Standing Up for LGBTI+ Youth
Last November, thousands of second-level students across Ireland celebrated LGBTI+ identities as part of Stand Up Awareness Week, now in its 12th year.
Stand Up Awareness Week is an annual campaign run by BeLonG To Youth Services, which gives second-level schools, Youthreach, and youth services the opportunity to celebrate and recognise their LGBTI+ community. BeLonG To is the national organisation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and intersex young people across Ireland.
It is a time when schools show solidarity with LGBTI+ young people to ensure they feel seen, heard, and safe, and to ensure everyone knows that biphobic, homophobic, and transphobic language and bullying will not be tolerated. Last year, almost 70% of second-level schools joined us and participated in this anti-bullying campaign.
As part of Stand Up Awareness Week, every second-level school and Youthreach in Ireland was given a free resource pack with information, activities, and advice to create an LGBTI+ friendly school environment. In 2021, BeLonG To asked schools to implement inclusive policies, inclusive curriculum, and an inclusive environment so that the inclusive and celebratory feeling experienced during Stand Up Awareness Week beyond November.
Why We Need to Stand Up
The landscape of Ireland has changed for members of the LGBTI+ community over the past few decades, from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993 to the vote for Marriage Equality for same-sex couples in 2015. With these changes, some people may wonder if there is a need for a campaign such as Stand Up Awareness Week.
In 2019, BeLonG To spoke to 788 LGBTI+ young people as part of their School Climate Survey with Columbia University in the USA. Findings indicate that in the 2018-2019 school year, an alarming 73% of LGBTI+ students felt unsafe at school in Ireland. 1
Running Stand Up Awareness Week is the first step to creating a school, where LGBTI+ young people feel safe. It is important to note the positive outcomes when staff members, school policies, and the school curriculum include LGBTI+ identities. Research shows that even one staff member there to support LGBTI+ young people increase their feelings of wellbeing and safety.1,2
There are remarkable teachers and school staff across Ireland saving lives by creating safe and supportive spaces for LGBTI+ students. Findings from the School Climate Survey indicate that, where such support existed, LGBTI+ students were more likely to feel accepted by their peers, had an increased sense of belonging, and were less likely to miss school to avoid victimisation.1
Minister for Education, Norma Foley launched the campaign at Marino College Second Level in Dublin, where students and staff gathered to kick off the week. Speaking at the launch, Minister Foley said: “‘As Minster for Education I believe in cultivating a learning environment that provides an enticing, vibrant, and fully inclusive school experience where all children can grow and thrive. In line with the theme of this year’s Stand Up Campaign, I hope that long after the week has ended, they will make that true for each and every student, working together with their schools, their parents, and the wider school community.”
During Stand Up Awareness Week, November 15th-19th, 2021 schools from Donegal to Cork hosted events and carried out activities last week to create a positive, inclusive atmosphere and stand together to say not to LGBTI+ related bullying. Students and teachers raised Pride flags, made rainbow crossings, and integrated LGBTI+ identities right across the curriculum.
BeLonG To thank every single school and teacher who took the time to show their support for LGBTI+ students and participate in Stand Up Awareness Week. Together, we can create a safer, more supportive school environment for all young people.
1 Pizmony-Levy, O., BeLonG To Youth Services (2019). The 2019 Irish National School Climate Survey Report. Research Report. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
2 Költő, A., Vaughan, E., O’Sullivan, L., Kelly, C., Saewyc, E. M., & Nic Gabhainn, S. (2021). LGBTI+ Youth in Ireland and across Europe: A two-phased landscape and research gap analysis. Dublin: Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.