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If a student tells you they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning (LGBTQ+), this is perfectly normal and not something to feel afraid of. It may have taken them a lot of courage to tell you about their sexual orientation or gender identity, so how you react to their news will be crucial in making the next stage in their life a positive experience.

LGBTQ+? What does that mean?

Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically and / or physically attracted to other women.
Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically, and / or physically attracted to people of the same gender.
Bisexual: A person who is emotionally, romantically and/or physically attracted to people of their own gender and other genders.
Trans: A person whose gender is in some way different to the one they were given when they were born
Questioning: They are not sure and are still exploring
• +: There are lots of other identities (see list.)

Some tips when talking to young people about LGBTQ+

• Don’t panic: they don’t expect you to be an expert
• Say ‘thank you’: the fact that they have trusted you enough to speak to you is a privilege
• Ask what support you can give: listen to what they say, and repeat back to check you’ve understood correctly
• Don’t agree to anything you’re not sure of
• Ask what name and pronoun you should use to address them if they have shared that they are transgender. Check if that’s all the time or in certain circumstances
• Ask if you can share information and with whom
• Arrange a time to meet up again, to check in and see how they are doing
• Check if there’s anything else they want to talk about

Anticipate some confusion

Most youth are sure of their sexual orientation by the time they are mid-teens and the same appears to be true with gender identity. But some young people will be confused and unsure. Often LGBTQ+ youth feel alone, afraid and guilty. You can assist by listening, thus allowing them to release feelings and thoughts that are often in conflict. They have to work through their own feeling and insights; you can’t talk them into, or out of, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Challenge homophobic remarks and jokes.

Speak up when someone makes disparaging remarks about LGBTQ+ people, or thoughtlessly uses anti-gay language, just as you would any other slurs. The use of homophobic language is a hate crime. All misuse of language must be challenged.

Top tips for creating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ young people:

• Tackle homophobia immediately. Take a zero tolerance approach
• Ensure that all staff are familiar with LGBTQ+ definitions so that they are able to provide the appropriate support
• Display positive LGBTQ+ images within settings including books and posters
• Have a movie night and show a Stonewall film followed by a discussion of what the young people have observed in the film
• Ensure all staff do not assume all young people are heterosexual

Getting support for young people

Rainbow Youth offers a place where young people can express themselves in a safe environment.
The group offers;rainbow-youth
• Safe space to be yourself
• Advice
• Fun
• Activities
• Social Events
• One to one support
• Support in coming out to friends, family, work or collegeFor further information email