Many governments fail to see the need to give specific attention to sexual diversity in education. Some may deny human rights to DESPOGI (Disadvantaged because of their Expression of Sexual Preference Or Gender Identity), or argue that DESPOGI young people are often not yet aware of their feelings or are not supposed to engage in sexual relationships yet. Or, in other cases, they deem discussing same-sex relationships too "controversial".
One prejudice about dealing with sexual diversity is that it is not appropriate to discuss same-sex sexuality in schools. It may be useful to clarify to authorities that discrimination of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools commonly does not contain graphic information or discussion about sexual acts. It focuses more on stereotyped images and prejudices about gender and relationships and with processes of social exclusion and bullying that are endemic in adolescence and in school institutions, and which are hurtful to everyone
Homophobic language is commonplace in many schools and in many countries the term "gay" is used by students (in both primary and secondary school settings) as an insult. For example, a UK study reported that 95% of secondary school teachers and three-quarters of primary school teachers had heard the phrases "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" used in this way. The same study also reported that 90% of secondary teachers and more than 40% of primary school teachers described homophobic bullying, name- calling or harassment in their schools, irrespective of their sexual orientation, and secondary school teachers identified homophobic bullying as the second most frequent form of bullying (after abuse relating to weight).
In a US study, 57% of respondents reported that homo-phobic comments were made by school staff. In another study, a third of gay and lesbian respondents reported harassment via text messaging or the internet. For some, experience of bullying is exacerbated by rejection from family members.
Since 1998, Education International works for the rights of its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members. It is now working with its partners and member organizations on formulating recommendations and policies on the subject. In 1998, the EI World Congress passed a resolution on the "Protection of the rights of lesbian and gay education personnel". The resolution required the application and evaluation of GLBT rights among member organizations. Within the context of its policy on Equality, the Committee on Equality within the EI Pan European Structure put the defense of LGBT rights on its agenda since 2001. Since 2004, EI and the Public Services International (PSI) set up a EI-PSI LGBT Forum (made up of representatives from affiliates of the two organizations), which serves as consultative body to the Executive Boards of both EI and PSI.
Experiences of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) youth at school:
Language plays a key role in inclusive education.
School experiences for GLBT young people can be negative.
Homophobia may be prevalent in schools but is not always visible.
We need to teach students about respecting and celebrating diversity.
There are various staff concerns about discussing same sex attraction.
Silence or failure to respond to homophobia sends the message that same sex attraction is not okay.
Homophobia has a huge impact on the achievement and connectedness GLBT young people have to their school and their education.
What can be done in schools to cater for sexual diversity?
Consider what is age and developmentally appropriate for students to learn about in relation to sexual diversity.
Provide examples that are gender and sexually diverse when representing families and significant relationships.
Respond to discrimination and harassment based on sexual diversity as effectively as you would acts of racism or sexism.
Ensure that students have access to accurate and developmentally appropriate books and other resources on sexuality and gender diversity issues.
Check existing resources for validity and bias; for example, gay, lesbian or bisexual people may be either invisible or depicted as unhealthy or deviant.
Within the classroom in teaching and learning activities:
Do not tolerate discriminatory language
Avoid using stereotypical scenarios/roles
Challenge stereotypical attitudes and assumptions
Develop a suitable vocabulary to express sexual feelings
Use a range of scenarios not just heterosexual characters
Clearly distinguish between sexual orientation, sexual identity and sexual behaviour in any policy or curriculum materials to help ensure that sexual diversity is acknowledged.
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