Quotes about challenging homophobia in schools.

Some quotes I like:

“Gay People are everywhere… except in the National Curriculum, and certainly not visible in our schools” (Moffat, 2007 pg2).

‘Everyone is an insider, there are no outsiders – whatever their beliefs, whatever their colour, gender or sexuality.’ Archbishop Desmond Tutu, February 2004

(Taken from Page 2 of Stand up for Us Guidance jointly produced by Department of Health and Department for Education and Skills written by Mark Jennet, 2004)


“Homophobic language is often used in ignorance and therefore education is crucial”

(Safe To Learn, 2007, p60)


“Our Sexuality is the most spontaneously natural thing about us. It is the basis for some of our most passionate feelings and commitments. Through it we experience ourselves as real people; it gives us our identities, our sense of self, as men and women, as heterosexual and homosexual, normal or abnormal, natural or unnatural.”

(Weeks, 2003 p3)


Homosexuality exists in 1500 species, homophobia in just one.

(Source Unknown)




“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”                                                                                      (Nelson Mandela, 2003)

The “Other” and Surplus Visibility

One of the the articles I am analysing for my masters (into challenging homophobia in schools) talks about Patai’s notion of suplus visibility where:

“unexpected visibility of those who were meant to remain invisible; as the “Other,” they are forced to either disappear or appear larger than life, to keep silent, or scream.”

This might explain why we might commonly see LGBT identities either is invisible (we don’t notice them because they are forced to be closeted) or as “larger than life” or “hypersexual” or “in your face and flaunting it” “being on a soapbox or grinding axes” (read article in full for a fuller explanation).

As a notion it made sense to me, so I thought I would share.

What do you think?


DEPALMA, R. and ATKINSON, E. (2009b) “Permission to Talk About It” Narratives of Sexual Equality in the Primary Classroom. Qualitative Inquiry. 15 (5). p. 876-892. Available from http://qix.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/02/26/1077800409332763 [Accessed 25/6/13]

The concept of Procractivism (& Meta-Procractivism)

In August I coined the phrase “procractivism”  which is a combination of procrastination and activism.

(in this case procrastination from writing masters into homophobia in schools and activism into challenging homophobia in schools!)

The phrase arose during the completion of the masters in August 2013 when I had a significant role in exposing Sex and Relationships Education Policies that had language harking back to Section 28 alongside the British Humanist Association and other twitter activists. Despite the repeal of section 28 in the UK in 2003, more than 45 schools schools were identified as having Sex and Relationship Education policies that banned the “promotion of homosexuality

Days later I also exposed the DfE’s deliberate erasure of gender Identity from equalities statement in the Feb 2013 draft to the latest draft of the document. This lead to the DfE having a swift turnaround and putting it back in . Had it not been for this masters I would not have been eagle eyed enough to spot this omission, and thanks to the wonders of social media and my ace followers we were able to kick up sufficient stink to get the government to make the U-Turn. Of everything I ever achieved in my life this is in the top ten! I’m so proud!

I am now at the stage of writing my reflective chapter on the masters and talking about procractivism, but um somehow I now find myself on my blog sharing the concept of procractivism and how awesome it can be.

Seriously give it a go. Procrastination can make you achieve things you never thought possible- and heck you might as well use this as a force for good.

This blog post being an example of Meta-procractivism right!?

Ahem. *gets back to work, 42days to go…..*





It’s easier than you think to encourage kids to #getoverit

*Very quick post from me as erm somebody *should* be finishing off a masters (in challenging homophobia in schools) which is due in imminently!*

Today Stonewall and Mumsnet have launched a new campaign to encourage kids to #getoverit

Sometimes people object to challenging homophobic language as “language evolves” or “its endemic”, and therefore it “isn’t worth it/too much effort to challenge”.  These responses don’t actually justify any lack of response from teachers, especially given the effect continually hearing such language can have on lesbian, gay or bisexual young people.

From my experience challenging homophobic language in schools, it snowballs very very rapidly. In no time at all you get kids challenging themselves and each other for using “that’s so gay”. They just need to be challenged to think about the language they use and how it might affect people. Most children and young people are not homophobic, they just use popular language without thinking about the impact.

Teachers- challenge them, get them to think about the impact, set off that snowball and watch it avalanche into a transformed school culture.

P.S True Story- I once had one student slap her hand over her own mouth so hard when she said “that’s so gay” she hurt herself! Ooops! it had become an ingrained habit to her but one she really wanted to stop. That student is now an awesome teacher herself (and makes me feel very old!). As far as I know she would challenge homophobic language in her classes too. So erm teachers- do it for this generation- do it for the next generation. Just blimming do it!

A timeline of legislation, guidance & policy relating to challenging homophobia in schools since 1999

Today is 10 years to the day since Section 28 was repealed.

I made this huge timeline below because I wanted to track some of the key drivers for teachers and schools in challenging Homophobia since 1999 (to capture 2000 when SRE guidance was launched and is still in force to date despite mentioning “It it not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching”.)  I decided to publish it for reference for others.

With thanks to John Lloyd for his helpful feedback and phenomenal knowledge on aspects of this timeline!
timeline A

The second part of the timeline goes into much more detail from 2009 to current date. Apologies that this second image is stupidly tiny, but if you click on it twice it should enlarge enough to be legible. There have been serious formatting headaches with the tables in the document from word into wordpress and had to convert to an image file which hasn’t really worked either! SorryTimeline image



DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (2007) Safe to Learn- homophobic bullying. Crown Copyright. ISBN 978-1-84775-029-7

DCFS (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (2007) Bullying around racism, religion and culture, Crown Copyright.

DCFS (Department for Children,Schools and Families) (2000) Safe to Learn-Sexist, Sexual and Transphobic bullying. Crown Copyright).

DfE (Department for Education) (2012) Preventing and tackling bullying Advice for head teachers, staff and governing bodies. Crown Copyright.

DfE (Department for Education) (2013) Consultation on PSHE Education Summary Report. Available from http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/p/pshe%20cons%20report.pdf [Last accessed 30/6/13]

DfE (Department for Education)   (2013?) The national curriculum in England Framework document –February 2013 Available from https://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/downloadableDocs/National%20Curriculum%20consultation%20-%20framework%20document%20(2).docx [Last accessed 30/ 8/13]

DfE  (Department for Education)  (2013?) The national curriculum in England Framework document –July 2013 Available from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/210969/NC_framework_document_-_FINAL.pdf [Last accessed 30/ 8/13]

DfE (Department for Education)   (2013?) Personal, Social and Economic Education Available from http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/curriculum/b00223087/pshe [Last Accessed 11/11/13]

DFEE Guidance (Department for Education and Employment)  (2000) Curriculum and Standards. Sex and relationships education Crown copyright. Available from http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/DfES-0116-2000%20SRE.pdf [Last accessed 27/ 7/ 13]

DH Department for Health (2013) A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England.Crown Copyright.

FAE, J. (2013a) Return of Section 28: Why some UK schools have banned ‘promoting’ gay issues. Gay Star News. 19.08.13. Available from  http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/return-section-28-why-some-uk-schools-have-banned-%E2%80%98promoting%E2%80%99-gay-issues190813 [Accessed 20/8/13]

FAE, J. (2013b) UK government removes protection for trans children in school 21.08.13 Available from http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-government-removes-protection-trans-children-school210813 [Accessed 21/8/13]

FAE, J. (2013c) UK government: Protections for trans school kids were removed in ‘error’. Gay Star News. 22.08.13 Available from http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/uk-government-protections-trans-school-kids-were-removed-error220813 [Accessed 20/8/13]

GTC (2004) Code of conduct for Teachers http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/8257/3/conduct_code_practice_for_teachers.pdf Last accessed 30/6/13]

HANNAH, A. and DOUGLAS-SCOTT, S. (2008) Challenging homophobia: Equality, diversity, inclusion. London: The FPA.

HOYLE, A. (2013d) “Dear Schools (Academies?) Having “SECTION 28″ in Your School Sex Ed Policy Is NOT Acceptable.” Web log post. SexEdUKation. WordPress, 17 Aug. 2013. Available from http://sexedukation.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/dear-schools-academies-having-section-28-in-your-school-policy-is-not-acceptable/ [Last accessed 17/8/13]

HOYLE, A. (2013e) “Promotion of Homosexuality” vs. “Promotion of Sexual Orientation” – Section 28 actually never went away. Web log post. SexEdUKation. WordPress, 17 Aug. 2013. Available from http://sexedukation.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/promotion-of-homosexuality-vs-promotion-of-sexual-orientation/ [Last accessed 31/8/13]

JENNETT, M. (2004)  Stand up for us – Challenging Homophobia in schools. National Healthy School Standard. Department of Health, Department for Education and skills. ISBN 1-84279-200-8

OFSTED (2010) Personal, social, health and economic education in schools. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2012) No Place for Bullying. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/no-place-for-bullying [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED Framework for school inspection (2013a) Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/framework-for-school-inspection [Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2013b) Inspection Documents Archive Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/maintained-schools-inspection-documents-archive[Accessed 13/12/13]

OFSTED (2013) Not Yet Good Enough, Personal, social, health and economic education in schools. Available from http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/not-yet-good-enough-personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools [Accessed 13/12/13]

Sex Education Forum (2011) The Current Status of Sex and Relationships Education. Available from http://www.ncb.org.uk/media/385195/current_status_of_sre.pdf [Last accessed 30/6/13]

STONEWALL Hunt, R., & Jensen, J. (2007).  The School Report: The Experiences of Young Gay People in Britain’s School. Stonewall. Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4004.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]

STONEWALL Guasp, A. (2009). The teachers’ report: Homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools. London: Stonewall. Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4003.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]

Stonewall Guasp. A. (2012) The School Report: The experiences of Young
Gay People in Britain’s schools in 2012. London, Available from http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_resources/7957.asp [Accessed 1/3/13]




A rainbow of factors that affect responses to homophobia


I came up with this pretty diagram. I am very proud of it. It is part of a much larger diagram but it is the prettiest part.

Annoying thing is it doesn’t quite fit where I wanted it too and now I am worriting I can’t use it in same way I planned. So I thought I would stick it here anyhow whilst I work out what to do for the best.

My blog is 3 years old today! Happy Birthday!


Reflecting on evidence based education during this masters journey.

Working on my reflection chapter for my masters but there isn’t space to put all the thoughts I wanted to so I wanted to explore some of them further here. The added bonus being my blog is an academic jargon free space (I hope although I might have mentioned hegemony once…) and I find it much easier to organise my thoughts in this fashion than backing up my points with pesky academic evidence! Ahem!).

Evidence based education is a big buzzword at the minute but it is a notion I have had to really grapple with during the course of this masters.

My starting point embarking on this Masters was as a “scientist” – I have A-levels in Biology and Chemistry, an honours degree in Zoology and a PGCE in Science (Biology), so I have the qualifications to justify this as an “identity”. However somehow I have never been challenged to question the theories underpinning the acquisition and advancement of scientific knowledge until this masters degree. That is not to say I took scientific knowledge at face value, I know how to critique scientific methods, but I had never been exposed to social science research methodologies before such as ethnography and at first to be quite honest I didn’t quite know what to make of them (*scratches head*).

Being a “scientist” I thought I needed randomised control trials and meta analyses to justify an evidence based approach in education as well as the sciences. However I am also aware of this approach not necessarily being useful for Sex & Relationships Education. For example the SHARE project (an RCT of Sex and Relationships Education) which found no impact on age of first intercourse, levels of sexual activity, or condom or contraceptive use, between enhanced SRE program (SHARE) and standard programs. However in comparison with conventional sex education, SHARE was evaluated more highly by both pupils and teachers, it increased practical sexual health knowledge, and it slightly improved the quality of sexual relationships, primarily through reduced regret. Some have interpreted SHARE results to mean that SRE doesn’t work and therefore should not be taught. Not an interpretation I share obviously and my rants on about value added and behavior change in SRE are beyond the scope of the post!) but I’m very wary of RCT’s for evidence based education, as they are often narrow in scope and conclusions risk dismissing some incredibly positive interventions just because they didn’t get the “right” results in an RCT. I’ve come to realise that adopting a “positivist” position for Sex & Relationships Education is flawed because humans operate in open conditions, we cannot control the variables, and if our intervention is still a positive one (like SHARE was), is it fair to deprive a control group of it?

I also became worried about how evidence is  interpreted both in the formation of conclusions and developing evidence based policy. For example interpretations of the quote “homosexuality exists in 1500 species, homophobia exists in just one”.   The Zoologist in me has to point out whilst we can categorise animals and humans by their behaviours to be “homosexual” or “homophobic” these categorisations maybe subjective and may differ between researchers.  Some researchers have stated that the observed “homosexual behaviour” in certain animals is a way of asserting sexual dominance. i.e. “ same sex rape or violence” whereas others have stated “animals solve conflict by same gender sex”, these interpretations caused me to ponder if the researchers own positionings around their own feelings around homosexuality and homophobia affect their interpretation of results.

I also have concerns about how evidence is interpreted  to adopt “evidence based policy”. For example hypothetically the evidence might state “adopting a zero tolerance approach to homophobic language is the most effective in reducing homophobia”. This might be interpreted as adoption such a zero tolerance policy immediately without engaging in a dialogue with the school community about why homophobic language is unacceptable.  This could then set up confrontations with stakeholders on their core values and beliefs, where confrontation creates a block, anger, resentment and no possibility for understanding and positive change. Therefore the zero tolerance strategy fails because people are still homophobic just silenced about it. In my experience the dialogue before adopting a zero tolerance policy is the most crucial aspect of the work.  Getting young people to understand why using gay as a pejorative is unacceptable is an incredibly powerful tool in fighting homophobia. At my own school we found once the young people understood they were policing their own language and challenging each other.   Therefore nuances such as “engage in dialogue THEN adopt a zero tolerance policy”, could be missed by sumarising the evidence into “best practice evidence points”.

Also I am not convinced by researcher “ethics”. I think the desire to get work published, finished, or shared can mean sometimes corners are cut, data is manipulated, evidence is tweaked and no-body admits to it. I know the data in my undergraduate dissertation on waterflea parasites (where I had to dissect over 1000 waterflea guts and examine them under the microscope) was probably not erm as academically robust as it should have been and I don’t think I would be a lone example. Ben Goldacre is clear on that in his Bad Science book. So why should we trust evidence when the people creating and interpreting it often have dubious morals!

I think I have come to the conclusion that objectivity doesn’t truly exist in science or social science, particularly when dealing with humans. Whilst initially I was incredibly skeptical about performance ethnography, or other less than “scientific” methods used in the social sciences, I have come to realise that actually some of the most interesting rich evidence lies in the lived experience of individuals, that defies distillation into a meta-analysis or a plot point on a graph.

*takes off my scientist hat*

During my research into homophobia in schools I have tried to synthesise a very diverse dataset to capture the emergent themes that schools and teachers need to consider when challenging homophobia. What has been most interesting about this process for me is that:

a) the diverse evidence is actually synthesisable (although at times the process has left me weeping!)- the themes are replicated across the dataset, admittedly through my subjective interpretive lens but there are commanlities therefore the weight of evidence leans towards some successful evidence based strategies schools and teachers can use (with all the above caveats about evidence based education!)

b) The three years I spent challenging homophobia in my previous school, without a shred of evidence to go on but a gut feeling of strategies to try and develop, was not wasted! Virtually everything I did and experienced within that three years has emerged as a theme from my research! (admittedly this could entirely be because my research is a subjective piece of rubbish, and I sort of wish I had chosen a topic that I wasn’t quite so deeply engaged with – ahem!) but even if no-one else believes me, my lived experience as a practitioner has been validated post hoc by the evidence! Which cheers me greatly! Practitioners RULE!

In conclusion having been quite pro “evidence based education”, I am now sat very firmly on the fence about “evidence based education” as I can’t see how it can ever be objective and free from bias. I can see it provides benefits for justifying positions (after all I want to present this research as an “evidence base” for challenging homophobia in schools) but I think potentially it is too subject to biased interpretation that could lead to unintentional negative effects, and I think we need to think much more carefully about our notions of evidence based policy and practice before we try and adopt such strategies as standard.

What do you think?

The language of oppression- schizophrenia should not be used as an adjective for “split or conflicting”

As part of my masters I am trying to write about the language of oppression. I’m exploring the use of “Gay” as a synonym for rubbish being perceived as “not homophobic” by many because “language evolves”, ignoring the effect the use of such language may have on people who are LGBT.

During my masters research I found that De Palma & Atkinson (2010) p1670 chose to use the phrase “conceptual schizophrenia” to describe situations where there are inconsistencies in the legislation so that on the one hand they support people who are LGBT on the other hand they support homophobia. My wider reading also found Renold & Ringrose (2011) using the phrase “Schizoid subjectivities” to describe how girls negotiate discourses of knowingness and innocence. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples in academic and other literature, I don’t mean to single these two out other than they are two recent academic examples I have come across, I also have seen it lately used in a few blogposts or newspaper articles too.

Using schizophrenia as an adjective for something that is split or “or characterized by the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic elements.” (as one of the dictionary definitions is) only serves to oppress another group of people, those with schizophrenia. It serves to reinforce notions of split or antagonistic elements or the idea that schizophrenics have split personalities etc. It is harmful, unthinking and upsetting particularly when such things are written by people actively engaged in challenging other forms of oppression. Yes there maybe another dictionary definition that isn’t about “people” just like there is for “Gay” but that doesn’t make it okay to use it as an adjective to describe anything other than the person with that identity (and that you mean it as a descriptor not pejoratively!)

I’m mindful that this is written due to my own lived experience as a sibling of someone who is and always will be schizophrenic, and the stigma/misunderstandings that they/we have faced as a result of that. However I would argue that it is not so hard to try and think about the language you use and how it might affect groups of people you may only have very limited experience of. There are loads of other combinations of clever sounding academic words that could be used instead, juxtaposition, dicotomy, discord, conflicting,  non-concordance etc. which could be used to make your point equally well and make you sound just as clever.  All it takes is a little thought and care about the language you use and a willingness to think and change if you get it wrong (like I did when I initially spoke about “tolerance” of people who are LGBT).

Just some food for thought.

Happy Educating.


“Being gay is against my religion”- Teachers how do you respond?

As a teacher what do you say to that statement?  You don’t want to be seen to maligning a faith viewpoint, and maybe you don’t personally know enough about the faith in question to start having a theological debate on the issue so instead perhaps you avoid the issue completely?

When I first started talking about homophobia in the classroom, I used to say was that all major religions promote tolerance and respect and even if your faith perspective doesn’t agree with someone’s sexual orientation, that does not give you the right to discriminate against someone because of it. Also despite some religious teachings against same sex relationships, there will be people who are LGBT within that particular faith, and what it actually comes down to is how you interpret the most important aspects of your faith for you, ie. faith is more importantly about your own relationship with god rather than interpretations of your faith by faith leaders. (Which is how my Catholic Lesbian friend explained to me how she reconciled her own faith with her sexual orientation, which was a very helpful perspective to help me understand.)

Since then I have developed an understanding that promoting ideas of tolerance or acceptance are flawed. We wouldn’t ask someone to tolerate black people- the very notion is offensive, why shouldn’t it be the same for people who are LGBT?  (Check out the Riddle Scale of Attitudes for more info) and hence teachers need to think carefully about using words such as tolerance or acceptance (although they do appear frequently in certain religious texts).

Since doing this masters I have realised that LGBT equality is fairly unique in being perceived as against someones religion, however just because the arguments for oppression are religious does not excuse them (the arguments for slavery in the US or persecution of Jews in Europe were also often religious, we don’t excuse those- why should this be any different?).

Teachers need to be clear that there is a limit where respecting one groups freedoms may mean limiting the freedoms of another. It is not always an easy boundary to negotiate but avoiding discussion on the issue at all with religious students/schools is also not an option.  I’ve talked about negotiating the line between faith and discussions on sexuality before in this open letter to MP Matthew Offord, and I share below the example I wrote there about my experience around discussions of faith and sexuality.

“One of my proudest teaching and learning moments was covering a lesson on homophobia with a class, a boy with strong faith views shouted out “I WANT TO KILL ALL GAYS” he was angry and convinced this was a course of action they deserved. He was adament that he believed this because his faith taught him it was wrong.  By the end of the lessons he came to me and said “Miss, I still don’t like it and neither does my faith, but I get what you mean now about not being mean to someone because of it.” For him that was the most monumental shift, and he was a violent angry young man, I have absolutely no doubt that he would be the type to beat someone up for acting “gay” whether or not they actually were.”

During that lesson, I obviously challenged him on his original statement as it was very offensive and breached our ground rules, but during the lesson we explored stereotypes and feelings and human rights. We talked about faith in the context I described above and at no point did anyone try and malign his faith viewpoint, and he still went on to have the monumental shift in attitude (I am not naive, this may not have been a permanent attitudinal change but in a single lesson it was a massive shift in positioning and if nothing else I made him think!).   This is just one example but it shows such discussions can and should take place that respect both faith values and an equalities perspective.

Please don’t let fears around a possible religious backlash, prevent work around challenging homophobia and transphobia. It is not impossible and in fact you maybe pleasantly surprised (I had several strongly religious people actively support the work within my previous school).

Happy Educating.

EDIT: As Gill Frances reminded me from her comments below- we also need to point out to children and young people that religious beliefs do not trump the laws of this land and that both Sexual Orientation, Gender Reassignment and Religion & belief are all protected characteristics within the Equality Act (2010). Also particular faith perspectives are unlikely to be universal within your classroom, having a faith perspective does not give you any more right than anyone else in the class to share that perspective.  Or to put it another way:

Dear Parents- Support your children’s teachers to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity.

I know from my own experience of challenging homophobia & tranphobia in school one of my most significant fears apart from ending up in the daily mail  was the fear of parental backlash.  As it happens as I progressed with the work the parents were overwhelmingly supportive and the backlash  never actually came, I ended up kicking myself that I had let the fear stop me progressing with aspects of the work until my confidence grew.

Now I am doing my research into my masters challenging homophobia and I am finding a lot of evidence that suggests that a significant barrier to teachers doing this type of equalities work is fear of parental reactions. However research also shows that the vast majority of parents (90+%) believe it is important to include “understanding sexual orientation” as part of PSHE (Morgan, 2000 and Mumsnet 2012 and probably a few more but no time to hunt down the refs!)

This tells me there is a MAJOR lack of communication between parents and teachers on this issue. Therefore if you are a parent of school aged children I urge you to make your schools head and PSHE teacher aware that you are very supportive of work done to talk about sexual orientation, gender identity and challenging homophobic and transphobic bullying. This in turn should hopefully give teachers more confidence to actually do this work! Likewise Teachers- COMMUNICATE with your parents. Let them know about the work you are doing, their support will increase your confidence in doing this type of work.

Happy Educating.