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“Nobody hears us” said a 17-year-old trans man about his experiences in school

Today on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia we have released a new policy paper, Don’t look away, jointly with The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) with new survey findings and analysis showing unacceptably high levels of discrimination and harassment in education. The paper is … Continued

Today on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia we have released a new policy paper, Don’t look away, jointly with The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Intersex Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) with new survey findings and analysis showing unacceptably high levels of discrimination and harassment in education. The paper is being launched today at a Global Conference on Promoting the Rights and Inclusion of LGBTI+ Youth in Paris, co-hosted by the Mouvement d’Affirmation des Jeunes Gais, Lesbiennes, Bi & Trans (MAG), Out Right Action International, the Mairie de Paris and the Austrian Government, and attended by Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, as well as three French Ministers, le Drian, Blanquer, and Moreno as well as Wendy Morton, Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas in the United Kingdom.

‘I’m quite angry at the system because everyone says you can be whoever you want, you can be free, you can express yourself at school, said a 19-year-old student.And then if you try to be different, you get backlash. So, it’s not true.

According to an IGLYO survey of more than 17,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex 13- to 24-year olds in Europe, 54% had experienced bullying in school at least once based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics. The survey also showed that 83% of them had at least sometimes witnessed negative comments towards LGBTQI students, and 67% had been the target of those negative comments at least once.

Teachers are critical to help tackle bullying but many lack the confidence and knowledge to intervene. About 58% of LGBTQI students never reported bullying incidents to any school staff and less than 15% reported their experiences of bullying to any school staff systematically. Schools need to ensure that every learner’s gender identity is respected. But less than 1 in 10 trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming respondents in the IGLYO survey reported that their gender identities were always respected in school-related documentation, and 8 in 10 reported problems accessing gendered spaces in line with their gender identities.

Accompanying GEM Report analysis confirms that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics is a global phenomenon. In the United States, 12.5% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported not going to school at least once in the previous 30 days because they felt unsafe at or on their way to and from school, compared with less than 4.6% of heterosexual students. In New Zealand, LGBTI students were three times as likely to be bullied as their peers. In Japan, 68% of LGBT persons aged 10 to 35 experienced violence in school. In seven Latin American countries, LGBTI students could identify at least one supportive teacher or school staff member, but most students had a negative experience of teacher attitudes to sexual orientation and gender expression.

Curricula and learning materials either ignore entirely or misrepresent and pathologize LGBTI identities. Less than 1 in 5 respondents to IGLYO’s education survey reported having been taught positive representations of LGBTQI people in school. A recent review found that nearly half of 47 Council of Europe member states did not address sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or variations of sex characteristics in the curriculum, 7 made it optional and only 19 made it compulsory.

Providing a safe learning environment is a crucial step in achieving inclusion for LGBTI learners. A critical starting point is the commitment 56 countries made in 2016 under the UNESCO-convened Call for Action by Ministers for inclusive and equitable education for all learners in an environment free from discrimination and violence. The paper makes a number of recommendations which echo the Call for Action. If school bullying and other threats against LGBTI students are to be effectively tackled, criminalisation or pathologizing of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and variations of sex characteristics or the denial of equal rights to LGBTI learners must end. The GEM Report and IGLYO also call on governments and schools to roll out the teaching of human rights education and other subjects, including history and social studies, as entry points for including the representation of LGBTI people and their history and experience in the curriculum. These efforts must be complemented by training and empowering teachers to deliver inclusive curricula so they can impart knowledge and address incidents and threats effectively.

These recommendations are critical. If children are being taught that only a certain type of person is accepted, that is going to affect the way they behave towards others.  Schools have to be inclusive if we want society to be inclusive too.

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