June is Pride Month in the UK and around the world and here at the Youth Fairy we are very proud to support and stand up for the rights of all LGBT+ families ,parents, grandparents and young people. We know that we are always stronger, better and prouder together!  And this year marks a very special celebration as Pride in the UK is now 50 Years old!

So, what is Pride Month and why do we have it?

Pride is celebrated in June because that was the month when the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City in 1969. These riots were an important act of protest after continual police brutality occurred against the LGBT+ community at a pub called the Stonewall Inn. The difference was that this time the community fought back, by standing up to the police in protest and riots. The members of the LGBT+ community and their allies organised into activist groups demanding the right to live openly and with equality regarding their sexual orientation as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and other identities without fear of being arrested.

This led to cities around America and the rest of the world from that year on, leading their own protests, by marching in solidarity with the LGBT+ community. The first Pride event in the UK was in London in 1972, where around 2000 participants marched together calling for gay rights. We have come a long way from those early days in establishing equality for the protected identities of LGBT+, and it may seem that Pride isn’t necessary now, but mental health statistics tell us otherwise.

The LGBT+ charity, Stonewall, established here in the UK, published the “School Report- The Experience of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans young people in Britain’s schools” in 2017, with key findings that many found upsetting.

They found that:

  • Nearly half of LGBT pupils (45%) – including 64% of trans pupils – are bullied for being LGBT in Britain’s schools.
  • Half of LGBT pupils hear homophobic slurs ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ at school, down from seven in 10 in 2012
  • Seven in 10 LGBT pupils report that their school says that homophobic and biphobic bullying is wrong, up from half in 2012 and a quarter in 2007. However, just two in five LGBT pupils report that their schools say that transphobic bullying is wrong
  • Just one in five LGBT pupils have been taught about safe sex in relation to same-sex relationships
  • More than four in five trans young people have self-harmed, as have three in five lesbian, gay and bi young people who aren’t trans
  • More than two in five trans young people have attempted to take their own life, and one in five lesbian, gay and bi students who aren’t trans have done the same
  • Just 2 in 5 LGBT young people have an adult at home they can talk to about being LBGT

One young person, George,16, in the study said, “I lost confidence and the power to succeed and get the best qualifications. I left because I was scared, and I didn’t belong in that environment.”

The bullying that was found in the report took many forms and occurred by prevalence in this order: verbal abuse, gossip, being ignored/isolated, intimidating looks, physical abuse, stealing or damaging belongings, death threats, sexual assault and threatened with a weapon. And this was most likely to occur in corridors or around school grounds, but also occurred frequently in the classrooms, during lessons. In most cases school staff and other pupils became bystanders, doing nothing.

5 years on from this report…

We hope that our young people feel safer in schools to be who they want to be, but there may still be work to do. We know that young people are influenced by many things in their lives, first their parents and caregivers, their teachers, their peers, social media, music and television and that educating young people is the job of all of us, so could it be that we may be inadvertently not teaching them about acceptance of LGBT identities?

In primary and secondary schools in the UK now, the RSE (Relationship and Sex Educations) curriculum (DFES, 2019) states that “we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area (RSE) of the curriculum.”

It may still be the case however that the books, historical figures, and role models presented to children are largely heteronormative, in that they present children with a narrow view of what is ‘normal’ in society. Charities like Educate & Celebrate and book publishers like Pop’n’Olly are working hard to address this imbalance.

As a parent, what can you do to help educate your child?

You can do what you feel comfortable with doing –  may be that you find it easy to talk about LGBT identities, but if not, there are books you could read together, television shows you could watch together:

  • If you haven’t seen Heartstopper yet watch this; this heartfelt, lovable LGBT romance between teenagers has taken UK teens by storm, is rated 14.
  • And the books with the same name by Alice Oseman are for young adults age 12-16).
  • If you have younger children, you could check out books like “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” a book about two boy bunnies who want to get married.
  • Discussing things like equality for people who want to marry someone of the same sex can be openly discussed with children as they can often understand that loving families can be different from their own.

Whether you have a child who is displaying LGBT identities within themselves, or not, all people can celebrate Pride. You can join a Pride event and march in a parade. Many Pride events have live music, speeches, and a festival atmosphere. People wave flags, drape flags over their shoulders and join in the celebration of colour, identity and equality, values we all love to instil in our children.

At the Youth Fairy, we don’t discriminate if someone comes to us for support.

With the mental health statistics seen above we know that identifying as LGBT can be incredibly stressful for a young person.

We work with young people and families to lower stress on a weekly basis. It has been acknowledged that a person identifying as LGBT will most likely experience two forms of stress affecting their lives:

  • stress from the environment when external prejudice events are directed towards them (this is known as Distal stressors) and can take the form of homophobic comments, transphobic comments, etc and
  • the internal stress from the thoughts and feelings that are elicited and maintained because of direct and indirect experiences with prejudice (known as Proximal stressors).

In essence the child is feeling the stress of being a minority and turning that within, with which to further judge themselves. This is all happening at a time when a young person is trying to figure out the massive changes that are going on already in their body and mind. Many young LGBT people can easily feel overwhelmed.

Seeking support from one of the Youth Fairies will mean that we understand that stress and can give your young person tools for dealing with stress in a solution focused way, explaining what causes our stress bucket to fill up faster than anything else, and ways to lower that.

We will also work together to learn how the brain works and what we can do to develop lifelong skills in looking after our own mental health. And as we hope that things get better for LGBT people, it is incredibly helpful to develop an understanding of our mental health from this formative age, to ensure a safer future in a changing world where being LGBT is still a minority.

Some schools have started to recognise the importance of mental health support for minorities and are holding LGBT clubs during school hours. If your young person is exploring their gender and are gender diverse GPs are often a good place to turn to especially if your young person is finding it overwhelming. Finally reaching out to an online group or local LGBT group can help as well.  And don’t forget to go to Pride!

  • mindout.org.uk (mental health online support for LGBT communities)
  • mermaidsuk.org.uk (helping gender diverse kids, young people and families)
  • stonewall.org.uk (freephone information and support for LGBT communities)
  • intercomtrust.org.uk (LGBT community support resource covering the South West)
  • switchboard.lgbt (freephone advice, understanding and support for LGBT community)
  • akt.org.uk (LGBT youth homelessness charity working with 16-25 year olds struggling with housing or living in a hostile environment)