Tackling LGBT+ Bullying

Earlier this year the opportunity arose for me to apply to work with an organisation of whom I’ve long been an admirer and supporter. A chance that as an ardent trade unionist, equalities activist and education professional I couldn’t pass up. Having long been aware of the Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) campaign to stand up to, challenge and eradicate racism; initially from the football terraces and more importantly from all society, I have keenly supported and advocated the campaign.

Although there is still a huge amount of work to do in terms of combatting racism in our society, it seems that in the modern era, the message of anti-racism is gaining ground on those who would foster hatred and bigotry over acceptance and equality. Zero-tolerance approaches in public arenas, areas and places where people come together have helped and continue to help eradicate the scourge of racism, racist attitudes and behaviours. So, you may ask yourself what can I add to this organisation?

Almost ten years ago the then Northern Rock Foundation approached SRtRC to develop some training materials and information to challenge homophobia. SRtRC developed our ‘Homophobia: Let’s Tackle It’ resource (education pack and DVD). Ground-breaking at the time, this excellent resource was developed with the aid and support of trade unions, some famous faces and trail-blazing young people who shared their stories and experiences candidly and openly.

Some years later (2015-2016) SRtRC had another opportunity to develop some further work on behalf of the Department for Education and the Government Equalities Office. This work began to look at resources and educational materials in relation to a ‘now’ broader area to that of the original pack, with this programme now considering homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying.

There were events held at football stadiums (20 across 4 of the football leagues), these sessions consisted of education workshops and panel Q and As. There were both male and female current professional players on the panels (33 in all participated across the 20 events), the sessions were also supported by ex-professionals and coaches and other experts from the LGBT+ Community. Through these sessions, delivered between September 2015 & March 2016, the pilot project engaged with 1,450 young people.

In addition to these events, there were 4 teacher training conferences which were attended by close to 200 teachers, the key findings from the external evaluation of the pilot project highlighted that:

·         Virtually all teachers agreed or strongly agreed that they had gained strategies to deal with homophobic or biphobic bullying following the event(93% post event compared to 24% pre-event) – a near fourfold increase

·         84% of teachers post event agreed or strongly agreed that they had gained strategies to deal with transphobic bullying, this increase is from a much lower baseline of 12% pre-event – an eightfold increase

·         97% of teachers who attended the event teachers provided a rating of the overall event as at least good, with 73% providing a rating of very good and 24% providing a rating of good.

Commentary from those teachers attending supported the effectiveness of the events:

“Excellent training with facilitators who clearly knew what they were talking about.”

“Gained greater knowledge to share with colleagues to ensure we deal with issues correctly.”

“I feel empowered to challenge language and opinions of both students and peers, introducing new terminology I have learned. I have also been able to suggest practical solutions to problems faced by students based on the experiences shared by others at the event.”

The pilot project also had provision to provide almost 600 schools with the ‘Homophobia: Let’s Tackle It’ resource. Unfortunately, upon completion of the project, further funding was not available to take the work forward. As a charitable organisation, SRtRC’s projects all need funding, some of it coming from Local Authorities and from the Trade Union movement. Recognising the importance of this work and how successful the pilot programme had been, SRtRC decided to invest a limited amount of money and recruited me to further develop the work and partnerships to fund the work.

I was offered the opportunity to get involved with SRtRC earlier this year to build upon the foundations that the previous two major pieces of work had achieved. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are areas of equality that are increasingly being reported on by main-stream media channels, which have helped to raise the profile of the issues and experiences of people who form part of these communities. Research has recently illustrated that this type of bullying behaviour is increasing and can (and does) lead to more serious instances of hate crimes being committed. Research completed by Stonewall in 2014 highlighted that 86% of teachers in secondary schools and 45% of teachers in primary schools said that pupils in their school, regardless of sexual orientation, have experienced homophobic bullying.

Furthermore, there are also statistics that show that around 60% of trans-people who are in employment have suffered discrimination or bullying in the workplace. Younger trans-people are more likely to become withdrawn, isolated and are exposed to a higher risk of mental health illnesses, self-harm and even suicide, often as a direct result of suffering bullying related to their gender identity. The Stonewall survey ‘The School Report’ (June 2017), on school/college age children found that 84% of young trans people self-harm, 45% have attempted to take their own lives, and 9% have received death threats.

Research also illustrates that there persists a wide public mis-understanding of what some of the key issues are for LGBT+ people and young LGBT+ people especially. HBT bullying is finding itself increasingly in the media spotlight and with proposals for change being considered in relation to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (in the form of the Gender Recognition Bill 2017) this attention is set to grow. Indeed, we are already witnessing increased instances of online bullying, harassment and hate speech, meaning that there are increasingly more and more people exposed to and affected by HBT bullying, in short, this work is needed, and it is needed now.

The work that I have been asked to undertake, looks to address some of these concerns and actively tackle through educational activity the issues of HBT Bullying and the impact that these behaviours can have. So far, I’ve been able to run a small number of workshops in schools, workplaces and at some trade union branch meetings. The sessions are currently being run on a full cost basis while the search for longer term funding continues.

The aim of the project overall, is to make sure that people understand what homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is, know how to recognise it, know how to tackle it, how to report it and how to stop it escalating into hate crime. The HBT Bullying project links very closely to SRtRC’s Hate Crime project, both aiming to raise awareness of incidents and hopefully through education see a reduction over time in instances of HBT bullying and hate crimes. These messages can be delivered through workshops for both young people in schools, teacher training and staff training in workplaces.

As I’ve noted earlier, any delivery undertaken by the project currently is at full cost. To make this valuable training as accessible to as many as possible, it is essential that longer term funding is found.

If you, or your organisation, like SRtRC, recognise that this important work needs to be as wide reaching as possible and you would be interested in funding part of this project or indeed are interested in accessing some of the training that we can deliver to you and your teams, then please do get in touch with me.

For more information please contact me on:

E: natalie@theredcard.org

T: 07824 546 287

Thank you,

Natalie

Natalie Roberts

Tackling LGBT+ Bullying Project Co-ordinator

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