Doing it for optimal impact: increasing the acceptation of LGBTI
Young LGBTI people in secondary schools are vulnerable and need extra attention. In school they are confronted with the views, ideas and misconceptions of their peers around LGBTI. School is also an environment that confronts young people with diversity, including sexual and gender diversity. Dutch law obliges schools to pay attention to these issues in their lessons. But the way in which this happens could improve and moreover it could be done in a more structural way. Therefore Movisie explored 400 academic research studies to find out what works when providing information about LGBTI to secondary school pupils. They combined this knowledge with information gained from interviews with experts in the field of information, training and workshops on LGBTI.
Information campaigns, training courses and workshops to increase the acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality do not automatically have the desired impact. ‘An information session or training may even have the opposite effect,’ says project leader Hanneke Felten from Movisie. That is why Movisie wanted to inform volunteers and professionals about the ‘dos and don’ts’ when attempting to increase the acceptance of LGBTI. People who provide classes on sexual and gender diversity in schools, or training courses on LGBTI in care and welfare services, expressed a need to know how to increase their impact.
That is why ‘Do it right with optimal impact’ explored existing research and experience. The book builds on the latest academic knowledge regarding what works in information, training and other forms of education. It also includes suggestions that experts based on their own experiences. For instance, focusing on diversity: ‘It is important to focus on diversity. It allows you to connect when talking about differences, but all the more it enables you to connect through the similarity of your minority positions. You and I both experience discrimination. That is the point of departure for the dialogue. Dialogue is often seen as a soft measure, but it can be very direct. I think that only such a hard confrontation allows you to really get in touch with someone.’
‘Eventually what you need is a complete package of well-considered methods. And of course it is important that these are embraced in the school or organisation, making it obvious and self-evident that attention is being paid to LGBTI'
‘Doing it for optimal impact’ includes descriptions of seven methods. One example is a method in which young people or other participants exchange their experiences with exclusion, with ‘being different’ and with discrimination. Studies show that when people are able to imagine themselves being a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, their prejudices will decrease. However, this does not work the same for everyone: some people feel such a strong resentment towards LGBTI people that they refuse to imagine themselves in their situation. In such cases the researchers advise to focus on strengthening the social norms for LGBTI acceptance. This may happen for instance when non-LGBTI people who are respected by the target audience, clearly speak out in favour of acceptance. But even this in itself is not sufficient. Hanneke Felten: ‘Eventually what you need is a complete package of well-considered methods. And of course it is important that these are embraced in the school or organisation, making it obvious and self-evident that attention is being paid to LGBTI.’
Many schools make use of informants who tell their own life stories. Co-researcher Afiah Vijlbrief: ‘This may be quite an effective method on condition that you are able to relate closely to your target audience. Informants need to be able to really get in touch with pupils and to appeal to them with their own stories.’ This is not an easy thing to do. The message the authors wish to disseminate is that a good information session, training or workshop is never simple, but you can reach optimal impact in your work by extensive practice and understanding of what is already known.