From September 2020, sexual orientation and gender identity will be a required part of the curriculum for all secondary schools in the UK, with all primary schools being taught about different families, which include LGBT families.
This is tremendous progress, seeing that just over 30 years ago, promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as an accepted family relationship was part of the law under Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Openness about sexual fluidity is one of the traits of Generation Z that make them drastically different from any other generation, and as a Further Education college that serves over 3,000 students of this age at any time, our teaching and support staff must be equipped to deliver high-quality LGBT-inclusive teaching and support across the board. This support is essential for both students and staff at MK College, with almost half of LGBTQ+ students hiding their identity for fear of discrimination, and more than 35% of LGBT staff hiding that they are LGBT at work for the same reason.
With This Morning presenter Philip Schofield taking to social media to publicly come out as gay at age 57, you can’t help but wonder whether the fear of it having an impact on his career was a contributing factor to keeping it under wraps for such a long time. It is good that he feels he is now able to share openly and that society, generally, is becoming more receptive to different choices. We all have a part to play in continuing this development of openness and understanding.
As well as being an equal opportunities employer, every staff member at MK College is required to complete mandatory Equality & Diversity training, covering appropriate terminology and how to report abuse or discrimination in the workplace.
Tash Darling, from Q:Alliance also offers additional training which has been undertaken by over 50 members of staff, which covers awareness of pronouns and appropriate terms and language. It also brings to light what it’s like to be a transgender young person in Milton Keynes today, as well as an understanding of what it’s like to be LGBT and transgender issues. The staff are then signposted and are prepared to advise students and staff.
MK College and Q:Alliance also hosts a weekly group for 18-25-year-olds in the LGBT community in the evening, where people can come and socialise, build their support network and generally relax. For further information about this group, please contact Q:Alliance.
“We have a lot of people who just want to be in a safe space and be who they are”, said Tash. “For transgender young people and those exploring, it’s very easy to be misunderstood and misgendered by what they look like, and they just want to be themselves in a safe space”.
Research shows that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for negative health outcomes and are consistently more likely to self-harm, attempt suicide, leave education prematurely, experience homelessness and use illegal drugs, compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
Q:Alliance also runs a lunchtime session once a week at MK College, where they can offer advice and guidance on sexual health and help create links for further support services to both students and staff.
LGBT Month is the perfect time to think about how inclusive your business or company is to the LGBTQ+ community. It can be daunting to know where to start but just by taking action, you will be making a difference. There are lots of information and resources online to support organisations taking their first steps in the area. The Stonewall website has best practice, toolkits, and resources so that you can take those steps confidently.
MK College also supported Pride:MK in 2019 and is looking forward to continuing that support at the much anticipated 2020 event.
You can find out more about getting support or how to refer someone for support here.