Celebrating Difference A whole-school approach to LGBT+ inclusion12.48*
- Advocates for a whole-school approach to recognise LGBT+ issues
- Explores many issues that support diversity in schools.
- Explores key issues such as bullying, prejudice & mental-health.
- Challenges readers, teachers and leaders to explore internal biases, with consideration where opinions have been formed from.
- Offers an action plan for school to follow to ensure that issues are addressed and support is available.
Fortunately, there is a lot more understanding in many societies and communities about the diversity, individuality and the preferences of individuals. We are all born into our unique set of circumstances with many characteristics that set us apart from others. We take our cues from our families, communities and cultures, but we cannot ignore the inner voice that tells us to take note of our true beliefs and feelings that never really go away. No matter what our religion, race or families tell us, a true expression of ourselves can be difficult to openly share as reactions can be scary terrifying.
In his book, Shaun Dellenty starts to tackle many of the prejudices, attitudes and challenges faced within many communities where celebrating difference still remains an issue to be dealt with. By introducing a whole-school approach to LGBT+ inclusion, Shaun offers up a 5-Tiered action plan to help schools, teachers and leaders start to open up a system where celebrating ‘difference’ can lead to happy, safe and warm school environments for everyone. In fact, Shaun’s approach is underpinned by 10 fundamental values which, surely, we should all be striving towards:
- Dignity and respect
- An open heart
- A belief in equality
As teachers, we are guiding and supporting young people who are still trying to work out their place in the world, as well as figuring out who they are, as people. This is a responsibility that we should not take half-heartedly, and recognising ‘difference’ in our students should help us recognise that prejudices can be potentially disempowering. In the book, Shaun goes on to inform about the realities of homophobia and the negative impact that results from ignorant prejudices, including mental health issues, bullying, and hate crimes.
Chapter 3 contains a powerful exploration of pride and prejudice, with Shaun challenging the reader to think about what we think, and to acknowledge that all of us are, to some extent, fearful, biased and prejudiced about certain things. Our biases are formed from many channels, including family, friends, media and our experiences within education. Shaun challenges us, as educators, to think about our own biases and where they may have been formed, and whether they are justified. Such consideration can help us all develop as caring people, although facing up to some of our judgement calls might be difficult to overcome, exploring where they come from can be a major step in challenging the innate perceptions we hold.
The book continues with consideration to expectations and misconceptions, advocating for a whole-school approach to LGBT+ inclusion, involving sustained organisational change. The book supports schools in developing discussions about issues that individuals may feel uncomfortable talking about, offering guidance and support to ensure professional training in LGBT+ provision is possible to include everyone within the community. Additionally, the book points out cross-curriculum opportunities where LGBT+ can be discussed to develop a culture where the language and issues faced become the norm, and everyone feels comfortable discussing in a safe environment.
In essence, the book just calls for celebration and dissemination of the differences we all hold – it’s what makes us all unique. The book also contains a useful ‘Glossary’ of terms associated with LGBT+ that can also challenge ignorance or misunderstanding. The challenges of LGBT+ are clearly a passion for Shaun, and so they should be, and they should also be for all school, leaders, teachers, adults, and our students. Groups have faced prejudice and barriers to opportunities in life, and society is starting to wake up to realise that the challenges faced have simply not been fair. This book points out another group who need special care, attention and love in helping them accept and enjoy the individuals who they are, without fear of being proud of who they are, and who they can become.