Be An Ally

Be An Ally
Be An Ally

Be An Ally

Why do trans, non-binary and gender-exploring pupils need teachers to be allies?

Statistics and reports, as well as our own conversations in School of Hard Knocks partner schools, have shown us that the situation for trans, non-binary and gender exploring students in schools in Wales is dire.  LGBTQI+ pupils, and especially trans pupils are experiencing bullying that negatively affects their mental health and wellbeing and they do not have enough teachers who they can report it to or talk to. 


Of LGBT pupils experience bullying for being LGBT


Of trans pupils experience bullying for being trans


Of these pupils state that they have not reported it to anyone

Many schools have not yet integrated LGBTQI+ experiences into their curriculum and the ESTYN 2020 report found that in schools in Wales where support and provision for LGBTQI+ diversity is low:

  • LGBTQI+ students encounter varying levels of bullying and discrimination that negatively affect their school experience leading to poorer attendance and slower academic progress.
  • Students in general do not see positive LGBTQI+ role models as part of their curriculum in school.
  • Addressing LGBTQI+ and trans experience is seen as an addition in schools and often only addressed in RSE, if anywhere. This gives the message to students that trans and LGBTQI+ experiences are a problem that needs to be discussed rather than part of everyday life.
  • Leaders in schools do not ensure that instances of homophobic and transphobic bullying are recorded or addressed. They also do not ensure that staff engage in high quality professional learning that provides them with the confidence to support trans and LGBTQI+ students.

Who can be an Ally?

Anyone can be an ally to trans and non-binary students.  Allies support them and speak up with and for them against discrimination, exclusion and mistreatment. 

Teaching and non-teaching staff at schools are particularly important because they are in a position not only to provide much needed support to trans and non-binary students, but also because they have the authority to speak up against bullying and transphobia that is happening in their classrooms and at school.

What is an ally?

  • An ally may also be called a straight ally or cis ally.  An ally is a person who supports and stands up for members of a community that is not their own.  For example: a straight or cis pupil or teacher who supports and stands up for trans, non-binary or gender exploring people is an ally.
  • Being an active ally means educating yourself, seeking to understand the realities of transgender and non-binary people and acting, not just saying you are an ally.
  • An ally addresses the imbalance of visibility in our schools and helps make visible trans people and trans experiences. For example: using examples of gender diverse people in class or celebrating LGBTQI+ and transgender events and holidays.
  • Ask yourself if the community would consider you an ally and what you can do!

Identifying transphobic bullying 

We all know what bullying looks like.  Transphobic bullying can look like any other bullying of a transgender, non-binary or gender exploring person.  It also includes:

  • Deadnaming (calling them by a name they do not identify with),

  • Purposely misgendering someone by using pronouns that are not their preferred pronouns to speak to or about them.
  • Using transphobic language
  • Laughing at the physical appearance or style of another student
  • Teasing or aggressive behaviour toward someone because of their gender expression

How to speak up against transphobia

Speaking up as a transgender, non-binary or gender exploring student who is directly affected by bullying can be very difficult. Speaking up as an ally is a different experience and can be easier to do if you are not the object of bullying or insults.  Although it is important that all teaching and non-teaching staff be equipped with training that gives them the language and understanding of trans and non-binary students’ experience, an expertise on trans or LGBTQI+ experience is not necessary to speak out against transphobia. 

Teaching and non-teaching staff should take all incidences of bullying seriously and not write them off as banter or misunderstanding.  If in doubt if the bullying is transphobic, staff should still take it seriously.  First address the instance of bullying, then reach out to a champion in the school or other professionals who can help address transphobia. 

Here are some possible responses to addressing transphobic comments or behaviour:

  • “That kind of language is transphobic and makes people feel unsafe. Therefore it is unacceptable.”
  • “The school policy says that we are all responsible for making this a safe place for everyone and your bahaviour affects anyone who is gender exploring or who identifies as transgender or non-binary.”
  • “Do you realise that what you said is transphobic?”
  • “I’m really surprised and disappointed to hear you say that. I had hoped you would recognise that it is important to treat everyone, including your transgender, non-binary and gender exploring peers with respect.  It is therefore wrong to use such language.”