Red Balloon has always prided itself on being a place for those seeking refuge from the bullying, harassment and sometimes outright discrimination they experienced in mainstream schools. An oasis for the ostracized.
Frustratingly, LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and other related identifies) youth are routinely the targets of this maltreatment. In 2017, two in three LGBT youth surveyed said they had experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Stonewall).
LGBTQ+ staff representation at Red Balloon
A significant number of these LGBTQ+ students find themselves at Red Balloon, needing care, respect and understanding. At Red Balloon, staff fall into two categories in regards to these students: fellow LGBTQ+ community members and allies.
Not only are our LGBTQ+ staff wonderful teachers and supporters, but they serve as role models that LGBTQ+ students can identify with. As a young person, it can be isolating to be the only LGBTQ+ person in your family or one in a handful at a large school. Representation is important for young LGBTQ+ people to see and interact with – on TV, in government and in educational settings! It shows us all a world that breaks with stereotypes, gender roles, and constricting boxes and normalizes different family structures, relationships and genders.
We want students to be able to see themselves and their futures in our teachers. Whether that means being an amazing bass guitar player, an empathetic listener or in a happy and healthy relationship,- which looks different for everyone!
Institutional support for LGBTQ+ staff/students at Red Balloon
The Equality Act, protecting against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation (as well as other protected characteristics) only came into law in 2010. This means that many of our LGBTQ+ staff may have experienced workplace and institutional discrimination in previous jobs. As much as we want to be a refuge for students, we want our staff to feel Red Balloon is a safe haven too!
We support all staff to take parental leave in the case of birth and adoption because we know families come in all shapes and sizes. We also have an appointed LGBTQ+ Champion that helps staff and students learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, how to be an ally, and who works with teachers and staff to make the curriculum and organization more inclusive.
The work is never really done, and we will continually be working to improve our knowledge and support of the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, Red Balloon of the Air recently earned the Rainbow Flag Award! The award focuses on positive LGBT+ inclusion and visibility. Red Balloon is committed to making our provision a safe place for everyone, and this is just one step along the way!