LGBT History Month 2018

Written by: Adele Bates | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

LGBT History Month in February celebrates difference and acceptance. Adele Bates provides age-appropriate resources and shares some school-wide opportunities to celebrate

When I was at school, you could have lost your job for having this article on the school premises. Section 28 – which stated that local authority organisations “shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” – was firmly in place preventing any kind of support or acknowledgement of LGBT+ pupils, family or staff.

Despite the repeal of this in 2000, the shadow of Section 28 is often still at large in our schools: teachers are apprehensive about topics they know little about, heads can be unconfident about tackling issues directly, staff do not feel safe to be out in school workplaces, and last LGBT History Month a school in the North of England cancelled a visit by a young adult author because she was a trans-woman.

The detrimental effect this has, not just on our LGBT+ young people, but also the attitude and acceptance levels of our staff and pupils is immense. Intolerance and discrimination breed fear and conflict – this affects our young people too. As educators, it is our duty to uphold the Equality Act 2010 and Ofsted’s requirements around homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. What are you actively doing towards this duty?

LGBT History Month helps us focus on what we could be celebrating and improving for the LGBT+ people within our schools and, moreover, it gives schools chance to assess how well they manage difference within the school community.

Best practice is to carry out a school-wide survey for all staff, students and governors. This could be done in-house or you can invite an equality consultant in to produce a thorough, objective report which covers all the protected characteristics from the Equality Act.

In addition, an audit should examine equality of LGBT+ representation in the curriculum, classroom resources, the library, displays, language use in lessons and around the school – is the general assumption that everyone is heterosexual/cis-gender in lessons, the staffroom, at parents’ evenings, at governors’ meetings, at the summer fair etc? Are your LGBT+ polices and systems enough to prevent homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying? How would you know?

Language and key terms

Are both staff and students aware of the following terms? Do they know what is acceptable language in your school? Are all staff fully trained? Are all staff prepared to support pupils? This list could be introduced at the start of the month in staff briefing, and followed up in lessons with pupils.

  • Lesbian – a homosexual woman.
  • Gay – a homosexual woman or man.
  • Bisexual – a person who is attracted to more than one gender.
  • Straight – a person who is attracted to the opposite gender.
  • Transgender – a person whose gender identity does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Cis-gender – a person whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Queer – a term for people who do not identify with traditional categories around gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Pansexual – a person who is not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity.
  • Intersex – a term used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes

One LGBT History Assembly a year does not support students and staff all year round. Through the activities suggested here, it is possible that students disclose that they have LGBT+ friends, family, or may be questioning themselves. It is important that they can do this in an inclusive, safe environment. Create “safe spaces” for pupils to discuss LGBT+ issues, and regularly let the students know that they exist.

Bring in specialists on equality and diversity to hold training, open spaces or assemblies for people to ask questions and contribute their ideas before the events. Ensure this is not just for teaching staff – messages only reach our pupils when it is consistent across the school, and valuable ideas can come from anywhere.

Could the catering staff add a rainbow-themed menu for a week? Is your ICT technician able to share his experience of being a trans man? Be sure to mention your forthcoming celebrations in the school newsletter – parents/carers may be great sources of knowledge, experience and support.

Student perceptions

Staff and student perceptions can be very different. Use circle time, registration or PSHE to discover what your students think or feel about difference and how they negotiate it within their lives. Use it as an opportunity to link to your existing school values and ethics. There are many resources and age-appropriate stories available to spark these kinds of discussions (see below and further information for resources and ideas).

Reading List

Below are just some of the wide choice on children’s books that focus on difference and inclusion. Teachers should read material before sharing with students.

  • No More Kissing! Emma Chichester Clark
  • The Worst Princess Anna Kemp
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance Giles Andrea
  • The Boy With Pink Hair Perez Hilton
  • And Tango Makes Three Peter Parnell
  • Spacegirl Pukes Katy Watson
  • King & King Linda de Haan
  • Bill’s New Frock Anne Fine
  • Two Weeks with the Queen Moriss Gleitzman

Useful activities

  • Read stories that include characters of the children’s age dealing with LGBT+ issues or themes of not being accepted for difference.
  • Ask what does a family look like?
  • Discuss a multitude of differences that may intersect (e.g. a student comes from a country/religion that is homophobic, how do they integrate in your school?).
  • Include an anonymous question box – this helps students to be honest, makes time for all students’ feedback, and gives staff time to ask for support if they are unsure how to tackle a specific answer.

Celebratory activity ideas

There are many positive, fun activities that can be led throughout the month that promote a safe, inclusive environment within your school:

  • LGBT+ themed lessons – there are lots of subject-specific resources to give any lesson a themed twist: in history have you learned about the hundreds of women throughout many wars who have dressed/identified as men in order to fight?
  • Displays – check your existing ones, do they represent all types of people and families?
  • Speakers – invite in specialist LGBT+ awareness speakers to lead activities and assemblies throughout the month.
  • Assemblies – invite staff and pupils to participate in the preparation and delivery.
  • Equality t-shirts day – staff wear t-shirts for one day that promote statements of equality, for example the Stonewall “Some people are Gay, get over it” t-shirts. This sparks a lot of intrigue, questions and discussions among students – all the better if it is on a parents’/open evening.
  • Team pride – get involved in Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, promoting equality in sport for LGBT+ fans and players.
  • Poster/baking competitions – with an LGBT+ flag theme.
  • Library display – select books either by or about LGBT+ people.
  • LGBT+ history challenges – older students, set challenges to find their own LGBT+ role models – both famous and within their daily lives. They could make a Top Trump style card set, a docu-drama interview series or podcast.
  • LGBT+ visitors – invite parents/carers/workers/members of the school community into school to discuss their experience of being LGBT+ and how it affects their lives. Make sure to leave time for Q&As.
  • Make a special LGBT History Month display with the pupils – refer to it in lessons and assemblies.
  • Display information and website links on staffroom displays.
  • Link with local LGBT+ organisations to share information and resources.
  • Make regular events LGBT+ themed – in basketball club introduce Jason Collins, in orchestra play some Tchaikovsky, at gardening club look at Alys Flowers’ gardening design tips. Explicitly share with pupils why these role models are being introduced.

LGBT+ History Month’s future

As society at large changes, we will have to constantly shift our ideas and approaches, particularly around LGBT+ awareness. The best tip I have found is to listen to the students – they usually have a pretty good idea about what we should be doing for them.

  • Adele Bates is an education consultant for schools on equality and diversity, LGBT+ awareness and human rights. She has taught for 16 years in primary and special schools and PRUs, and was a full-time English teacher in secondary schools. Visit www.adelejbates.co.uk

Further information

  • LGBT History Month takes place in February and is organised by Schools Out. For details, including the LGBT History Month Toolkit, visit http://lgbthistorymonth.org.uk/

Resources: School activities

Resources: Assemblies

Resources: Lesson plans


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