Sexual orientation is about romantic or sexual attraction to other people. For example, an adult or young person could be:
- heterosexual or ‘straight’: attracted to those of the opposite gender
- homosexual or gay: attracted to those of the same gender
- lesbian: a female who is gay
- bi-sexual: attracted to more than one gender
- asexual: does not experience sexual attraction
- questioning: questioning their sexual orientation
Scouting is open to all and welcomes young people and adults, regardless of their sexual orientation. This guidance has information on supporting young people, adult volunteers and external organisations who can provide more information.
Sexual orientation: Supporting young people
It is important that in Scouting, all young people feel welcomed, included and valued for who they are. Be aware that a young person who is gay or bisexual, may have experienced discrimination or bullying in other areas of their life. Therefore, it’s even more important that Sections create a positive, supportive environment, which actively celebrates difference.
How do I make my Section inclusive?
- Don’t assume everyone is heterosexual. In a group of 30 young people there is a good chance that at least 1 is lesbian, gay or bisexual.
- There are a range of labels young people may use to describe their sexual orientation. For example, asexual, pansexual or questioning.
- Consider the language used within your Section. Think about the impact on Scouts who may be gay or questioning their sexual orientation. The misuse of ‘gay’ as a negative is common (e.g. “that’s so gay”). This may lead young people to equate their feelings as something to be kept secret or wrong, which is damaging for their self-esteem, particularly if young people are just coming to terms with their sexuality. Explore this with your Group; what does the young person actually mean when they say this and what appropriate words could they use next time?
- Be vigilant for signs of homophobic bullying and language; this should not be tolerated. See our guidance on preventing and dealing with bullying
- Act as a role model, or ally, regardless of your own sexual orientation, by being open and raising awareness about sexual orientation diversity. You do not need to be an expert; Leaders who are open, offer positive messages and challenge homophobia, will make a real difference in creating a more inclusive environment.
What if a young person discloses that they are gay, bisexual or questioning?
As a role model for young people you may be approached about a wide range of issues, such as a young person telling you they are gay or bisexual, directly or indirectly. This is commonly referred to as “coming out”.
The young person may be very nervous about speaking to someone about their sexual orientation, perhaps being worried about a negative reaction. The fact that they have decided to tell you indicates you’re someone they feel they can trust. There are a number of things you need to consider when a young person approaches you. Offering positive support and validation is vital, as it may even be the very first time they have told anyone.
- Be positive and non judgemental.
- Listen. Let the young person talk and do not be dismissive. If it is not appropriate to discuss the matter there and then, arrange a time that is convenient.
- Hold the conversation in an appropriate environment; conversations should be confidential but with other adults within hearing or sight.
- Conduct the conversation in accordance with the Yellow Card.
- Reassure the young person that it is OK, there are many people in Scouts who are gay.
- Ensure the young person has the support they need. The young Stonewall website www.youngstonewall.org.uk is a good place to start.
- Keep information about the young person’s sexual orientation confidential; unless given consent from the young person or if there any safeguarding concerns. Coming out in of itself is not a safeguarding concern.
The Association does not expect you to be an expert on this matter and provides contact details of relevant supporting organisations, which you can seek support from or put young people in touch with.What about Nights Away / Camps?
- A young person’s sexual orientation should not determine sleeping arrangements for nights away. As with any group of young people, sleeping arrangements should be planned around the particular circumstances, with the principle being that everyone is comfortable with the arrangements and no one feels singled out.
How can our Scout Group be more inclusive of young people with same-sex parents?
- Local Scouting is reliant upon the input and support of the parents and guardians within the Group. All families are different, and it is important to be aware of supporting young people who have same-sex parents, and reflect this in the language that you use. Positive steps should be taken to ensure the parents, and the young people do not fear exclusion and are welcomed into the wider network of Scout supporters.
- Avoiding assumptions, challenging language misuse, and responding to any homophobia, is vital to ensure that young people do not experience indirect bullying or feel unable to talk about their family.
For further information and guidance on supporting young people who are LGB, see Stonewall’s resource for youth workers
Sexual orientation: Adults/volunteers
Throughout the Association there are adults who are gay, lesbian or bisexual (LGB). Some are open about their sexual orientation, others not, either way it is a personal choice which is totally acceptable.
The Association openly welcomes volunteers from the LGB community, and a volunteer’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their suitability to fulfil a role in Scouting. Appointments Advisory Committees must implement our Equal Opportunities Policy (chapter 2 of POR)
and no Member should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. It is not necessary or appropriate to ask questions around an applicant’s sexual orientation, and inclusive language should be used.
Our National Active Support Unit, FLAGS
, actively supports LGBT adults in Scouting. How do I respond to any volunteers in my District/County who are not inclusive of LGB Members?
Volunteers should be reminded of their commitment to our Equal Opportunities Policy
and their line manager should support them to change their practise. It may be useful to arrange an awareness raising session in your District/County, through our National Active Support Unit, FLAGS
or our national team of Specialist Advisers for Inclusion and Diversity
It is the responsibility of all adults to act as role models by celebrating diversity and creating an environment in which all Members can enjoy safe, inclusive Scouting. How do I respond to questions from young people about my own or a volunteer’s sexual orientation?
How open leaders feel they can be about their sexual orientation is an important indicator of how inclusive a Group is. If adults are not comfortable to be open, it is unlikely that a young person will feel able to be open about being gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Sharing your sexual orientation is an individual decision; as a leader it is your choice and will be dependent upon the ethos of the Group. But, if ‘straight’ leaders are open about their relationship status, lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders should feel able to be open as well.
Talk to your line manager, Group Scout Leader or other volunteers and make a shared decision about what information the team will share. Guidance created in partnership with Stonewall.
For any further questions related to Scouting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts for additional supportFLAGS:
Our national Scout Active Support Unit, supporting LGBT adults in Scouting.
Britain’s largest lesbian, gay and bisexual charity. Stonewall’s Education for All campaign works to tackle homophobic bullying and support gay young people. This includes producing resources and guidance for schools and youth focused organisations.http://www.stonewall.org.uk/http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/PACE
London-based charity promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of the LGBT community, including young people. Also provides online services that can be accessed nationally.
Phone: 020 7700 1323London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard
Free & confidential support & information to LGBT communities throughout the UK.
Helpline: 020 7837 7324 (10am-11pm) LGBT helpline Scotlandhttp://www.lgbt-helpline-scotland.org.uk/ChildLine
Free confidential 24-hour helpline for childrenand young people in the UK
Phone: 0800 1111