LGBT Youth Scotland

Claire Gilfillan recently met with Brandi-Lee Lough Dennell, Policy and Research Manager, for LGBT Youth Scotland to discuss the work it does to empower LGBT people in Scotland.

Claire Gilfillan, Web Content Editor, GTC Scotland

I recently met with Brandi-Lee Lough Dennell, Policy and Research Manager, for LGBT Youth Scotland to discuss the work it does to empower LGBT people in Scotland. LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Scotland.

Research has shown that 69.1% of LGBT young people have experienced homophobic or bi-phobic bullying in a school environment. 24.6% have experienced it at college and 13.8% have experienced it at university.

One LGBT young person said:

"I would say that there is a lot of discriminatory behaviour from other pupils in the education system. However, I also feel that teachers are lacking a solid education about the LGBT youth they are looking after, and often aren't aware of how to deal with homophobic incidents in order to begin solving the problem.”

Training for professionals

LGBT Youth Scotland’s training service has provided training to a wide range of professionals including youth workers, teachers, colleges and universities, police officers, social workers, health professionals, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and many others.

They have developed various training programmes to help you to:

  • Understand the diverse needs and experiences of LGBT people
  • Change your working practice to better address the needs of LGBT people
  • Challenge the discrimination and prejudice that is often faced by LGBT people

You can find out more about LGBT Youth Scotland’s training programme by visiting:

Key issues affecting LGBT young people

Isolation and fears about coming out as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender to friends and family can impact on how young people feel about themselves and affect their school experiences and attainment. This is exacerbated by experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying.

Living with stigma and discrimination can negatively impact on an individual’s mental health. It can affect an individual’s self-worth, confidence, and leave them feeling isolated and depressed, or having suicidal thoughts and actions. Gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to report a serious suicide attempt than their heterosexual peers and transgender people are 7.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.

In environments where homophobia, transphobia and biphobia go unchallenged, young people may not recognise their rights to report bullying or may not believe that the staff or institution will take the issue seriously.

For many young people, reporting to teachers can feel like coming out.

LGBT Youth Scotland works in partnership with schools, universities and colleges to create more inclusive learning environments for LGBT young people. They work closely with the Scottish Government to support the inclusion of LGBT young people in key policy documents and can provide information, training and resources for staff in educational establishments.

Teacher’s Toolkit

LGBT Youth Scotland has developed, in partnership with Education Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government, a Teacher’s Toolkit. This is designed to support teachers in recognising, challenging and effectively reducing homophobia and homophobic bullying in their schools. The toolkit was piloted in five secondary schools in East Lothian, Falkirk, Edinburgh, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway and the content is based on research carried out in over 200 Scottish schools. A guidance teacher at one of the piloted schools said:

“Using the toolkit has made young people aware that staff takes homophobic bullying seriously and that they are available and willing to talk to young people about it. It gives the message that homophobic attitudes and behaviour have no place in the school”

The toolkit addresses a range of areas:

  • The key issues facing LGBT young people, defining homophobia and homophobic bullying and understanding its impact
  • Answer responses to questions on homophobic bullying, gender stereotypes, transgender young people and transphobia, discussing LGBT issues and supporting LGBT young people
  • Ensuring that homophobia and homophobic bullying are included in the school’s anti-bullying policy
  • Parental guidance in areas such as challenging homophobia, the use of language, recording and monitoring incidents, confidentiality, information sharing and involving parents and carers in anti-homophobia work
  • Suggestions of good practice

The Teacher’s Toolkit also provides a downloadable lesson plan pack, and although LGBT Youth Scotland is currently only funded to work with secondary aged children, these lesson plans can easily be adapted to suit primary school aged children.

Impact of Homophobia, Biphobia or Transphobia in education

In 2012, LGBT Youth Scotland undertook a survey on life in Scotland for LGBT young people, aged 13-25. The survey revealed that LGBT young people identified education as the environment where they faced the most discrimination. Within education, schools appear to be the place where LGBT young people feel least protected.

Respondents were asked what they thought helped or could help them or others to feel safe and supported within the education system.

The responses that the LGBT young people gave were generally related to:

  • Visibility in the curriculum: teachers and subjects normalising LGBT people, same-sex relationships, and transgender identities
  • Inclusion: the wish for teacher to be confident discussing these issues and embedding them in other subject areas
  • Address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia whenever it manifests, and well before it can develop into overt bullying

It is crucial that LGBT young people are safe, included and respected so that they have the same education and employment opportunities as their peers. LGBT Youth Scotland recommend a number of practical measures to ensure that the experience of LGBT young people in education may be as positive as those of other students, including:

  • Policies should be in place in all educational establishments to ensure that students or staff are not disadvantaged, discriminated against or bullied as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Programmes should be rolled out to ensure that all staff (teaching and non-teaching) are fully aware of LGBT issues, proficient in handling LGBT questions in a professional and non-judgemental manner, and are fully trained in tackling and preventing homophobia, biphobia and transphobia
  • LGBT identities should be embedded in the curriculum and in the life of the school
  • Staff and student equalities monitoring should be undertaken anonymously and include questions on sexual orientation, gender identity and transgender background

If you would like more information on the work of LGBT Youth Scotland, you can visit its website at:

LGBT Youth Scotland also supplies a number of resources for young people:

Further information

Listen to the podcast of our interview with Brandi Lee: