I led a workshop with a small group of 16/17year olds last week and I was so sad to hear two of them say they were experimenting with different pronouns but didn’t want that information going outside of the group because of how the other kids would treat them.

I am noticing that year on year my students are becoming more and more open and animated when it comes to discussions around sexuality and gender expression but the majority of the kids who feel unaffected by these issues are probably, at best, unaware of how they are not creating safe spaces for others.

Speaking personally, I think growing up in a society that never gave us a choice or another way to think about these two topics has done us so much harm. I was never shown non binary characters on TV for example. I never questioned what it was ‘to be a girl’ until I was in my 30s! I saw sexual attraction as being gay, straight or bisexual but nothing in between and never gave it any thought because ‘luckily’ for me I happened to fit into the ‘socially accepted’ camp. Even though my closest friends were gay and suffered from bullying, I was so wrapped up in my own teenage angst (shamefully) that I never really got involved. One thing positive to say about social media is that it opens up the world to you and can educate you! I was doing all my outside of school learning through whatever BBC TV was throwing at us!

The fact that the generations that I’m now teaching are being given the space to explore and discuss these topics (in my classrooms anyway!), as well as have access to gender diverse role models on TV, in literature and social media, however marginalised those figures are, at least gives me a bit of hope. I’m not blind, I see the kids in class that don’t really get (or refuse to get) the idea that gender is a construct. Or the kids that say all the right things in class but are perfectly capable of being mean to others in the corridors.

My hope is that the more I use inclusive language in all my lessons; the more I provide visible role models for the students and the more modelling and challenging I do to the staff and management at my school on all these issues, the more I can create an inclusive and safe space for everyone. One thing I realise I need to do more of is educate my students on the history of LGBTQ+ folks.

A fundamental solution for me is to help children to manage problems, stress and anxiety in their lives and the more we can help them through their issues, the less hurt they will carry around with them. We all know hurt people hurt people so for me it starts there, which is why I also passionately post about mental health.

Then I think we have to educate ourselves. A good place to start if you’re interested in what we gain as a society by the continued oppression of marginalised groups, then go read or listen to anything by Alok (insta handle @alokvmenon) who explains in a much more eloquent and learned way than I ever could how white patriarchal systems benefit by the vilification or erasure of anyone ‘other’.

Then we have to take action. We can’t all just sit there and say or think that we are inclusive people or that we aren’t __x__phobic and then not do anything to show that.
By lifting up all people in our society we lift ourselves up, so the more privilege we have, the more work we have to do. I’m sure I’ll post more on that in the future!