Supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people

Adolescence is often the time when young people are exploring their sexuality.  Some young people will begin to recognise themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT).  According to Stonewall’s 2009 research entitled ‘The Teacher’s Report’, “Young people generally realise they are lesbian, gay or bisexual when they are 12 or 13 but many don’t tell anyone until they are 16 or over.”

Because most people are heterosexual, it is assumed everyone is.  However, approximately 3.6 million people in the UK are lesbian, gay or bisexual.  That means that 2 young people in every classroom of 30 are not heterosexual. Young people who are LGBT can feel under pressure to ‘come out’ about their sexuality.  However, some young people have not told others (including their parents) about their sexuality as they are worried how others will react. Young people who are LGBT can feel isolated and alone; some will have experienced homophobic bullying (bullying someone because of their sexuality).  “Homophobic bullying is 3 times more prevalent than bullying due to religion or ethnicity” – source Stonewall’s, The Teachers’ Report.

If you are working with young people, there are things you can do to help a young person ‘coming out’ to their family and friends

  1. Listen and be supportive, respect their confidentiality and offer them reassurance.
  2. Discuss with the young person how their parents and carers might respond.
  3. Ask the young person how they’d like to proceed and whether they would like further information about any groups, or organisations such as Stonewall.
  4. Let them know they can come and talk to you again, or recommend someone else that they can speak to.
  5. If they disclose they are being bullied because of their sexuality, take action to help – homophobic bullying is not tolerated.

If you feel a young person you are supporting would benefit from support; signpost them to their GP, school nurse, mentor or CAMHS worker.

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