A third of teachers say faith is a barrier to discussing LGBTQ+ issues in schools.
A new study of more than 7,000 teachers by youth charity Just Like Us found that in faith schools these numbers were higher, with 46% of teachers believing there were restrictions compared to 25% in non-faith schools.
Milly, who lives in Salford and is an ambassador for the charity, said: “Growing up as a bisexual Christian, I was lucky to have the support of my friends and family from the moment I came out. Unfortunately, the time before I came out was a little more difficult.
“I was 12 when I realized I wasn’t straight, but at that age I didn’t know what bisexual was.
“I was confused, slightly scared, and finally suppressed it for three years until my friend, to my eternal gratitude, explained some LGBTQ+ issues to me.
“Part of the problem was that at my Church of England primary school, the LGBTQ+ community was never discussed.”
Elementary school teachers were more likely to agree that religion is a barrier in the survey, which was conducted earlier in February by the app Teacher Tapp.
The survey was released to coincide with LGBTQ+ History Month.
Some 36% said it was always or sometimes a problem, compared to just 24% of secondary school teachers.
The results in faith schools versus non-faith schools were similar at primary and secondary level, but teachers appeared to have more concerns for the younger age groups.
Jamie, a non-binary, bisexual Anglican who grew up in East Anglia, said: “I was definitely more anxious about coming out to a religious community because of certain stereotypes about Christianity.
“I had no role model [who were] LGBTQ+ and of faith, and I assumed you couldn’t be both at the same time.
“I struggle with my own identity, but seeing people in the church come out as allies to LGBTQ+ people gave me the confidence to come out.”
Just Like Us recognizes that faith is very important to some LGBTQ+ people, so has launched a new range of comprehensive resources for Catholic, Anglican, Muslim and Jewish schools.
They include assemblies and video resources for primary and secondary schools and can be accessed by those who sign up for the charity’s School Diversity Week, which runs from June 26-30 this year.
George White, a trans man who works at a Catholic high school in Leicester, believes that faith should not be a barrier to talking about LGBTQ+.
The RE teacher told Metro.co.uk: “I’m Catholic and the word ‘Catholic’ means Catholic.
“I believe that all human beings are made in the image of God and therefore we should all be universally respected for our diversity.
“The official Catholic teaching on LGBTQ+ people in the Catholic Church is found in the Catechism (2358):[They] it must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Any indication of unfair discrimination against them should be avoided.”
“When we keep this teaching in mind, I believe the Catholic faith gives a very clear indication that LGBTQ+ inclusion is a necessary part of the good faith and that there is no conflict in welcoming LGBTQ+ people into the call to be part of the universal Church.”
Earlier this month Pope Francis described the criminalization of homosexuality as an “injustice” and denounced anti-gay laws.
People with “homosexual tendencies” are children of God and should be welcomed by the church, the Catholic leader said.
Interestingly, the research found that the more experienced a teacher is, the less likely they are to see faith as a barrier to LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. Only 3% of managers thought this.
Other LGBTQ+ youth said they have learned over time how their sexuality or gender sits alongside their faith.
Rayyan, who is queer, Muslim and went to school in London, said: “Growing up I was told that faith was something that was incompatible with different identities and I was very afraid to explore who I am because of that.
“Now I know that faith is what I make it, something that you have to accept diversity… One thing I’ve learned is that the relationship with faith and God is personal – no one has the right to judge you.”
Guidance on the government website states that schools must comply with the Equality Act 2010, although faith schools can teach their religion’s perspective on relationships. There should be a balanced debate on issues that are considered “controversial”.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Statutory guidance on relationships, sex and health education applies to all schools and it is clear that secondary school pupils must be taught the facts and law about sex and sexuality . Additionally, in high school, there should be equal opportunities to explore the characteristics of stable and healthy same-sex relationships.”
Amy Ashenden, interim chief executive of Just Like Us, said: “Our research shows that a third of teachers believe faith can be a barrier to LGBTQ+ inclusion, but this is most likely because not enough school teachers have ever been needed LGBTQ+ and faith resources. to even broach the subject. We’ve launched this new series of resources to change that.
“When it comes to a lack of LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools, it’s so rarely a matter of willingness but really about whether teachers have access to the right resources that fit their school to enable them to get started.
“We work with so many faith schools who are really fantastic in LGBTQ+ inclusion, such as St Stephen’s CofE Primary School who won an award for their School Diversity Week celebrations, and we know many more want to show their support.
“We know that faith is really important to so many LGBTQ+ people, and no matter who you are, it’s vital that we all learn about the diversity of the world around us and how to celebrate each other’s differences.”
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