This week sees the launch of the report Life in Dumfries and Galloway for LGBT young people. Since 2015, LGBT Youth Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway have carried out an annual survey in order to understand more about how young people perceive the experiences of LGBT young people living within the region. This year, a total of 380 young people in 15 of the region’s schools participated in the study.
This year’s survey showed that many more LGBT young people are ‘out’ than ever before in D&G, which is positive. However, 16% of LGBT respondents said they were not out to anyone, with 8% feeling pressured to keep their identify a secret. There remains more work to be done in schools, youth groups and communities in Dumfries and Galloway to ensure that young people feel safe and accepted to be themselves.
12 of our region’s secondary schools have a group for LGBT pupils and allies. This is good news as students who attend a group, sometimes known as a GSA (Gender and sexual orientation alliance), are more likely to report that they feel safe in school and are less likely to be absent. Over half the region’s schools include LGBT identities in the curriculum and two thirds of the region’s schools celebrate LGBT cultural events.
This year’s survey showed a substantial increase from 2018 in pupils reporting experiencing or witnessing bullying and negative language related to LGBT identity. There was also a decrease in the number of respondents who had heard negative language being challenged. Responses showed that negative language is witnessed significantly less in youth groups than in schools and, encouragingly, less was reported in 2019 than in previous year’s surveys. However, there has also been a decrease in the number of respondents who heard negative language being challenged.
Discriminatory language plays a key role in normalising prejudice and has a substantial negative impact on the mental health of LGBT people. There is a need for teachers and youth workers across Dumfries & Galloway to be more confident to challenge discriminatory language in order to ensure that all children are safe, respected and included.
A large number of pupils shared experiences and provided comments which illustrate that for many young people, Dumfries and Galloway is not perceived as an inclusive and positive place to grow up. The report, which can be found here, provides recommendations for D&G Council and schools which will lead to improvements in the experiences of LGBT young people in the region.
Kerry Riddell, Partnership Manager South for LGBT Youth Scotland said:
“This research is so useful in helping us to understand the experiences of LGBT young people in Dumfries and Galloway and we’re grateful to the schools who participate. It’s encouraging to see that more schools in D&G are including LGBT identities as part of the school curriculum and calendar. However, the responses from pupils tell us that much more needs to be done to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language and bullying in D&G schools. LGBT Youth Scotland can provide training and support to teachers to develop confidence and skills to improve this aspect of school life and as a result, improve LGBT young peoples’ experience in D&G schools”