for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality

Teachers' voices 

Challenging homophobic language and bullying doesn't have to be difficult and many teachers and primary school staff have good practice to share. 

  • As we are a lower school with children up to age nine, I feel that this is an ideal opportunity to explain to any child who makes these comments that they are unacceptable. How I would do this would depend on the child and their level of understanding.
    Saheema, teacher, primary school (East of England)

  • A child described his sister as “so gay” and didn’t want to write about her. I knew he wasn’t being homophobic so addressed it in a light-hearted way and said that there was nothing wrong with her being gay if she was, and perhaps he would like to write about her girlfriend too. This led him to question his use of the word “gay” in a bad way, and how perhaps he should choose a more suitable adjective in future.’
    Victoria, teacher, primary school (West Midlands)

  • It was in response to a child calling another boy “gay”. This happens on a near daily basis, usually when they think I cannot hear. We have discussed it before as a class. On this occasion the remark was made in a “light-hearted” way and so I felt it was important to address why the comment was inappropriate. We discussed why it was wrong to use the word “gay” even as a jokey insult and one pupil compared it to racism. We then thought of alternative adjectives. 
    Cerys, teacher, primary school (Wales)

  • A child regularly referred to various things as being “gay”. He also called another child gay. I spoke to him about the issue and then raised the subject with the rest of the class. We discussed what they felt the word meant and then the feelings related to name calling and how someone who was gay would feel to have that used as a derogatory term against others.
    Rose, teacher, primary school (Scotland)

  • A pupil called another pupil “gay” as a general insult. This was immediately pointed out as being inappropriate behaviour – just name-calling is bad enough! When asked if they knew what “gay” meant, that pupil just said “stupid”. Another pupil pointed out that it meant being in love with someone of the same-sex, and also pointed out she had a family member who was gay and that she was pleased about that. That was the end of the discussion.
    Eve, teacher, primary school (East of England)

  • I approached it from a “what would you do?” game – the children read different situations and had to decide and discuss what they would do. One was addressing what had been happening (one boy who acts quite “gay” had been ostracised a little and children had started making comments about his behaviour). The children discussed the situation and tried to put themselves in the person’s shoes. The comments stopped immediately and have never started again.
    Mia, teacher, faith primary school (London)

  • Sometimes in role-play boys will wear a dress and get called “gay” by other boys or sometimes a boy will show affection to another boy. I always explain that most people like to receive affection and as long as both people feel the same then it is perfectly ok, whoever it is. Regarding the dress wearing, I positively encourage children to try all the clothes available. If boys are rude to each other I point out that there is no difference between a boy choosing to wear a dress and a girl wearing trousers.
    Janet, teacher, primary school (North West)

  • I teach eight and nine year olds. I explained in general terms why the language used was upsetting for the child concerned whose mother is a lesbian.
    David, teacher, primary school (Yorkshire & the Humber)

Read more in The Teachers' Report 

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