Thursday, 20 August, 2015

Did you know that two thirds of LGBT youth suffer homophobic bullying at school and are six times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual young people? These are shocking statistics that the organisation Diversity Role Models are working to change. In his blog Operations Manager Will Knock tells us more about their important work to challenge homophobia right where it starts.

Pupils take part in a workshop with Diversity Role Models

The UK has undoubtedly made huge strides in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) equality. It’s amazing to think that in just under half a century we’ve gone from limited decriminalisation of homosexuality to last year’s first same-sex marriages.

Because of that you might reasonably think that it’s also easy for LGBT people in the UK today. But you’d be mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, life today is certainly better for LGBT people in the UK than it was before. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Many of us encounter discrimination – in one form or another – on an almost daily basis.

Nowhere is this more true than in our schools, where 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people experience homophobic bullying and 96% hear homophobic remarks such as ‘poof’ or ‘lezza’ being used. The consequences for LGB young people are devastating: 23% will try to take their own life at some point and three in five say that it impacts on their school work. (Stonewall, The School Report, 2012). The outcomes for trans* young people are often even worse: 48% attempt to take their own lives and 89% contemplate doing so (PACE, the RaRE Study, 2014)

I’m proud to work for Diversity Role Models, a small charity that aims to change this. Our school workshops feature volunteer role models who help young people understand and be more accepting of difference. We challenge the use of anti-LGBT language and get young people to think about the consequences of what they say, empowering them to take personal responsibility for changing their social environment.

But perhaps even more importantly, we provide LGBT young people with positive role models, everyday people that they can look up to and know that they can live a full and happy life. Like so many of our 270 role models, I know it would have made a world of difference to me, when I was a teenager struggling to understand my sexuality.

Of course it has made a difference for countless LGBT young people who have been reached by our work. It has affirmed their identities, made their school environment more accepting and given them the confidence to be themselves:

‘It was a while ago you guys came to our school. But it’s genuinely helped me so much for being able to come out to my family and friends. Thanks so much and keep doing the amazing work you’re doing! It made all the people around me more accepting too!’

James, Year 10

With the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust we’re creating a new resource for schools that will support even more young people like James. By highlighting the persecution of LGBT people by the Nazis, it provides a way for young people to understand the past and think about the ways that LGBT people continue to be persecuted today.

Diversity Role Models' vision is a world where all children and young people can live, learn, grow and play safely, regardless of issues relating to gender and sexuality. Find out more about how you can get involved with their important work.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2016 is Don’t stand by. We’ll be launching our free resources, including our resource in partnership with Diversity Role Models, in early September. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear.

The HMDT blog invites guest contributors including academics, journalists and witnesses to provide personal perspectives on instances of discrimination, persecution and genocide. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HMDT.

* Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum