Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not in itself a problem, or a risk, for young people. Young people experience problems when other people (teachers, doctors, parents and family, friends, youth workers, faith leaders and other young people) respond negatively to the fact that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Read the Education Guide Supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people grow up in all sorts of families and come from all sorts of backgrounds. People realise that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual at different stages in their lives. So even if a young person seems to have been heterosexual in the past, it doesn't mean they are heterosexual now. Similarly, one shouldn't assume that a young person who identifies as bisexual is just in a phase and will later on be lesbian, gay or heterosexual.
Most people are heterosexual and there is often therefore an assumption that everyone is. This means that young people who aren't heterosexual 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 school staff know how to respond when a young person comes out.
Read our short guide 'So...you think your child is gay?' to find out more about what to do if a child comes out.
'If someone comes out, the teacher should say that it's fine. Maybe they could say that lots of people are gay, lesbian or bisexual and that it doesn't make any difference. The teacher definitely shouldn't say this could just be a phase. They should ask how the student feels about it and maybe ask 'do you have any questions.' Stonewall Youth Volunteer
Gay young people have the same needs as any other young person - they want to feel included and supported. However four in five gay young people do not have access in school to resources that can help them. Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people also need positive role models and it is important they are able to meet other gay young people their age. They should be able to be themselves without fear of homophobic bullying. When gay young people are being taught positively about lesbian and gay issues in the curriculum they are 60 per cent more likely to be happy at school.
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 staff and anyone working with young people.