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Gender diverse, intersex and sexually diverse students – support at school

LGBTIQ+ is an acronym often used to collectively describe:

  • lesbian
  • gay
  • bisexual
  • transgender
  • intersex
  • questioning/queer
  • plus/other.

These students can be more vulnerable

Research shows that compared to their peers, gender diverse, intersex or sexually diverse students:

  • experience poorer mental health
  • have higher risk of suicidal behaviour.

This increased vulnerability might be because they experience discrimination and bullying from others.

Extra factors can add more stress

Some of these students also talk about being exhausted by a sense of remaining strong and proud when coping with ongoing discrimination or bullying. This can be more intense if a student is also discriminated against because of:

  • race
  • class
  • ability.

Students who live in a rural or remote area might feel even more isolated. There is also less support available.

As well, some of these students do not feel accepted or supported by their families.

Not all students are visibly gender diverse, intersex or sexually diverse

Many students have not:

  • ‘come out’ or started to express their gender and sexuality
  • started to discuss their feelings or experiences with others. 

This means that a student might be LGBTIQ+ and you do not know about it. You need to think about inclusiveness with all your students.

How your school’s emergency response team can help

Your school can help if they:

  • understand the relationship between mental health and a student’s sexual and gender identity
  • create a place where a student feels safe and included
  • offer ways to find support from peers and adults who understand.

Increase connection and belonging

Many of these students are likely to seek support and advice from friendship and peer support networks.

If you set up and support a peer social group for these students and allies it can help protect vulnerable students.

Create a safe space

Make sure the school is a safe space that reflects the experience of gender diverse, intersex and sexually diverse students. 

Let the students know you are safe to talk to. Make it clear you value inclusivity.

When talking to students:

  • acknowledge the pressure they are under
  • avoid pathologising students – for example, do not see their identity as something medical
  • do not make assumptions about their needs
  • encourage help seeking
  • seek informed consent for any referrals you might make
  • support referral to appropriate mental health services.