Sex education, gender-neutral toilets and more inclusive sports demanded by LGBTI+ Young People
“Ground-breaking consultation must inform future policies”
Statement by Minister Katherine Zappone on the Launch of the Youth Consultation Report for the LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy
Calls for better sex-education, gender neutral toilets and more inclusive sports from a ground-breaking consultation of young people on LGBTI+ issues must lead to action, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
The Minister was speaking at the launch a Youth Consultation Report on a new LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy – which will be a world first.
The report contains the views of 4,000 young people across Ireland.
Minister Zappone is welcoming key recommendations from the young people including:
· Education that covers the teaching of genders, relationships, sexualities, and covers types of sex safe, consent and mental health
· Sex and gender education to be delivered by trained teachers and external facilitators
· The inclusion of gender theory and LGBTI+ history within the curriculum
· More gender-neutral toilets and changing rooms
· Simplify the process of changing one’s name, and change official forms to reflect different genders including non-binary
· The introduction of clear hate crime legislation and ensure its enforcement
The Minister added:
“We gather to celebrate Pride, Pals and Perspectives. We do so confident that Ireland is on a continuing journey to full equality.
But we are also aware that there is still members of our community who feel isolated, alone and unable to come out to family or friends.
The findings today offer a wide range of positive steps which can be taken to ensure our communities will become places where all young people can grow up confident that they will be accepted, supported and loved.
Through this consultation Our young people have spoken. Their calls impact on almost every area of Government.
I will be working to ensure their voices are listened to. What they have provided is a strong foundation on which we will build the world’s first LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy.
As Minister I am committing to delivering this report to every one of my colleagues and asking that each Department consider how it can respond.
In 2018 I look forward to launching our Youth Strategy. It will be an important moment.
Ireland’s journey to full equality is continuing – there can be no going back.”
The Programme for Government (2016) gives a commitment to develop a National LGBT Youth Strategy. This is a key commitment for The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and also makes a contribution towards the Government’s broader commitment to continue to strive for full inclusion of LGBTI+ people in Ireland.
Better Outcomes Brighter Futures, The National Policy Framework for Children and Youth People 2014-2020 and the National Youth Strategy 2015-2020 provide the framework within which the Strategy is being framed with a focus on ensuring appropriate measures are in place to enable young people identifying as LGBTI+ to achieve their full potential.
This Strategy will identify the additional measures that are required to ensure that young people identifying as LGBTI+ can achieve the same outcomes as all children and young people. An Oversight Committee, representing a broad cross-sectoral grouping of relevant organisations, State Agencies and Government Departments and chaired by Una Mullally, oversees the development of the Strategy. The Youth Advisory Group also has representatives on the Oversight Committee.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy
Report of the consultations with young people in Ireland
Summary of the key findings and methodology
The report presents an overview of the entire youth consultation process which has taken place as part of the LGBTI+ National Youth Strategy. It presents the key findings from the survey combined with the messages emerging from seven consultation events. The overall consultation messages have been arrived at following a detailed analysis of the data gathered. The report also outlines the methodology used in detail.
The consultations reached a total of n=3,882 young people from across Ireland (n=3,710 young people completed the SpunOut.ie survey and n=172 young people attended one of seven consultation events) representing a cross-section of young people, including those who identified as a member of the LGBTI+ community, and those who did not. More than two thirds (69%) of the survey respondents identified as LGBTI+, 29% did not, and one in 10 was unsure. Nearly all (93%) of the young people who attended the consultation events identified as LGBTI+. While the young people represented nearly every county in Ireland, most spent much of their time in urban areas.
The consultations focused on three questions:
1. What is positive about being a young LGBTI+ person in Ireland today? (Positives)
2. What issues are faced by young LGBTI+ people in Ireland today? (Issues)
3. What changes would improve the lives of young LGBTI+ people? (Changes)
In the survey, the most frequently mentioned messages on what is positive about being an LGBTI+ person in Ireland was less discrimination (mentioned in approximately 33% of responses), followed by peer support (mentioned in approximately 20% of responses) and favourable laws (mentioned in approximately 15% of responses). Similar themes emerged during the consultation events. Many mentioned the Marriage Act and the Gender Recognition Act.
The most frequently mentioned messages on the issues faced by LGBTI+ people included on-going discrimination (mentioned in approximately 50% of responses) and bullying and harassment (mentioned in approximately 20% of responses). These messages were echoed during the consultation events.
Reflecting the identified issues facing LGBTI+ young people, survey respondents suggested changes including improved education, increased awareness and acceptance, changes within the LGBTI+ community, further law reform, and improved access to healthcare. Participants at the consultation events were asked to vote on the ‘positives’ or ‘changes’ they felt should be considered during the strategy development process. Most voted on changes, with the majority of votes being allocated to changes within education and training settings (31% of votes), followed by improved spaces and places for LGBTI+ people (24% of votes), improved awareness and acceptance (16%), further legal reform (13%), improved health services (12%) and changes within the LGBTI+ community (5%).
The positives of being a young LGBTI+ person in Ireland today
An overarching theme, emerging from both consultation approaches, was one of less discrimination and an increased sense of acceptance and social support. Within this broad theme, young people described:
»» Positive legal reform (e.g. around marriage equality, employment equality, equal status and gender recognition legislation)
»» Increased visibility and tolerance (e.g. increased representation in mainstream media, increased openness)
»» Support from the LGBTI+ community, peers, allies, universities/colleges, and some schools and workplaces
»» Improved resources and support for the LGBTI+ community
This acceptance and support is reflected in some of the positive aspects of being LGBTI+ in Ireland, which both survey respondents and participants at the events described as the increased freedom to celebrate and express one’s identity.
The issues and challenges faced by young LGBTI+ people in Ireland today
Despite describing many positive aspects of being LGBTI+ in Ireland, survey respondents and event participants highlighted some issues and challenges facing young people that provide a sense of on-going discrimination.
The messages from both consultation approaches were very consistent:
»» Discrimination and stigma Terms such as bias, bigotry, inequality, intolerance were used to describe their experiences of discrimination and lack of acceptance and discriminatory practice within employment and workplaces. Biphobia/erasure and transphobia within the wider society and within the LGBTI+ community were identified as particular concerns.
»» Bullying and harassment were referenced by many, including reports of bullying and harassment across many spaces (e.g. school, workplace and social spaces) because of ineffective anti-bullying policies and hate crime legislation.
»» The lack of education was a dominant theme across all consultations events, with young people describing little or no inclusive gender, sex and LGBTI+ education, and highlighting the fact that such education was delivered by staff without appropriate training. This lack of comprehensive LGBTI+ inclusive sex education, combined with poor school policies, was described as resulting in discriminatory behaviour from school staff and non-LGBTI+ peers.
»» Absence of gender-neutral bathrooms and problems with gendered school uniform.
»» Isolation and exclusion, where young people described difficulties in relation to coming out or living as an LGBTI+ young person, were described in the survey and during the consultations. Barriers to inclusion comprised poor services in rural areas and the lack of venues for under 18s to socialise.
»» Issues raised in both the survey and during the consultation indicated perceptions of generation gaps, whereby the younger generation was more accepting of LGBTI+ people than their older counterparts.
»» While some young people identified family members as providing important support, problems with parents and family members were described, with the worse cases describing violence and the disowning of children by their families, resulting in homelessness and increased exposure to risk and exclusion.
»» Poor health and well-being, particularly mental health and a culture of drug and alcohol misuse culture within the LGBTI+ community, was identified as an issue in both the survey and during the consultation events. Other health issues raised included the need for improved access to health services for transgender people, including access to counselling, hormones and surgery.
Changes that would improve the lives of young LGBTI+ people in Ireland today
Changes to education within schools and improved training for professionals accounted for the highest proportion of mentions in the survey (50%) and votes (31%) during the consultation events. Within the Education and training theme, suggested changes included:
»» The introduction of mandatory LGBTI+ inclusive education in primary and secondary schools
»» Provide adequate education that covers the teaching of genders, relationships, sexualities, and covers types of sex safe, consent and mental health
»» Sex and gender education to be delivered by trained teachers and external facilitators
»» Teach pupils to expect and respect difference from an early age
»» Normalise non-traditional relationships
»» The introduction and enforcement of anti-bullying policies to tackle bullying by staff and students
»» The introduction of school policies on gender-neutral uniforms, gender-neutral toilets and transgender policies (e.g. the use of pronouns)
»» The provision of support such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), LGBTI+ Week, counselling, safe spaces and student staff networks
»» The inclusion of gender theory and LGBTI+ history within the curriculum
»» LGBTI+ and diversity training for all professionals. Pink and purple training for teachers and school staff and governors, for health professionals, youth workers and public servants. LGBTI+ training for parents and carers
»» Longer-term action: Remove religious patronage in schools and hospitals; Rethink single-sex schools; »» Abolish school uniforms or offer gender-neutral options.
Suggestions to improve awareness, acceptance and inclusion were mentioned in approximately 27% of the survey responses, and received 16% of the votes in the consultation events. Some responses did not expand on how awareness and acceptance might be improved. Others referred to the need for ‘normalisation’ of LGBTI+ and the removal of ‘stigma’.
Specific suggestions within this theme included:
»» More positive and inclusive representation in the media
»» More awareness training and education across society (with specific messages for improved awareness of the older generation)
»» Raise awareness of negative stereotypes and create more supportive environments, educate people on what is offensive and what is acceptable
»» Educate the wider community on gender, sexuality (e.g. bisexuality and asexuality), and non-binary issues and use of pronouns
»» Removal of discrimination in sport for transgender people/more inclusive sport.
»» As a broad theme, improved spaces and places for LGBTI+ young people received one-quarter (24%) of the votes during the consultation events. A small proportion of the votes were allocated to ‘positives’ identified under this theme, but most of the votes were directed to changes including:
»» More alcohol-free/quiet spaces for LGBTI+ young people to meet up in places that are not focused on alcohol or hooking up, e.g. cafés, bookshops.
»» More safe spaces – inclusive and exclusive spaces within the wider community and in accessible locations
»» More gender-neutral toilets and changing rooms
»» More services and spaces in rural areas and funding for trained youth workers who have a presence in rural areas
»» More welcoming and inclusive communities, e.g. LGBTI+ friendly town awards etc.
»» More safe spaces and sheltered accommodation for young people excluded from the family home.
Within the survey, some of the recommendations to changes within the LGBTI+ community included improved LGBTI+ services described above.
»» Favourable laws received a number of mentions within the ‘positives’ of being LGBTI+ in
Ireland. However, 6% of the survey respondents and 13% of the consultation votes were allocated within this theme. Suggested legal reform included:
»» The introduction of clear hate crime legislation and ensure its enforcement
»» The inclusion of non-binary within the Gender Recognition Act
»» Improved gender recognition for under 18s (especially for those whose parents are not supportive)
»» Simplify the process of changing one’s name, and change official forms to reflect different genders including non-binary
»» The removal of the legal obstacles to adoption, fostering and surrogacy
»» Introduce legislation to provide gender-neutral toilets, and amend building regulations to remove the ‘three solid walls’ requirement
»» The introduction of more protective legislation for LGBTI+ people, e.g. make religious organisations abide by the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977–2015
»» Separate Church and State.
»» More than one in 10 (12%) of consultation participants voted on issues and changes within the health and well-being theme. Suggestions within this theme were mentioned by approximately 5% of the survey respondents, and included:
- More inclusive healthcare for non-binary people
- Overhaul the transgender healthcare system to encompass therapy, hormone therapy, surgery, speech and language services, hair removal and provision of chest binders
- Ensure that all healthcare staff receive LGBTI+ awareness training
- Improve access to mental health services for children, young people and young adults
- Train mental health services staff in LGBTI+ issues
- Provide access to independent counselling in schools
- Improve access to statutory Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
- Remove the requirement for parental consent to access services
»» Improve sexual health services
- More education on sexual health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Improved education for lesbian women or women who have sex with women
- Easier access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and dental dams
- Mobile STI services for STI testing.
Respondents to the survey and participants at the consultation events identified the services offered by the LGBTI+ community to be among the ‘positives’ of being LGBTI+ in Ireland. Suggestions within this theme were mentioned in 14% of survey responses, and received 5% of the consultation votes. These suggestions included:
»» Improved LGBTI+ services for young people who are not ‘out’ or who are coming ‘out’, including 24/7 helpline and online support
»» Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) awareness training and ASD-friendly spaces (i.e. quiet spaces)
»» More daytime and alcohol-free LGBTI+ social spaces
»» Challenge stereotypes within the community and address bi-erasure and transphobia (e.g. minorities within minorities)
»» Promote greater networking within the community, share experience and resources
»» Bridge gap between the older and younger LGBTI+ generations
»» Greater cooperation within LGBTI+ groups and between all youth and community-based groups (e.g. sports, language, culture).
The online survey – Methodology
To commence the consultation process, the Oversight Committee commissioned SpunOut.ie to coordinate, develop and analyse the survey. The Youth Advisory Group worked alongside SpunOut.ie and Whitebarn Consulting to draft the survey questions and pilot the questionnaire.
The survey used open-ended questions to explore the three key consultation questions
1. What is positive about being a young LGBTI+ person in Ireland today? (Positives)
2. What issues are faced by young LGBTI+ people in Ireland today? (Issues)
3. What changes would improve the lives of young LGBTI+ people? (Changes)
An open-ended question was also used to capture sexual orientation. A small number of closed questions were used to capture demographic details such as gender (male, female and nonbinary), age, county where people lived, and the area where the respondents spent most of their time (e.g. mostly urban or mostly rural), and whether they identified as LGBTI+ (yes, no or unsure).
The survey questionnaire was drafted in consultation with the Youth Advisory Group, which was piloted with a group of young people before a final version was agreed. The online self-completion survey was hosted on the Typeform platform. The survey, which was incentivised, was live for two weeks in April 2017. It was promoted heavily using a range of methods including:
»» A Facebook Live event
»» Active promotion by the SpunOut.ie staff who appeared on radio stations such as
SPIN 1038 and iRadio to discuss the survey
»» A link to the survey also featured prominently on the SpunOut.ie homepage, its
Twitter feed and on Facebook (with a boosted Facebook post)
»» The active promotion of the survey link by Whitebarn Consulting and SpunOut.ie and the organisations involved in the strategy development process
»» Dedicated Twitter5 and Facebook6 accounts were set up for the National Strategy support staff and each account generated approximately 500 followers/likes.
The analysis of the three consultation questions (the positives, the issues, and changes) began with simple word clouds to indicate the most common responses. The coding of predominantly qualitative survey data was not without its difficulties. Due to the size of the qualitative dataset, a balance had to be struck between capturing detail and having a manageable number of codes to identify themes. Codes were developed by sampling a few hundred responses under each open-ended question. These were refined as necessary during the laborious process of allocating codes to each of the relevant questions for each of the respondents. Due to the anonymised nature of the survey, it was not possible to clarify afterwards exactly what respondents meant when they answered open-ended questions; consequently, judgement had to be exercised when deciding what code(s) best matched the statement made.
Consultation events – Methodology
The face-to-face consultations were planned by DCYA, with support from the Youth
Advisory Group. Seven consultation events were held across Ireland: Dublin (two events), Sligo, Dundalk, Galway, Waterford and Cork.
The consultation events were published and promoted using a range of methods. Letters of invitation were sent to all DCYA-funded project as well as LGBTI+ support organisations in Ireland. The consultations were also widely promoted on social media using Facebook and Twitter, including the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) social media.
The two Dublin events took place on two Saturdays in May 2017; they began at 10.30am and ended at 3.30pm. The event in Cork also took place on a Saturday; it began at 10.30am and ended at 2.30pm. The consultations in Sligo, Galway, Waterford, and Dundalk were held in the evenings, beginning at 6.30pm and ending at approximately 9.30pm. Refreshments were provided at all consultations, and briefing sessions were held before and after each consultation. A professional counsellor attended all consultations and was available to provide therapeutic support if required. A member of the Oversight Committee introduced each event, providing a background to the strategy development process and emphasising the importance of the young person’s voice and placing young people at the centre of the process.
Members of the Youth Advisory Group described their role in the strategy development and Oversight Committee, and stressed the importance of everyone’s individual voices. Participants were asked to be honest about their opinions, to listen to each other, and to respect each other’s viewpoints.
All consultation events were facilitated by trained youth participation officers. The consultations kicked off with energising icebreaker and team-building activities. The participants were then divided into groups according to age (15–17 and 18–24 years), and were briefed on the format of the consultation.
Post-it notes exercise
In their respective groups, all young people were given four post-it notes each, and were asked to write down a word or sentence on each post-it note describing the positives in relation to LGBTI+ and young people in Ireland today. All were then given four additional post-it notes and were asked to identify ‘issues’ in relation to the same. The ‘positives’ and ‘issues’ were posted on a wall. In each group a few young people volunteered to organise all the post-it notes (positives and issues) together, into common categories or themes. Having grouped the post-it notes as such, they were then transferred onto flipchart pages and titled according to the theme. The facilitator worked with the young people to identify up to four or five tablemat themes, which formed the basis of the workshop exercise.
World Café methodology was used to structure the second part of the consultation. The thematic category from each of the flipcharts was transferred to a tablemat. The ‘issues’ and ‘positives’ raised on the post-it note flipcharts were used to develop the discussion for each group, which was structured according to the three sections within the tablemat, namely:
»» Give more detail on the positive things for LGBTI+ young people in Ireland
»» Give more detail on issues faced by LGBTI+ young people in Ireland
»» What changes will improve the lives of LGBTI+ young people in Ireland?
Where relevant, young people were invited to link ‘issues’ with suggested ‘changes’ on the tablemats using arrows. Subgroups worked on a tablemat and then moved onto the next tablemat, considering the content and adding to it if they wished. This process continued until everyone present had the opportunity to work on all of the tablemats within their group.
In the final part of the exercise, participants were invited to vote on the ‘positives’ or ‘changes’ they believed should be included for consideration within the LGBTI+ Strategy for Young People in Ireland. Each participant was given four votes for each tablemat. All participants circulated between the tablemats, reviewed the content of the completed tablemats, and voted on what they considered to be a priority for the LGBTI+ Strategy for Young People in Ireland. The consultation ended with the facilitators thanking everyone for their participation.
Each of the consultation events was observed by a member of Insights Health and Social
Research team, who acted as non-participant observers, documenting the process using notes and photographs. At the end of the consultations, all materials (e.g. post-it notes, flipchart pages and tablemats with votes) from the process were collated and analysed thematically.
Analysis of the group consultations
The consultation activities generated 55 tablemats covering a range of topics, such as legal issues/rights, discrimination, acceptance/visibility, gender validation/transgender issues, schools and education, healthcare, and community supports.
The two reporters initially worked together to analyse the content of the flipcharts/post-it notes and a subset of the tablemats. The initial analysis identified eight themes, with some overlapping subthemes:
»» Guidance, legislation and reform
»» Societal change
»» Communities and support
»» Youth services and spaces
»» Health and medical issues
»» Church and State
A second level of analysis of the whole content of the tablemats, with the reporters working independently in the first instance, resulted in six overarching themes – education and training; spaces and places; awareness, acceptance and inclusion, legal reform, health and well-being; the LGBTI+ community. The data from the post-it notes were also summarised and used to inform the analysis. Prior to analysis – in order to maximise the transparency of the reporting – photographs were taken of all tablemats, with detailed photographs of voting patterns on each tablemat. In addition, data from all 55 tablemats were transferred into summary tables, grouped by age and organised according to each of the six themes.