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Teachers, take action!

Education was the central focus issue which the IDAHO Committee – together with community activists and educators worldwide – campaigned on for the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia 2012. Since then, challenging prejudice in the classroom, and ensuring space for debate and diversity through education, have remained popular issues for people to organise around for May 17. And, in a way, education is really at the heart of what the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia has always been about.

Here you will find a summary of arguments for fighting Homophobia & Transphobia in and through Education, as well as some key resources for doing so, including the IDAHO Teacher Brief (2012), and the UNESCO lesson plan for IDAHO (2012).

Arguments for Action

Schools can be violent places

Although there are many examples of schools which have over the past few years consistently been working to create conducive and safe learning environments, research from many countries still reveals generally high levels of abuse, harassment and verbal or physical violence experienced by young LGBT people in schools.

The stigma, discrimination and bullying they suffer goes against their right to education

Studies have widely documented that bullying in school has a huge impact on learning achievement and dropout rates. It is a major obstacle to the right to education. Psychological damage, including low self-esteem, bear permanent marks on people’s lives and can lead to self-harming conduct, including suicide.

Research in the US has shown that students who are bullied at school are more than twice as likely to report a suicide attempt than students who are not bullied.

And these unsafe environments are bad for all students

Beyond the terrible impact bullying has on the children and students who are perceived as different, it creates generally unsafe, discriminatory, stigmatizing and violent school climates.

Picture 75-educ-idahotThese climates have proven to have very negative effects on the learning outcomes of all students, not only the bullied ones. It is therefore in the interest of all to reverse the situation and allow education systems to construct societies, which are inclusive of diversity and respectful of the individual.

Kids who are different from the majority gender norm suffer most from violence in schools

Violence in schools reflects wider social problems such as racism, discrimination of people with physical and mental disabilities, etc. However, according to the United Nations World Report on Violence against Children (2006), most bullying is actually sexual or gender-based and targets those perceived as not conforming to prevailing sexual and gender norms.

Young girls who are not ‘feminine’ enough and young boys who are not ‘masculine’ enough are specifically exposed to mockery, abuse, exclusion and violence.

It not only goes against the individuals, but it undermines gender equality objectives altogether

As this violence is bred by stereotyped gender roles (conforming to what is said to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’), to let it happen unchallenged threatens the whole construction of a more gender equal society.

Homo/transphobia is an entry point to tackle sex/gender-based violence

Homophobia and transphobia are forms of hatred expressed towards people because they are, or are believed to be, homosexual or transgender. Homophobia and Transphobia are forms of gender-based violence because they are based on the assumption that all people should conform to the majority representation of what ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ behaviors are, or ought to be.

Picture 73-educ-idahotThis form of violence does not only affect children and students with different sexual orientations or gender expressions. Surveys have shown that 80% of people who have been exposed to homo/transphobic bullying define themselves as heterosexual.

For teachers, fighting sex/gender-based violence is therefore an essential strategy to improve learning achievements for all and should be taken very seriously.

Teachers worldwide are taking action

Teachers know about the importance of a sustainable, safe and inspiring learning environment. They act everyday to provide it to their students and have often developed innovative approaches to tackling sexuality-related bullying in general, and homophobia/transphobia in particular, in the classroom. Nevertheless, teachers also often experience unease in raising this specific issue. This is why this initiative was developed. It focuses on making use of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia as a good opportunity for action and to provide teachers with ideas, inspiration and material for action.

The fact that the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is recognized by many governments and international institutions, and is marked by UNESCO, provides a good argument for teachers to take action.

An international initiative around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia: the Global ‘IDAHO Lesson’

The IDAHO Lesson is an ongoing international initiative – created in 2012 – whereby teachers and educational staff in all contexts are invited to use the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to organize some specific activity in their class on this subject.

While it is important to fight bullying, the initiative also suggests that homo/transphobic bullying is encouraged, if not altogether motivated, by homo/transphobic educational contexts. The initiative therefore also encourages a critical examination of the curriculum.

Teach the IDAHO Lesson: A Case Study from Bangkok


School Rainbow Campaign at Thammasat University, Bangkok, 14 May 2014 © UNAIDS/A.Martin

One of the most impactful of education-related actions for IDAHOT 2014 – both globally and locally – was the School Rainbow Campaign, in Bangkok, Thailand. Chalk-ins were organised in five schools on May 17, with the participation of young people, community organisations, school teachers and counsellors, and international agency staff. Thai national television and press reported on the actions, and photos of the actions were shared all over the world, in the week around IDAHOT.

The campaign provided a way to publicise new lesson plans and information resources against LGBT bullying, and to open debate about discrimination within the schools and among the public in general. Organisers reported that pioneering actions took place in the schools selected, with various actors taking forward the campaign within the school – in the form of assemblies, lessons on sexual and gender diversity, and the promotion of support services. Read more about the campaign.

Further resources

  • The full IDAHO Teacher Brief provides many resources for teachers, according to grades and subjects, and indicates organizations which they can turn to for advice and support. It is available for download here in English, French and Spanish.
  • UNESCO has also developed a specific IDAHO lesson plan for teachers of both primary and secondary levels. You can download it here.
  • The Safe School Coalition Victoria (Australia) has also created a specific document to help teachers take action on IDAHO. You can download it here.
  • In just one of the many actions which took place around the world for May 17, 2012, the group Queer Comrades, from China, produced a moving documentary, addressing issues of homophobic bullying in schools. You can watch it here.
  • The Gay, Straight and Lesbian Education Network (GSLEN), has produced a specific toolkit for elementary school children, ‘Ready Set, Respect’, which includes lesson plans here.

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