolation. Educate & Celebrate train teachers and school staff about LGBT issues and gender identity, and promote equality in the school environment.

The organisation works with schools to ensure their policies are inclusive of current legislation related to LGBT and gender equality, embedding these issues in the school’s ethos. They also provide books and resources for school lessons, allowing LGBT topics to become a part of the curriculum.

I would have loved to learn about LGBT issues when I was at school, in subjects like history, maths, foreign languages, geography and art. It would have made the lessons so much more interesting, knowing I was learning about my community and how positive diversity can be.

cake

Fortunately, LGBT issues are becoming more prevalent in the media. According to a YouGov survey up to 49% of 18-24 year olds identify as something other than heterosexual.

There’s more awareness of gender identity and LGBT relationships, as organisations like Educate & Celebrate work to eradicate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools, and teach others about the diversity of gender identities and sexualities.

They support schools to create Pride Youth Networks, so students and teachers can transform their schools into LGBT-friendly spaces. They also initiate campaigns to increase the visibility and awareness of LGBT identities, such as the Great Rainbow Bake Off – where students and teachers bake cakes celebrating the diversity in their communities.

The organisation works with schools to ensure their policies are inclusive of current legislation related to LGBT and gender equality

If Educate & Celebrate had worked with my school, I might not have felt so different and isolated. They could have helped the teachers and students promote a much more open and inclusive school environment.

I would have learnt that being different isn’t inherently bad, and that the more diverse our communities are, the stronger they are.

However, now I’ve found a label I identify with, I feel more comfortable in myself, and I have a firmer sense of self, like I have a better understanding of why I am the way I am.

It’s inspiring that Educate & Celebrate are working so hard to help students explore their identity, and helping schools become more accepting towards LGBT people like me.

For more information about Educate & Celebrate visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

Jessica Aldridge
Jessica studied creative media production at college and now works for Barnet Council, and also works as a carer for young people with special needs. Jessica is interested in the topics of mental health, disability and LGBT rights, and how these issues affect young people.

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