Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have the same needs as all other teenagers and they'll enjoy, achieve and stay healthy and safe if they:
Gay young people tell us that the information they receive in schools and from health professionals is often not inclusive of their experiences and therefore doesn't feel relevant to them. As a health professional you can play an important role in supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people.
Stonewall's 2007 research, The School Report, found that almost two thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have experienced homophobic bullying. Seven out of ten young people who have experienced homophobic bullying state that this impacts on their school work and half have skipped school because of it. Bullying ranges from verbal abuse and being isolated to death threats and sexual assault and can impact on pupils self-esteem and attainment. However, if schools respond to homophobic bullying when it occurs, gay young people are more than three times more likely to feel able to be themselves and pupils who have been taught, in a way that they find positive, about gay issues are sixty per cent more likely to be happy at school.
Smoking, alcohol and drugs
Stonewall's health survey, Prescription for Change, shows that compared to women in general, lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to smoke, drink more and are five times more likely to have taken drugs. This might not be so surprising given The School Report finding that young gay people are two and a half times more likely to go to a pub rather than a youth group. This might be because of fear of bullying and in search for a community given that teachers identify homophobic bullying as the most common form of bullying after bullying because of weight (The Teachers' Report).
It is important to remember that not every young person will be heterosexual and not all young people will grow up to be heterosexual adults. The School Report reveiled that seven in ten lesbian, gay and bisexual young people have never been taught about gay and lesbian issues in class and four in five have no access to resources in school that can help them. High quality sex and relationship education is therefore taught in an inclusive way and is relevant to all young people - ensuring they have the information they need to make responsible choices and to stay safe.
Getting it right
One of the easiest and most important things you can do is making lesbian, gay and bisexual young people feel visible by not making assumptions and by using inclusive language. For example, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' is a difficult question for a young lesbian to answer if she is not out. A better phrase would be: 'Are you seeing anyone?'
You can make a real difference by raising awareness about sexual orientation diversity in your service. This could include displaying positive images and representation of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and by making sure all brochures, newsletters and websites are inclusive.