Voices of inclusion: talking LGBT+ issues

April 16, 2024

Photo by Tim Samuel at Pexels

Alessia Georgiou and her friends explore perspectives and initiatives for LGBT+ inclusion

As I gather with my friends, we’re joined by Jamie (they/them), an expert on trans issues, to explore a range of LGBT+ topics. Jamie generously shares their insights as we inquire and discuss LGBT+ equality in schools, the importance of LGBT+ history, religion’s impact on acceptance, and the significance of gender-neutral pronouns and neopronouns.

Guided by Jamie’s expertise, we reflect on our experiences and seek strategies for promoting inclusivity. Through our dialogue, Jamie encourages thoughtful reflection, broadening our perspectives. Together, we commit to advocating for positive change and encouraging a more inclusive society.

Here are some highlights:

Kirsty (she/her): LGBT equality was naturally ingrained in my school’s culture, but I realise that most schools don’t do enough to promote inclusion. Why do you think the attitudes differ so much between schools?

Jamie: I think it comes down to both the leadership of the school and the current staff themselves. If you’ve got a body of teachers that aren’t comfortable exploring LGBT issues, then it kind of stops there. Who do you get to teach those lessons? Who’ll speak up when ‘gay’ gets thrown around the classroom like an insult, rather than an identity?

I think we all wish everyone had an inclusive upbringing, but if you haven’t and your school culture isn’t supporting those open conversations, who’s going to teach teen girls and rowdy schoolboys – or anyone else – that those attitudes are not appropriate?

Alessia (she/her): I feel like schools focus more on sexual orientation when talking about LGBT equality, and we don’t learn as much about gender identity. Why do you think that is?

Jamie: I don’t think teachers always feel as comfortable or safe talking about trans identities as it’s not as well-known as gay and lesbian identities in society generally. There also isn’t clear guidance from the Government on how best to support trans students.

The Department for Education has released draft guidance for schools on ‘gender questioning children’, but teachers’ unions have argued the guidance is vague and highlighted a lack of support from the Government in implementing it.

There are also the valid concerns of many teachers, who may feel pressured to ‘out’ trans students to their families, while also having a separate legal duty to keep closeted trans students safe from harm.

Alessia: To what extent do you think younger children should be learning about LGBT topics?

Jamie: I think a lot of kids know at a young age that they feel different, even if they don’t have the language to explain how they feel. It can be really confusing and isolating.

If we teach kids about LGBT identities, it means they can reach out for support if they need it. If we create a supportive environment, children will feel more able to explore their identity.  That can only happen if we hear from a young age that being LGBT isn’t wrong.

Kirsty: I’d like to learn more about LGBT history and the equal rights movement. We do learn about some LGBT figures, but it’s not embedded into the curriculum.

Jamie: I actually ran a project focused on trans people, about the history of trans rights and how the language to describe gender has evolved. But I agree, at school you might learn about LGBT historical figures or literature characters, but in isolation.

Kirsty: I feel they’re treated like anomalies compared to the people in ‘normal’ society at the time. They’re not seen as part of an actual group in society, they’re treated as outliers.

Jamie: Absolutely! Queer history teaches us that trans people have always existed, gay and lesbian people have always existed. There have always been people outside the norm, but we haven’t been writing about them as a kind of unified group within society, I think.

Williette (she/her): What role do you think religion should play in acceptance or rejection of LGBT people?

Jamie: I think someone’s faith doesn’t have to prevent them being respectful of the LGBT community. People can choose what aspects of their faith to follow, or which parts of their holy book apply to their daily lives. I don’t think any religion is inherently homophobic or transphobic. If people use their faith as an explanation for their discrimination, then they’re making a conscious choice to do that based on their own prejudices.

Most religions are built on the concept of treating people how you’d want to be treated, which I think should apply to everyone.

Williette: What could allies do to help normalise the use of gender-neutral pronouns and neopronouns?

Jamie: Personally, I would really appreciate it if it became more normal for everyone to specify their pronouns, whatever they are. If I go into a meeting and introduce myself, and I’m the only person that says, ‘I’m Jamie, my pronouns are they/them’, it kind of makes me stand out and attracts unwanted attention.

Additionally, every time I specify my pronouns I’m opening myself up to potential discrimination or transphobic abuse. It’s a difficult choice to make, whether to volunteer this very personal information – and risk my safety – in order for my identity and boundaries to be respected.

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We leave the discussion feeling empowered and inspired to advocate for positive change in our schools, communities, and society at large. With Jamie’s guidance, we are more equipped than ever to challenge discrimination, promote equality, and create a more welcoming and accepting world for everyone.

For more support, you can contact Mosaic Trust, who support, educate and inspire London’s LGBT young people, or Proud North London, who run LGBT youth groups for residents of Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest. In addition, akt support young LGBT people aged 16-25 who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or living in hostile environments.

Alessia is studying A-level English literature, sociology and psychology. She has an interest in creative and informational writing, debates, discussing societal topics and travel. She loves to express these through producing articles for Exposure.

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