The experiences of LGBTQ+ children and young people
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The experiences of LGBTQ+ children and young people

Content warning: On this page we refer to statistics relating to bullying, mental health, self-harm and suicide. We have also included some quotes which mention anti-LGBTQ+ language and incidents. 

A note on terminology: prior to 2021, Stonewall used the acronym LGBT rather than LGBTQ+. For this reason, statistics from the Stonewall School Report (2017) and Teachers' Report (2014) use the acronym LGBT.

 

LGBTQ+ children and young people, like all children and young people, are more likely to feel safe, happy and fulfil their potential if they:

  • Feel able to be themselves and valued for who they are
  • Feel included and part of the school, college or setting’s community
  • Have access to resources and information that reflect who they are
  • Are shown visible role models to reassure them that LGBTQ+ people can be happy and successful
  • Feel they have people to talk to and know how to access support services in school and in the local community, for example through local LGBTQ+ youth groups.

However, some LGBTQ+ children and young people can feel isolated, unaware of the support available, or unable to access the support they need. This creates barriers to their attainment and wellbeing.

 

What young people say

University of Cambridge research for Stonewall in The School Report (2017) found that:

  • Over half of LGBT young people (53 per cent) don’t feel there is an adult at school or college they can talk to about being LGBT.
  • Three in five LGBT young people (60 per cent) don’t have an adult to talk to at home. 
  • Two in five LGBT young people (40 per cent) have never been taught anything about LGBT issues at school. 
  • Two thirds of LGBT young people (66 per cent) say their school doesn’t offer help to access resources that can support them.
  • One in three trans young people (33 per cent) are not able to be known by their preferred name at school, while three in five (58 per cent) are not allowed to use the toilets they feel comfortable in.
  • Nearly half of LGBT young people (45 per cent) – including 64 per cent of trans young people – are bullied for being LGBT at school or college.
  • More than two in five LGBT learners in sixth form colleges (44 per cent) and half of LGBT learners in FE colleges (49 per cent) ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ hear homophobic language.

It is important to recognise that different groups of LGBTQ+ children and young people may face different or additional barriers. Stonewall’s School Report (2017) found that:

  • One in three bi young people (35 per cent) are bullied at school for being LGBT.
  • 57 per cent of non-binary young people are bullied for being LGBT.
  • Disabled LGBT young people are more likely to deliberately harm themselves than non-disabled LGBT young people (80 per cent compared to 64 per cent).
  • LGBT young People of Colour are more likely to have thought about taking their own life than white LGBT young people (79 per cent compared to 74 per cent).
  • LGBT young people of faith are more likely to have tried to take their own life than those who aren’t of faith (30 per cent compared to 25 per cent).

 

I have been bullied since Year 2 for being gay. People called me names like ‘gay’ and ‘faggot’ before I even knew what they really meant.

 

People say words like ‘faggot’ and ‘tranny’ without any background knowledge. People use it carelessly and without thinking how it can affect people, even if it wasn’t targeted at you individually.

 

In school people yell ‘there are only two genders’ and when I go to the park people have jumped in front of my bike and called me a dyke and a faggot.

 

What teachers say

Many teachers report high levels of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) language and bullying and feel unequipped to tackle it, or to provide adequate support for LGBT children and young people. YouGov polling for Stonewall of 2,000 primary and secondary school teachers in The Teachers’ Report (2014) found that children and young people perceived to be ‘different’ in some way, for example those who don’t conform to gender stereotypes, are likely to experience HBT bullying. More than one in five secondary school teachers said they would not be confident to support young people who came out to them, and three in ten don’t know if they are allowed to teach LGBT issues. Only eight per cent of primary school teachers and 17 per cent of secondary school teachers had received specific training on tackling HBT bullying.

 

It isn’t really addressed in primary schools, but that allows negative views taught at home to become deeply seated.

 

The impact

The results of the School Report (2017) illustrate how these experiences can have a devastating impact on the mental health, wellbeing and attainment of LGBT children and young people. Two in five bullied LGBT young people – including half of bullied trans young people – have skipped school because of bullying about being LGBT. More than half of bullied LGBT young people feel that HBT bullying has had a negative effect on their plans for future education, and more than two in three bullied trans young people feel this way.

Nearly half of bullied LGBT learners in sixth form colleges (47 per cent) and nearly two in three bullied LGBT learners in FE colleges (63 per cent) said this bullying had a negative effect on their plans for future education. Find out more about the experiences of LGBT young people in Shut Out: The Experiences of LGBT Young People Not in Education, Training and Work (2020).

 

I lost confidence and the power to succeed and get the best qualifications. I left because I was scared and I didn’t belong in that environment.

 

I don’t feel safe in my school for being who I am. I don’t feel as though my school is doing enough to prevent the bullying.

 

Mental health and wellbeing

LGBTQ+ children and young people experience particularly high rates of poor mental health. Three in five LGB young people have deliberately harmed themselves at some point. For trans young people, this figure is 84 per cent. More than one in five LGB young people and more than two in five trans young people have attempted to take their own life. One in three non-binary young people and nearly half of disabled LGBT young people have tried to take their own life. By providing the right support, schools and colleges can help LGBTQ+ children and young people grow up safe, happy and able to fulfil their true potential.

 

The bullying went on for over five consecutive years. I ended up developing severe mental health issues and being sectioned twice.

 

Return to An Introduction to Supporting LGBTQ+ Children and Young People