Lesbian, gay and bisexual students come from every sort of background, they are of different ethnicities and faiths and each will have their own way of dressing, acting, talking and their own interests. People realise that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual at different stages in their lives. So even if a student seems to have been straight in the past, it doesn't mean they are straight now, or will be straight in the future or that because they are bisexual now, it's just a phase and later on they will be lesbian, gay or straight. College staff should know not to make assumptions about a student’s sexuality, but instead create an environment where students feel able to be open and honest about who they are.
Most people are straight and there is often therefore an assumption that everyone is. This means that students who aren't straight often feel they have to 'come out' - that is, let other people know they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. People come out in lots of different ways. Sometimes they choose to make a statement to everyone or to proactively tell people they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Some choose to simply let people find out what their sexual orientation is as it comes up and others may come out to themselves but decide not to let anyone know at all. It is important that all college staff know how to respond when a student comes out.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual students have the same basic needs as any other student - they want to feel included and supported. However, they can also have specific needs which, if not met, can prevent them from having the same college experience as their peers. The School Report found, for instance, that almost half (47 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual college students feel that there isn't an adult at college who they can talk to about being gay. All lesbian, gay and bisexual students, but especially young people, need positive role models and it’s important they are able to meet other gay people their age. Gay students also often don’t have ask to the information they need to make safe choices, so colleges should take steps to make this information available.
Most importantly gay students should be able to be themselves without fear of homophobic bullying. Students who are taught positively about lesbian and gay issues in the curriculum are more likely to feel part of their college community and to feel that their college is an accepting, tolerant place where they feel welcome.Stonewall's Education Guide on Supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people provides many suggestions and good practice case studies as well as top ten recommendations for school and college staff and anyone working with young people.