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7 tips to support LGBTQ+ adults in educational settings

Here at Bauer Academy, diversity and inclusion is the foundation for everything we do. We value the richness that comes with authenticity and difference. That’s why we want to actively listen to and uplift all those in the LGBTQ+ community and we encourage allies to join our quest. Today we decided to share tips on how to support LGBTQ+ adults in educational settings.

The LGBTQ+ community can face many obstacles in education or training; ranging from the lack of representation to discrimination and hate crime. Often those from the LGBTQ+ community have experienced discrimination in the past, for example at school or University, and as adults, they might find it difficult to join an apprenticeship program. Here are a few examples of how to make educational settings safer and more enjoyable for LGBTQ+ learners and colleagues.

1. Commit to diversity and equality: make sure you have got a clear policy regarding equality and diversity and that it is revised regularly and in partnership with the people it is meant for (engagement can be via surveys or forums). It is also a good idea to let everyone know where to turn to if someone experienced or witnessed a hate crime based on the protected characteristics in the Equality Act. Having a clear anti-discrimination policy is a sign for LGBTQ+ people that the organisation will treat them with respect and can be a deciding factor in choosing a place to work or study.

2. Building on the previous point, it is a good idea to have designated mental health response in the organisation, whether in the form of first-aiders or a confidential support hub. Many LGBTQ+ people suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, so it is important to provide sufficient resources to help them.

3. Actively listen and amplify voices – No one knows more about the struggles of people from the LGBTQ+ community that the people in that community. It is a good idea to involve the people from the community in any processes that may affect them, and to give them a platform to share their views. Often times, things that directly concern LGBTQ+ people are decided without their input by people from outside the community, which should not be the case, even if the intentions behind it were good. Simply put: nothing about us without us.

4. Never discuss anybody’s sexual orientation or gender identity with others – this is paramount to ensuring safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ people. Even if someone confides in you about their status, it doesn’t mean they want to tell it to anyone else. ‘Outing’ people (disclosing their status as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, whether it is true or wrongly perceived) can have serious consequences because there might be factors that we don’t know about, such as an unaccepting family, harassment history etc. Data protection and safeguarding trainings should also include information about outing and this behaviour should be challenged by management. The rule of thumb is this: if it feels like it’s not right for you to discuss or disclose, it probably isn’t.

5. Educate yourself about different forms of discrimination – people with multiple protected characteristics (for example: a gay person from an ethnic minority background) can face multiple forms of discrimination, therefore they might need more specialised support. Direct discrimination means treating people with protected characteristics unfairly or different to others, and it is usually easily spotted. Indirect discrimination is often less noticeable to those who are outside of it, and can include omission, stereotyped words or phrases, asking different questions at interviews or failing to make reasonable adjustments for people with protected characteristics.

6. Language matters – try to educate yourself about the language you use to talk about LGBTQ+ people. Language is constantly evolving as people are finding ways to talk about themselves which better represent who they are. That’s why it is important to use up-to-date terminology and incorporate gender-neutral language. Quite often, well-meaning people simply don’t know how to talk about LGBTQ+ people and are scared of offending someone, so it is good practice to offer specific training on this subject.

7. It’s what you put out there – advertising can reach a wide audience so it is important to include a clear message of inclusivity and diversity in the outside-facing marketing and social media. Representation of LGBTQ+ people in advertising (for example in photos or testimonials) can also help potential learners feel more attracted to the organisation.