Supporting LGBTQ+ Students

Introduction

University life can be exciting and liberating for students and it can also be a time when students explore who they are and their identity.

How did it feel coming to university as an LGBTQ+ student?

I felt really excited to finally be myself without fearing what people will say.

Ane, 3rd year Edge Hill student

We want to ensure our LGBTQ+ students have a really positive experience with us, therefore, following consultation with both staff and students at Edge Hill, this toolkit has been developed to provide a range of useful information and guidance to support staff to understand the issues faced by LGBTQ+ students, and guidance to support staff to support LGBTQ+ students while at university.

LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (or questioning).

Current students Jazz, Charlie and Ruby talk about their experiences of coming to university for the first time.

Supporting the Journey

Current students Jazz, Charlie and Ruby suggest ways that staff can offer support to LGBTQ+ students.

Transitioning Students

Coming Out

Sex, Gender and Sexuality

Top Tips

Do you have any particular advice or top tips for academic staff as to how they can best support LGBTQ+ students?

Just be open to anyone and ask them for their name and how they would like to be addressed.

Ane, 3rd year Edge Hill student

• Ask all students what pronouns they use and what name they prefer to be known by, share your pronouns with them – this helps to normalise pronoun use and feels more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.

• Practice makes perfect so keep trying: it’s perfectly normal to make mistakes and even members of the LGBTQ+ communities do not always use the correct terms. If you make a mistake, simply apologise and continue the conversation or amend your work, where this is applicable.

• Familiarise yourself with Stonewall’s glossary of terms to ensure you understand the terminology and use the correct terminology as much as possible.

• If a student signs off their emails with a different name to the one that is assigned to the email account, please use the name they have signed off with as this is likely to be their preferred name. If you are unsure ask them if this name is what they prefer you use.

• Challenge queerphobic jokes and derogatory comments by speaking up, this contributes towards creating an environment inclusive of gender and sexual diversity.

• Avoid unhelpful stereotypes of LGBTQ+ people. Placing limitations or expectations on individuals because they belong to a certain group is damaging, hurtful, and discriminatory.

• When asking students about their pronoun use, avoid using the terms ‘prefer’, as this can sound like it is a choice and most people do not feel it is a choice. It is better to ask them what pronouns they use rather than what pronouns they prefer.

• Be aware that just because a student has ‘come out’ at University doesn’t mean they have ‘come out’ to their friends and family at home.

• If a student is struggling with their mental health and wellbeing, please visit our Mental Health toolkits for advice on how to refer them for more support.

• Ensure materials you develop are inclusive, representative of the community they aim to reflect and accessible to a diverse audience.

• Use gender-neutral language

Language

Names and Pronouns

Pronouns are the way people refer to each other and themselves. Most people use ‘he/him’ and ‘she/her’ pronouns, but some use gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they/them’, while others use neopronouns (e.g. ‘xe/hir’). It is good practice to ask students what pronouns they use, and to tell them what pronouns you use.

Asking a student what pronouns they use and what name they would like to be referred by are helpful questions that can be asked of all students. It is also good practice for you to share with them the pronouns you use, this can help to ‘normalise’ pronoun use and feel inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.

Current student Jazz talks about their pronouns and name in this short video.

Good Practice

• Ask all students what pronouns they use and what name they prefer to be known by, share your pronouns with them – this helps to normalise pronoun use and feels more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students.

• Practice makes perfect so keep trying: it’s perfectly normal to make mistakes and even members of the LGBTQ+ communities do not always use the correct terms. If you make a mistake, simply apologise and continue the conversation or amend your work, where this is applicable.

• Familiarise yourself with Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms to ensure you understand the terminology and use the correct terminology as much as possible.

• If a student signs off their emails with a different name to the one that is assigned to the email account, please use the name they have signed off with as this is likely to be their preferred name. If you are unsure ask them if this name is what they prefer you use.

Challenging Discrimination in the Classroom/Workplace

Challenging it when you hear it

Supporting students who are subject to it

Supporting students on placements

Discrimination and the Law

Mental Health

Current students Jazz, Charlie and Ruby discuss their experiences of mental health and discrimination at university.

Did you personally find that your mental health was affected by the barriers in society of being LGBTQ+?

I think it did before I came to uni, not a lot but I felt anxious a lot of times because of not being able to be 100% myself or my family asking me weird questions that made me feel a bit uncomfortable with myself. However, when I came to uni I never felt like being LGBTQ+ affected my mental health as I felt able to be myself and I learnt to not care what people could say.

Ane, 3rd year Edge Hill student

According to the NUS LGBTQ+ report, Education beyond the Straight and Narrow, 42% of LGBTQ+ respondents to the Youth Chances survey reported having experienced depression or anxiety, compared to 29% of non-LGBTQ+ respondents (Student Minds).

Although some LGBTQ+ students may report issues relating to their mental health and wellbeing, there are also many LGBTQ+ students who will have had a supportive and positive journey. However, if you are concerned about the wellbeing or mental health of a student, it is important that you have a conversation with them and refer them for support if needed. For more information please see our Mental Health Toolkits.

Resources

Useful Links and Further Reading

LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language Guide

Trans FAQs

Trans Support Plan Template

Trans 101: Gender Diversity Crash Course 

Student Minds: LGBTQ+ Resources

Stonewall

MindOut Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer Mental Health Service

OutLife: What is Intersex?

The Trevor Project: A Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth

Things Not to Say to Non-Binary People (link to BBC video)