LGBT+ History Month 2021

In 2020 and 2021, we’ve had the utmost sympathy for the young LGBTQIA+ people, locked down in spaces where their identities are not celebrated. We have lost our social LGBTQIA+ space, which frequently is the only safe space many young people have.

But the pandemic is far from the only challenge young queer people face this year, another arguably being that which stems from the Department for Education (DfE) guidance on the relationships, sex and health curriculum.

One part reads:

Schools should not under any circumstances work with external agencies that take or promote extreme positions or use materials produced by such agencies. Examples of extreme positions include, but are not limited to:

  • promoting non-democratic political systems rather than those based on democracy, whether for political or religious reasons or otherwise
  • teaching that requirements of English civil or criminal law may be disregarded whether for political or religious reasons or otherwise
  • engaging in or encouraging active or persistent harassment or intimidation of individuals in support of their cause
  • promoting divisive or victim narratives that are harmful to British society
  • selecting and presenting information to make unsubstantiated accusations against state institutions

This guidance enabled a group to write to schools and list crucial LGBTQIA+ organisations (including Stonewall, The Proud Trust, and Mermaids) as inappropriate for schools, which is extremely worrying and incorrect. (DfE has agreed to undertake a review of this guidance.)

Furthermore, last year we learnt that government funding for projects tackling bullying of LGBT students in England’s schools, would not be extended. Diversity Role Models‘ report – Pathways to LGBT+ Inclusion: Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in schools today – also made it clear that there is still so much work to be done:

  • only 27% of secondary school students say their school would be safe for LGBT+ individuals to ‘come out’ as LGBT+
  • 42% of year five and six primary school students and 54% of secondary school students report Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) language to be common at their school
  • only one fifth (20%) of secondary school students report learning about LGBT+ identities and HBT bullying at school
  • Parents and carers were less engaged in LGBT+ and HBT issues at school – only one quarter (25%) think that staff would be able to support students who are LGBT+, parents and carers frequently underestimate the prevalence of HBT language and bullying at schools
  • 46% of secondary school students who identify as LGBT+ say that LGBT+ students would not feel safe to come out at school

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has also recently withdrawn its schools LGBT Hate Crime Guidance, following the threat of a judicial review from Safe Schools Alliance, along with its anti-racist and anti-disablist toolkits, at a time when schools are clamouring for resources due to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have decided not to publish their schools trans guidance.

Elsewhere, we’ve also seen unconscious bias training scrapped, the government’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation has devastated LGBT+ groups, and a High Court ruling restricted children under 16 from accessing puberty blockers has put young trans people in great danger. Further, in December the minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss declared that “our fight for fairness” should not be restricted to race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. She said, “We need the equality debate to be led by facts not by fashion.” Victims of homophobia, racism, and religion-inspired bigotry were understandably angered to hear such vital causes described as “fashionable”.

We have a lot to think about in 2021. We fear that many of the rights we now take for granted could be clipped. So, we need to be aware and stand our ground, be visible and make our case, educate out prejudice and celebrate the diversity of our country. LGBT+ History Month gives us that chance. Embrace it. Use the digital world to put on events that make LGBTQIA+ people in all their diversity visible, proud, and safe – and keep an eye on for all that’s going on.

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