HOMOPHOBIA, BIPHOBIA & TRANSPHOBIA IN EDUCATION
MGRM AND We Are would like to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia which is celebrated annually on the 17th May. Adverts from MGRM’s Think Before You Speak: Making Life Better for LGBT Youth Campaign will be displayed on a number of newspapers on the day. The University LGBT group We Are will also be holding a Flowers of Friendship event on campus, distributing flowers to students. Both activities are being supported by the US Embassy.
The focus for this year’s activities around the world is homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in education. Numerous studies continue to demonstrate that a significant percentage of LGBT youth are victims of bullying due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in the schools they frequent. This has an impact on their well-being and also effects their school attendance and academic achievement. Schools should be safe spaces for all students and research demonstrates that policies that directly address homo/bi/transphobic bullying do make schools safer.
It is therefore unfortunate that the new National Curriculum Framework currently fails to make any specific reference to issues that most effect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. This continues to render members of the LGBT communities – students, parents, administrators, teachers, and other staff — invisible in the Maltese education system.
Moreover, while reference is made to the learning environment no mention is made to ensuring the physical and emotional safety of students. MGRM and We Are hold that safety is a precondition for learning and that the absence of any reference to addressing bullying is of grave concern. Our educational institutions should be committed to providing each student with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours needed to live in a complex and diverse world. This includes ensuring that any language or behaviour that deliberately degrades, denigrates, labels, stereotypes, incites hatred, prejudice, discrimination, harassment towards students or employees on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identification will not be tolerated and the prohibition of such language and behaviour should be included in student and teacher Codes of Conduct.
Gabi Calleja, coordinator from MGRM states: ‘No LGBT student should have to suffer just because of who they are. This means making sure that schools are safe places for all and that the diversity of the student population is reflected in the curriculum.’
Luisa Tolu, a member of We Are adds, "last week We Are had the chance to speak to students at Giovanni Curmi Higher Secondary School and one sentiment emerged very clearly from these conversations; that there isn't enough visibility of LGBT issues within our education system and that every student would benefit if they are provided with information about sexual orientation and gender identity from a young age."