“Listen to me – this isn’t just a phase”, is just one of the pieces of advice for adults from young LGBT people in the North West, identified in a new report.
The research, led by LGBT Youth North West and supported by BBC Children in Need, found that the majority of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the North West felt adults were failing to support them with regard to issues around identity and mental health.
The teenagers said that their experiences as LGBT people were made more difficult by adults who were judgmental, critical, and negative. Making jokes, being dismissive and ignoring the issue were also highlighted as being very unhelpful behaviours.
The report ‘How you can help us – how adults can help lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth’ also identified 19 practical actions which adults could take to better support young LGBT people. These range from treating young people as individuals and asking what they can to do help, to staying calm, and being honest about their own lack of knowledge if necessary.
128 LGBT people aged 15 – 19 in the North West region were surveyed for the study. The teenagers were asked to discuss their relationships with significant adults in their lives, such as teachers, parents, other family members and care workers. For each relationship, the young people were asked to discuss how comfortable they would feel discussing issues around their gender, sexuality, identity, sexual health and mental health.
33 of the 128 young people surveyed – 25% – said that they would not feel comfortable talking to any adult about issues which were causing problems for them.
Many of the young people who have had negative experiences with parents with regard to LGBT issues said that it also stopped them going to their parents for support with other issues, such as education, finance or relationships. Young people who said they couldn’t go to their parents for support said that they were most likely to seek support from the internet.
Teachers were identified as one of the most influential groups of adults for LGBT young people, but the majority of the young people surveyed said they didn’t think teachers were prepared enough to deal with LGBT students on a one-to-one basis. Teachers were also criticised for not challenging homophobia in the classroom enough, and for not ensuring that LGBT issues were visible on the curriculum.
“Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is really tough for a lot of young people,” says LGBT Youth North West Strategic Director, Amelia Lee. “Having adults around that young people can trust and go to for support can make a world of difference.”
“But from talking to young people we know that a lot of them don’t feel that they’re getting the support they need from the adults around them, and for some adults that’s because they just don’t know what to do. So for that reason LGBT Youth North West have worked with youth groups and young LGBT people in the region to put together a practical guide to help adults help the young LBGT people in their lives.
“Support shouldn’t end after an LGBT young person comes out. Emotional wellbeing is complex and intricately involves all sorts of internal and external factors. So as an adult who wants to help support a young person who is LGB or T, it’s important to realise that their needs may change depending on other factors, such as what’s happening in their family life or at school, or if there are any other factors which are contributing to stress or unhappiness.”
This research for ‘How you can help us – how adults can help lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans youth’ was funded by BBC Children in Need.