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19 Jun 2024

Pride Month: Creating a future as bright as our flag!

Bett in partnership with educator, Damon Young.
Pride Month: Creating a future as bright as our flag!
Championing EDI in education during Pride month!

It’s Pride Month, a time dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities worldwide! As one of the most significant months of the year, it’s a chance to reflect on the progress we've made as a society and acknowledge the work that still lies ahead. Within education in particular, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is vitally important in breaking the cycle of exclusion and misrepresentation at an early age and is fundamental in fostering an equitable society. To discuss this topic, we caught up with Damon Young, a passionate educator and researcher from the University of Strathclyde. Throughout this article, we’ll explore how the global education community can help foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for students. 

Damon's journey into teaching and EDI came out of his own school experience growing up knowingly gay yet feeling the need to hide his sexuality within mainstream education. While there have been many advancements since then, there is still a great need for resources and staff dedicated to supporting and educating young people! To drive this change, Damon now focuses his research on heteronormative cultures and the barriers faced by diverse voices in education today and hopes his advocacy work will contribute to the updating of the Equality Act 2010.

“During my experience of the education system in England – including primary, secondary, 6th form college and university – there was never any LGBTQI+ representation in my course materials. I often told myself I could not be normal because, from books, videos and even homework, I never felt represented. Hiding my sexuality was something I never questioned, and just did. "

Creating safe spaces within educational institutions

Every student should feel safe within their learning environment and it's up to institutions to create a space where everyone can thrive. By creating these ‘safe spaces’ individuals will be more open to engaging in conversations about EDI without fear of judgement. Damon highlighted the importance of using inclusive language such as personal pronouns to make individuals feel seen and respected. Small actions, such as educators wearing lanyards that signify their support for LGBTQ+ rights, can have a significant impact on creating a welcoming environment​​.

Part of creating a safe space within schools is to educate the educators! In most institutions, training is often optional and lacks a bespoke element. When it comes to race, gender, class and learning ability, one size does not fit all, so why should we take a different approach to sexuality?  By creating credit-bearing training annually, Damon believes it will make a huge difference in ensuring everyone, from students to staff, are educated on EDI principles and practices.

 “By embedding inclusive practices and awareness from an early age, we can prevent the negative consequences of exclusion, such as mental health issues, high absenteeism and academic underperformance​​.”

The future is bright if we work together

The vibrant colours of the Pride flag symbolise the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and the wide spectrum of human sexuality and gender. To ensure a future as bright as our flag, we must work together. For the future, Damon envisions educational institutions that are well-equipped with resources and funding for EDI initiatives. He advocates for permanent EDI staff and comprehensive frameworks to guarantee ongoing progress toward inclusivity. By integrating EDI into all aspects of education, from curriculum design to campus policies, institutions can create environments where everyone feels valued and supported.

Role models and resources

To help raise awareness within the global education space, we asked Damon Young about his role models within the LGBTQ+ community and any resources he’d recommend for educators. He cited influential figures such as Ian Rivers and Marsha P. Johnson. Rivers was a pioneer in publishing research on LGBTQ+ issues in education, while Johnson's activism during the Stonewall riots remains a powerful symbol of the ongoing fight for equality. These figures motivate him to continue advocating for change and supporting the next generation of LGBTQ+ individuals in education.

For educators seeking valuable resources, consider exploring:

●        Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Program

●        GLSEN

●        The Trevor Project



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