The August bank holiday weekend can only mean one thing – Manchester Pride! I wanted to take this opportunity to focus on and thank the LGBTQ+ young people who have taken part in my research so far. The young people I have had the pleasure of meeting encapsulate the meaning of Pride for me – both in the sense of feeling proud of who you are, and in continued campaigning and protest for queer liberation for all LGBTQ+ people.

My PhD research is a three-phase mixed-methods design exploring potential risk and protective school factors influencing experiences of identity-based bullying and microaggressions related to actual or perceived LGBTQ+ identity.

For the first qualitative phase, I conducted six focus groups with LGBTQ+ young people attending LGBTQ+ or Pride groups. Four of which were LGBTQ+ groups within schools and two were run by the Proud Trust, who are the collaborative partner for my White Rose DTP PhD. Additionally, I conducted seven semi-structured interviews with secondary school staff as well as professionals delivering an LGBTQ+ inclusion framework within UK schools. The purpose of this first phase was to understand what school factors or practices LGBTQ+ young people, school staff and professionals think constitute an LGBTQ+ supportive school. Moreover, I explored behaviours understood to be school-based microaggressions related to perceived or actual LGBTQ+ identity. Focus groups and interviews were opened with and centred around one key prompt – please draw (or tell me about) your dream school for LGBTQ+ young people.

Participants were prompted to think about who would be there, what would be there, how would it look like, sound like, feel like? Although, they did not need much encouragement to confidently and eloquently share their ideas for how to make school, and more generally society, a better, more inclusive and liberated place. Many suggestions were practical, easy and well thought through.

Moreover, there were key differences in how young people and adults framed LGBTQ+ inclusion within schools. The majority of adults invoked ideas of progress such as ‘we have come a long way, although we still have a way to go’ and ‘things are a lot better than they were, but more needs to be done’. Conversely, young people recognise the need for queer liberation now. They were politically minded with invocations of intersectionality, the need to contend with the legacy and impact of colonialism, and the connections with other prejudices such as racism, ableism, etc.

This isn’t to present young people as homogenously more progressive, knowledgeable or enlightened. But instead, it speaks to how young people are often very clear about what they as a community need and how this can be achieved, and yet they are rarely asked the question. And if they are, very little action follows from adults. Many young people thanked me for creating spaces where they could vent, rant, share ideas and ultimately be asked questions in the hope that their answers could change things, if not for them, then for LGBTQ+ young people in the future. I too continually thanked them for their time and thoughts and the vulnerable sharing of their experiences. I often became emotional and truly felt a weight of responsibility to do them and their contributions justice.

Manchester Pride is a key opportunity for me to take stock and reflect on the contributions of these LGBTQ+ young people and galvanise myself for my final year of PhD research. With division and hatred being stoked by key players in the UK, it is imperative to focus on what truly matters – the dismantling of all oppressive structures so that all LGBTQ+ people can feel safe, supported and proud.

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