Sussex students have set up an initiative to help the schools they attended before university become more LGBT-friendly.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer Group (LGBTQ) launched the program last Tuesday, 8 November, in the Fulton building.
Members of the society have been encouraged to send letters to their previous schools highlighting the areas they found to be problematic for their sexuality.
The letters can be anonymous or signed, at the discretion of the student.
The main areas that the society identified that needed to be worked on in the majority of schools were bullying and sexual education.
At the opening event, one of the NUS LGBT officers, Alan Bailey, celebrated the steps taken by the society, saying: “It is of vital importance to make sure that educational environments are diverse and safe for all students.”
Jess Bayliss, organizer of the campaign and LGBTQ representative officer, asserted: It’s something I personally really wanted to do since I left school because I faced a lot of problems at school.
“When I was at school I tried to campaign against the treatment of LGBT students.
“When I was 13, inspired by a scene in ‘Mean Girls’, I distributed a load of flyers but I ended up getting in loads of trouble with the teachers because of ‘vandalism’.
“The whole things just made me realise that it wasn’t just a problem with the students, but the whole administration.”
The initiative was partly inspired by work done by ‘Schools Out’, a national program ‘working towards equality in education for lesbian, gay and trans people since 1974’.
Schools Out have worked in close contact with a number of schools across the country to ensure that there is a strong support network in place for students experiencing homophobia in education.
Although the society is not currently working with this national body, they do hope to work with them more closely in the future.
The LGBTQ campaigners have been provided with a template for their letters to help ensure their writing is clear and effective.
In an attempt to incentivise positive action by schools, the template includes a reminder to that Ofsted have recently started judging schools’ performance by their treatment of LGBTQ students.
Jess also stressed the positive effect that the process can have on the students writing to their schools.
She stated: “Aside from the benefits for the actual school in question, we hope this program will help the students feel like they made a difference by sending the letter.
“If you’ve had a really bad experience it’s nice to feel like something can actually change.”
A third-year gay student voiced his support for the work, saying: “I went to a very posh private school for a few years and found that the atmosphere there was stifling and incredibly homophobic.
“Schools like that really need to become more aware of the adversity faced by queer students and actively prevent them from feeling alienated.”
LGBTQ have told participants that if they receive a response from their school, they will provide help in following up their correspondence, either through further written contact or directly visiting the schools.
They see this launch as only the beginning of a wider campaign to help adolescents with their sexuality and are hoping to do an even larger launch in LGBT history month in February.