Proud2Be Youth Blogger | Kit

- Guest Blogger Proud2Be Youth

Why we started an LGBT+ group in our school

2017 figures suggested that 1 in 25 British young people identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual. The Office for National Statistics described a “statistically significant increase” from previous years, amongst the general population but particularly amongst those aged 16 to 24. Figures regarding transgender youths were more unclear, but most estimates are at around 1% of the general population.

2017 was also the year I was lucky enough to get involved with founding my school’s LGBT group. We met once a week and our aims were fairly simple: provide a safe place for LGBT pupils to discuss their identity, learn about the wider community and meet peers they could relate to. It was largely discussion-based, open to all ages and you could participate as much or as little as you wanted to. Group founder Erin Rabone described it as “a space where people could feel at ease and make connections with other queer people in the school. We knew there were a lot of us, but there wasn’t a way for us to find each other – so we made one!”

Our community may have gained some visibility in recent years, but the experience of being young and LGBT can still be isolating. For example, 45% of LGBT pupils (including 64% of trans pupils) have been bullied for their identity, and just two in five report that their schools teach that transphobic bullying is wrong. This is why I firmly believe that LGBT education has an important place in the school environment. LGBT youths need to know that they’re not alone and that the community is vibrant and accepting for any generation.

This was information that I really needed as a younger teenager, particularly when I discovered I was transgender at about 15. I didn’t know any other trans people and I had no idea how anyone would react, so I kept my identity hidden to all except my close friends. I lacked the confidence to fully come out, but having a supportive circle – however small – helped immensely, because I felt I could really be myself.

When Erin suggested starting the LGBT club, perhaps a year later, I was initially nervous. My identity felt very personal to me, but I was still keen to meet other people in my situation – and I did. The club, which took place in an unused classroom every week, gave me my first opportunity to stand up and confidently say “my name is Kit and I am a boy.” I would argue that this gave me the courage to say the same thing to my family, which I did at 17.

I understand that some schools may have reservations about starting such a group – for example, lack of resources or concerns about attracting bullying. Our group did not require any major resources to function – we were given permission to meet in an unused classroom, which was all we really needed, and an announcement in the daily bulletin. Again, the main aim of our student-led LGBT group was simply to provide a safe space, somewhere for students to learn and discuss their identities without fear of judgement.

Finally, negative reception was a concern we shared – but thankfully, this proved minimal. Instead, people came to us with genuine questions, wanting to learn about our community. Having an LGBT group provided not only a space for LGBT students, but an opportunity for straight and/or cisgender people to learn about the issues we face and present themselves as allies. I strongly believe that education helps to tackle discrimination, and everyone can benefit from learning about LGBT issues. The existence of these spaces within schools can teach LGBT young people that their identities are not taboo and they don’t have to remain hidden.

I asked Erin if they had any advice for someone meaning to start an LGBT group at school. “I think my biggest piece of advice would be to just go for it! It doesn’t have to be perfect at first (…) but the best thing to do, is just to try and see what happens. You’ll be amazed at the impact you can have by a few small actions or the start of a conversation.”

Written by Proud2Be Youth Member Kit Pittaway

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