I remember… walking into assembly, feeling that sharp intake of breath as I looked around, stunned at the sea of purple and sea of rainbows – in hair, dresses, t-shirts, wrist-bands, badges. The emotion welled within me, and the tears, they were hard to contain.
It’s IDAHOBIT day, a day we take a stand against any teasing, bullying, and harassment of LGBTQIA+ students and staff, or those perceived to be LGBTQIA+.
It’s especially crucial that we take a stand given the political and social contexts in Australia that have been so incredibly stressful and distressing for many LGBTQIA+ people and their families.
Here’s what we’ve been dealing/living with on the political front:
- Anti-trans rhetoric being regularly dispensed (and amplified) with a knowing smile by members of Australia’s Liberal/National party;
- Anti-trans bills proposed nationally, and in NSW by Liberal/National governments;
- The Religious Discrimination Bill (aka the Freedom to Discriminate or Religious Bigotry Bill) whose proponents aimed to further expand discrimination against LGBTQIA+ communities and many other communities across Australia;
- In the USA, there’s the Don’t Say Gay Bills to stop teachers talking about sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. Plus, anti-trans bills that seek to prosecute parents for supporting their trans or gender diverse children. And possibly to come, the wind back of same-sex marriage via the Supreme Court.
As a consequence of all this bigotry in Australia (and globally via social media) calls to LGBTQIA+ Helplines are up across Australia. There’s also anecdotal reports of increased bullying of trans and gender diverse students in schools.
So challenging homophobia, biphobia, interphobia, and transphobia in respect to abuse and harassment IS CRUCIAL. But another INSIDEOUS ELEMENT OF homophobia, biphobia, interphobia, and transphobia IS SILENCE AND ERASURE.
- The AIDS mantra from the 1980’s was:
SILENCE = Death
- And if not death, then there are a range of mental health issues for LGBTQIA+ people.
So, it’s essential that we – as teachers – support the visibility of LGBTQIA+ students and staff.
Key questions relating to the (in)visibility of LGBTQIA+ students
- Do our LGBTQIA+ students feel comfortable being themselves at school?
- Do they feel like they can openly speak – about who they are – to staff and receive support?
- Do they feel included and welcomed – as they are – at school – and in their classrooms?
- Can they find books with LGBTQIA+ people like themselves in the library, and in their classrooms?
- Do they see other LBTQIA+ people like themselves in curriculum content and materials?
- What about at our assemblies and at cultural events like Harmony Day?
- Are LGBTQIA+ people included or represented?
- Do they hear you (their teachers) and their peers positively acknowledging and discussing a range of gender and sexual identities in class?
- Do they see LGBTQIA+ adults – at school – who can be themselves?
What Australian Research Shows
Dr. Adam Bourne (Florance and Hermant, 2021), speaking about Writing Themselves In (Hill et al 2021) a 2019 national Australian survey of 6418 LGBTQA+ young people (14-21 years of age) said that:
- “..having people who understand you and are willing to affirm you for who you are is really remarkable and amazing.”
- Young LGBTQA+ people “…wanted acceptance by their peers and families, freedom to affirm and express their identities, and feelings of safety.”
Stand Up for Us | Stand With Us
Utter our identities – speak our identities and experiences – into existence.
Challenge that deafening, destructive silence that often surrounds us in schools.
Be the staff member that our LGBTQIA+ students remember:
- because you show them that it’s okay to be themselves;
- and that they’re okay as they are.
And always let young people know about support helplines:
- Kids Helpline (in Australia): 1800 55 1800.
- Further support links here – https://pushingtheedge.org/glbti/
Writing Themselves In (Hill et al, 2019) Research Data
- 60% of LGBTQIA+ youth felt unsafe or uncomfortable at school due to their sexuality or gender identity;
- 65% felt supported by teachers after disclosing their gender or sexual identity;
- 81% reported high levels of psychological stress;
- Young LGBTQIA+ people are more supported with their identities than previous generations.
- However, this isn’t the case in rural areas.
- And it is isn’t always the case for students from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Further Listening and Reading
Listen to Rodney Croome speak about the Religious Discrimination Bill on my podcast, Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran:
Florance, L., and Hermant, N., (2021), Coming out is getting easier for LGBTQA+ youth, but not for everyone. Online at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-03/life-getting-better-for-some-lgbtqa-youth-but-still-far-to-go/13109574.
Hill, A.O., Lyons, A., Jones, J., McGowan, I., Carman, M, Parsons, M., Power, J., Bourne, A., (2021), Writing Themselves In 4: The Health and Wellbeing of LGBTQA+ Young People in Australia, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Latrobe University, Victoria Australia. Online at: https://www.lgbtiqhealth.org.au/writing_themselves_in_4_national_report.