How to teach … LGBT history month

Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have made huge contributions to science, maths and engineering – just look at Alan Turing (pictured) and Florence Nightingale, for example – but this isn’t often celebrated in the classroom. This year’s LGBT history month has a Stem focus so it’s a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of LGBT scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Stonewall‘s School Report 2012 reveals that half of young people are not taught anything about lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans issues or role models, and 50% of gay young people experience homophobic bullying. The report found that gay pupils are less likely to be bullied in schoolsthat teach and address gay issues positively (76% compared with 46%), which underlines the importance of classroom exploration.


The Guardian Teacher Network has some excellent resources to help you teach LGBT history month. A useful start is LGBT pioneers in Stem, a ready-made PowerPoint that profiles prominent and less well known lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who had an impact on science, technology, maths and science and helped to change the world, including Leonardo da Vinci, Margaret Mead and Sir Francis Bacon.

The LGBT history month toolkit has been specially written for this year’s history month and is packed with tips on how and why to bring LGBT history month into your school, including some interesting lesson ideas.

Schools Out has produced this Alan Turing lesson plan for key stage 4 students  exploring the work of the computing pioneer through ICT. See the associated PowerPointquestion sheet and answer sheet.

Key stage 2 students can investigate the life of Anne Lister, a lesbian who lived in Victorian times and wrote her personal diary in code. Thecross-curricular lesson plan looks at gender identity and draws attention to Anne’s nickname Gentleman Jack. Also find a PowerPoint to show in class and two practical activities: make your own code wheel and invisible ink.

Hidden history is a key stage 3 lesson investigating why the history of minority groups including LGBT might be hidden or retold, also see the accompanying PowerPoint.

Music teachers can explore trans issues using this lesson plan andPowerPoint by award-winning teacher and LGBT campaigner Elly Barnes, which use music from Priscilla Queen of the Desert to explore definitions. Also see Elly’s introduction to LGBT history month here.

Guerrilla Geography Day on 7 February explores themes of gender inequality and representation including transgendered people. Thisguide sets out how to collaborate in the action.

Stonewall also has resources to help you celebrate LGBT history month. Start with The Gay Thing. It’s a Nuisance Isn’t it? which looks at why teachers should bother integrating lesbian, gay and bisexual issues into their lessons. Gay FAQs looks at questions from what to do if a pupil thinks they might be gay to how to talk to pupils about being a gay teacher.

History and The Gay Thing explores why it’s a bad idea to ignore the sexuality of great men and women and breeze over historial attitudes to homosexuality in history lessons and beyond. Stonewall has produced a whole set of The Gay Thing subject guides including Englishscienceand religious education.

The Stonewall Teachers’ Report makes sobering reading. Nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than two in five primary school teachers say children and young people, regardless of their sexual orientation, currently experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment in their schools. Also see Stonewall’s guide to challenging homophobic language.

Schools can order hard copies of Stonewall’s LGBT history pack by emailing You can find out more about how Stonewall can support your school through their Schools Champions programme, which offers schools tailored support on tackling homophobic bullying and creating an inclusive environment for gay young people, including celebrating LGBT history month. And you can order Stonewall’s fabulous “Some people are gay. Get over it!” posters and stickers here.

Amnesty International has produced an LGBT month activity pack and also has a lesson on homophobic language in which students consider how to tackle homophobic bullying and identify actions that could be taken on the issue by the class and individually. Budding journalists and photographers can focus on LGBT rights in their entries to the Amnesty Young Human Rights Reporter of the Year competition. Find a lesson plan exploring the new photojournalism category here. The competition ends on 18 February.

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