Numerous young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have difficult experiences when they reveal their sexual orientation or identity, but there is support available.
Offering support to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender youth groups, clubs and many different organisations in their efforts to help parents and families understand, accept and support their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.
Useful definitions (Taken from GLAAD)
Bisexual – physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women.
Coming out – people forge a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then may reveal it to others. Publicly identifying one’s orientation may or may not be part of coming out.
Gay - used to refer to a male or female whose sexual orientation is attraction to persons of the same sex and/or gender.
Lesbian - a woman whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other women.
Heterosexual – used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also known as straight.
Homophobia - used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people.
Homosexual - outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people.
Transgender - term for people whose gender identity differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transsexual - appearing as, wishing to be considered as, or having undergone surgery to become a member of the opposite sex.
It is vitally important that children get support and have opportunities to discuss issues in what can be a difficult time in their life - understanding and supportive parents/carers, and other family members as well as additional peers, groups, etc. is critical. Despite some of the potential challenges, it is important to remember that for many young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people it can also be a very exciting stage in their lives.
Many children and young people will generally know that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or question their sexuality or gender identity from a young age. A large number don’t tell anyone until they are older – this is mainly because they are scared and worried about others' perceptions of LGBT people. This gap between initial questioning of their identity and starting to accept it can leave a window of time when young people can suffer with lower self esteem, depression, isolation, etc.
Changes in legislation over recent years has ensured that in many areas of life (such as education, health, the workplace, sport and many other day to day activities) gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people should enjoy and can demand the same rights as everybody else. Despite the new laws, many people still hold grudges against anyone who is perceived as different and demonstrate discriminatory attitudes or behaviours.
The changes to the law mean that groups have a responsibility to provide services and support all children and young people – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
There are things that you can do to help make sure LGBT children and young people feel included and valued in the group as well as identifying and challenging homophobic bullying.
Providing support for LGBT children and young people
LGBT-specific services aim to improve outcomes for LGBT young people and ensure that they receive the same entitlements and quality of service as any other service user in a ‘safe’ environment.
All settings should aim to provide an environment where LGBT young people are free to just be themselves and to experience acceptance from adults and other young people.
Providing accessible and welcoming information for LGBT young people embraces diversity and creates an environment where everyone should feel valued and LGBT young people have their needs fully taken into account without encountering prejudice or homophobia.
“I got bullied today at youthie but I cant disclose to anyone as this will involve me having to come out as no-one knows I’m gay” Boy 15, Youth Club
Good practice for working
with LGBT young people
Many groups already work with a wide range of children and young people from different backgrounds and with different needs. Ensuring that their services more effectively meet the needs of LGBT young people is another element of this.
Considering and implementing the issues listed below will help your group work towards best practice and allow LGBT young people to feel safe and supported in and by the services they use:
- the organisation treats everyone with respect and fully implements equal opportunities and tackles homophobia in the same way as racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination
- anti-bullying policies take into account LGBT issues and are visible within the group setting
- the images the organisation presents and displays reflect LGBT diversity
- practices are open and inclusive and do not automatically assume that everyone is heterosexual
- mainstream services are available to everyone
- positive action is taken to attract a representative group of young people to attend
- the service undertakes sensitive monitoring of sexuality
- staff have LGBT awareness training and understand the needs and vulnerabilities that LGBT young people have
- staff teams reflect the diversity in the community in terms of sexuality as well as race, gender, religion, ability, age, etc
- there is knowledge within the organisation about the range of LGBT facilities and resources available – both nationally and in the local community.
Helping parents and carers
Children and young people who are LGBT are more likely to be happy and positive about their sexual orientation or identity if their parents or carers are there to support and understand their situation.
Not every LGBT young person will want their parents to know about their sexual orientation or identity and this will need to be managed carefully.
When a young person begins to question their identity or comes out, it can sometimes be a difficult time for parents / carers and other family members. It is important to try and offer them support and signpost them onto other groups as and when required.
Most parents are only concerned for the child’s wellbeing and would find it difficult to think about their children being bullied about their sexual orientation or identity. Parents may be worried what impact this bullying will have on their child and their future life.
Some parents struggle with the issues raised either due their own beliefs / values or ignorance and it is important to try and maintain a balanced position when discussing the topic with them. Providing them with advice or information can be helpful.
Where LGBT young people experience a difficult relationship with their parents as a result of coming out, other adults or agencies that will offer support and listen to your needs could include:
Other professionals can play a vital role in providing key support and information.
Useful links and downloads
Download: LGBT youth north west - Think Tea (Trans Education and Action) PDF
Guidance written by trans young people.
The Guardian article: Goodbye Katie, hello Ben
Article written by a father of a teenage daughter who changes her gender identity.
Church of England guidance for tackling homophobic bullying in schools
BBC Trending video clip: Meet my transgender kid
Video clip focused on how some parents of transgender children use social media to share their experience and 'out' their children.
Further support organisations
Broken Rainbow UK - Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
EACH (Educational Action Challenging Homophobia) - Set up to challenge homophobia. Offers training and consultancy, and runs an action line for people to report incidents of homophobic bullying.
FFLAG (Friends and Families of Lesbian and Gays) - Charity established to support the friends and families of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual.
Gendered Intelligence (GI) - Community interest company that looks to engage people in debates about gender. Working predominantly within young people's settings and have educative aims.
LGBT Consortium - Consortium of LGBT groups and charities.
Queer Youth Network - National LGBT youth organisation in the UK.
Stonewall - Working for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
Mermaids - Support group for gender variant children and teenagers and their families.
Press for Change - Organisation that campaigns and provides legal support for trans people in the UK.
Schools Out - Making schools safe and inclusive for everyone.
Inclusion For All (IFA) - Making children's lives free from homophobic bullying and language.