The General Teaching Council for Scotland

12 Jun 2018

SpeakOUT! - Challenging LGBT+ phobic language in your school

We are asking you to consider how the language used in schools and the classroom can impact on the LGBT+ members of the school community.

We have gathered together resources that will be useful in prompting discussions with pupils around LGBT topics, particularly where connected to both direct and conversational/ passive homo-, bi- and transphobia, which can make LGBT+ pupils and colleagues feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their school.

The Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People research conducted in 2017 by LGBT Youth Scotland found that 71% of LGBT young people and 82% of transgender young people experienced homophobic, biphobic and/or transphobic bullying. Additionally, 9% of LGBT young people and 27% of transgender young people left education as result of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the learning environment.

This research also found that LGBT young people are less likely today than they were six years ago to report bullying at school with only 25% being confident to report bullying as opposed to 44% in 2012.
Perhaps most worryingly, half of LGBT young people and 63% of transgender young people experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviours and 43% of LGBT young people and 59% of transgender young people said that they self-harmed.

According to research by Stonewall seven in ten primary school teachers and nine in ten secondary school teachers hear homophobic language in school and 86% of LGBT young people report hearing phrases like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘you’re so gay’ in school.

You may feel uncomfortable about challenging this language when you hear it, but failing to do so can lead to an atmosphere where the whole school community can be negatively affected.

Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewall: “It’s not surprising that in schools where LGBT pupils see their lives and identities reflected in what they learn, those pupils are less likely to be bullied for being LGBT and more likely to feel part of their school community”.

If homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language goes unchallenged, it can lead to an atmosphere where direct bullying is seen as more acceptable by pupils, and where the self-esteem of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender young people is damaged. This also has a negative effect on pupils who may have relatives or role models in their lives who identify as LGBT+.

95% of LGBT respondents to a survey by the Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) campaign reported that bullying had a long lasting negative impact on their lives. They also found that 79% of teachers believe that LGBT inclusive education should be a legislative requirement for schools (Attitudes Towards LGBT In Scottish Education (2016).

Professional Values

The GTCS Professional Values and how they link to this subject,

Social Justice: Valuing as well as respecting social, cultural and ecological diversity and promoting the principles and practices of local and global citizenship for all learners.

Integrity: Critically examining the connections between personal and professional attitudes and beliefs, values and practices to effect improvement and, when appropriate, bring about transformative change in practice.

Trust & Respect: Acting and Behaving in ways that develop a culture of trust and respect. Providing and ensuring a safe and secure environment for all learners within a caring and compassionate ethos and with an understanding of wellbeing.

How to add positive language to your lessons - Resources

There is a lot of support available for schools and teachers wishing to improve the inclusion of LGBT voices and identities in your curriculum.


LGBT Youth Scotland has a number of resources linked to commemorative days and LGBT History Month available for free here.

They also have guidance documents on:
• Creating an LGBT inclusive curriculum – examples of best practice and ideas for how to include LGBT voices and identities all linked to Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and Outcomes
• Supporting Transgender Young People – this comprehensive guidance was written with the Scottish Trans Alliance and is endorsed by the Scottish Government, 17 local authorities and numerous LGBT and children’s rights organisations.
• Addressing Inclusion: effectively challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. This is directly linked to ‘Respect for All: the National Approach to Ant-Bullying’ and is endorsed by the Scottish Government.
• Setting up gender and sexual orientation alliances (GSAs) in schools – guidance for schools and teachers in Scotland on how best to include an group for LGBT young people and their friends.

These three documents, and more, can be found here.

Schools OUT UK

Schools OUT UK, The LGBT Education Charity, recommends two specific types of teaching methods that will help teachers to make a positive difference to the acceptance of LGBT identities: “Usualising” and “Actualising”.

Usualising involves referencing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans identities without inviting further comment, while Actualising involves discussion and examination of a subject related to LGBT lives. The LGBT History Month website offers some examples of how this could be done  as does the Time for Inclusive Education’s LGBT Inclusion: The Teacher’s Guide.

TIE: Time for Inclusive Education

LGBT Inclusion: The Teacher’s Guide

Stonewall Resources

Creating an LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum

Tackling homophobic language - pupils guide

The Classroom Resources

Lessons and Resources