This LGBT+ history month we are celebrating the awesome inclusion work undertaken by LGBT+ members.
In early 2019, local schools were targeted by an external organisation that had sent ‘resource packs supporting trans-identified students’ into schools across the region. The resource packs contained information directly contradicting guidance provided by the NEU and respected LGBT+ equality organisations. Concern was raised amongst NEU members about the potential harm created by this misinformation and local community activists organised a public meeting.
I attended the meeting alongside other teachers from Merseyside. The community groups, activists and teachers present agreed to work together to organise a conference for educators both to counter the misleading guidance and to promote the work of recommended organisations such as Navajo (a local grassroots trans-led organisation working with employers to advance equality), the NEU and Diversity Role Models.
The enthusiasm was there but it had to be matched by both money and logistics. NEU Sefton District agreed to sponsor the event covering the costs of room hire and catering. With brilliant support from the NEU Regional Development Officer, I liaised with NEU LGBT+ Organising Forum members and the NEU trans and non-binary educators’ network to ensure an informed and valuable programme. Once we had a draft agenda sorted, a location booked and the all-important sandwiches organised, we set up an Eventbrite link and utilised union networks to promote the event locally.
The day was a huge success. A packed room of leaders, teachers and support staff heard from a range of speakers in education roles on topics including how to create trans-inclusive policy and practice as well as sobering statistics on bullying, mental health and suicide amongst trans young people. A Sefton secondary head teacher described the comprehensive work undertaken in his school, which began with tackling homo/bi/transphobic bullying and has now moved on to proactive inclusion work across the curriculum as well as with pastoral teams.
Workshops were delivered by local college lecturer Kirsty Walker, Dr Elly Barnes of Educate and Celebrate, and representatives from Mermaids. Each contributor provided a fantastic opportunity for delegates to work in smaller groups and ask questions in a supportive environment relating to their particular workplaces or experiences.
The highlight of the day for many was the thought-provoking performance piece from Access 27 – a theatre-in-education group. Many delegates reported back to their workplaces on how effective their performance was in highlighting and tackling some of the issues faced by trans/non-binary young people.
Evaluations from the day were overwhelmingly positive and we were able to use the event to talk to non-members about joining the NEU and existing members about either stepping up their involvement locally or getting involved in the relevant equality sectors within the union.
Our challenge now is to continue this work, find new activists as we go, and to reach more of our members with the excellent LGBT+ inclusion materials the NEU has to offer.