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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Sexual orientation

Find out more about supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer young members and adult volunteers

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Scouts is open to all and actively welcomes LGBTQ+ young people and adults. To learn more about specific terms and definitions, check out Stonewall’s list of LGBTQ+ terms.

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Supporting young people 

  • It's the responsibility of all adults in Scouts to help develop a caring and supportive atmosphere, where bullying in any form is unacceptable.  Look out for any signs of homophobic bullying and language. See our guidance on preventing and dealing with bullying. You may want to create a zero-tolerance policy towards LGBTQ+ bullying or discrimination within your Section or Group rules.
  • People may use a wide range of labels to describe their sexual orientation, for example, asexual, pansexual or questioning. It's okay if you don't know all of these identities, or what they mean. It might be worth spending some time researching them, or asking your young people what they understand about these identities/what these identities mean to them.
  • Consider the language used within your section. Think about the impact on young people who may be gay or questioning their sexual orientation. The misuse of ‘gay’ as a negative is common, such as “that’s so gay”. This may lead young people to believe their identity is bad, or wrong, which is damaging for their self-esteem, particularly if young people are just coming to terms with their sexuality or don't have any positive or supportive role models in their life.
  • Don't make assumptions about people’s sexuality.
  • Act as a role model or ally, regardless of your own sexuality, by being open and raising awareness about all sexual and romantic orientations. You don't need to be an expert. Adult volunteers who are open, offer positive messages and challenge homophobia will make a real difference in creating a more inclusive environment.

As a role model for young people, you may be approached about a wide range of issues, such as a young person telling you, directly or indirectly, they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. This is commonly referred to as “coming out”.

The young person may be very nervous about speaking to someone about their sexual orientation. The fact that they've decided to tell you indicates you're someone they feel they can trust. Offering positive support and validation is vital, as it may be the very first time they’ve told anyone.

There are several things you need to consider when a young person approaches you:

  • Be positive and non-judgemental.
  • Let the young person talk, and don't be dismissive. If it’s not appropriate to discuss the matter there and then, arrange a time that’s 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's OK. There are many people in Scouts who're LGBTQ+.
  • Ensure the young person has the support they need.
  • Keep information about the young person’s sexuality confidential, unless given consent from the young person or if there are any safeguarding concerns. Coming out, in and of itself, isn’t a safeguarding concern. If you’re concerned about a young person’s welfare, it would be appropriate to disclose their sexuality if it’s relevant to the situation. For example, if they told you they were worried they might be made homeless if their parents/carers found out about their sexual orientation. All safeguarding concerns should be reported in line with our Yellow Card.

At Scouts, we don't expect you to be an expert on this matter and we've provided contact details of relevant supporting organisations where you can seek support or direct young people.

LGBTQ+ members can do everything that other members can do, but there are several things you may need to consider on Nights Away or visits abroad.

On Nights Away:

Some LGBTQ+ individuals may prefer individual sleeping arrangements, so it’s best to discuss this prior to any camp/event.

As with any group of young people, sleeping arrangements should be planned around the particular circumstances. The guiding principle should be that everyone's comfortable with the arrangements and no one feels singled out.

On visits abroad:

Be aware that some countries aren't safe for LGBTQ+ people to visit. This may be related to cultural attitudes, lack of legal protections for LGBTQ+ people or anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Check the laws for the country before you visit and plan ahead. You could also consult the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index.

All families are different and it’s important to reflect this in the language that you use, such as saying “parents, carers and family members” instead of “mums and dads”.

You should take positive steps to ensure parents, carers and family members feel included in the wider network of Scout supporters. This may look like running some of our Putting Pride in your Programme activities, displaying a Scout Pride flag in your usual meeting place, or attending a local Pride event.

It's vital to avoid assumptions, challenge language misuse and respond to any homophobia to ensure that young people don’t experience indirect bullying or feel unable to talk about who they live with.

Supporting adults and volunteers

Scouts is supportive and welcoming to all LGBTQ+ people. Some adults may choose to be open about their sexuality and some may wish to keep this private. This is a personal choice, which should be respected.

A volunteer’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their suitability to fulfil a voluntary role in Scouts. 

Appointments Advisory Committees must adhere to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy and no member should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. It isn’t necessary or appropriate to ask questions about an applicant’s sexual orientation.

Volunteers should be reminded of the Scout values of integrity, respect, care, belief and co-operation, as well as their commitment to our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy and their line manager should support them to change their practice.

Often, taking steps to raise awareness of understanding can help. This could involve a discussion, or it may be useful to arrange an awareness raising session in your District/County, through our National Active Support Unit, FLAGS or our National Inclusion Team.

It's the responsibility of all adults within Scouting to act as role models by celebrating diversity and creating a safe, inclusive environment where all members, including our adult volunteers, can enjoy Scouts and be themselves.

Where a concern is not addressed or cannot be resolved informally, the Scouts' Complaints Policy should be followed.

No one should feel as though they need to hide part of themselves to volunteer with Scouts. Whether you share information about your sexuality or not is your own personal choice, however you should not share information about another volunteer’s sexuality unless they have said they are happy for you to do so.

You may want to have conversations with your line manager and other people you volunteer with about what information the team feels comfortable sharing about their own personal lives. If straight volunteers are open about their relationship status, this may help LGBTQ+ volunteers feel more comfortable being open about their relationship status as well.

Further information

FLAGS, our national Scout Active Support Unit, supports LGBTQ+ adults in Scouts

Switchboard is a free and confidential support and information LGBTQIA+ helpline (telephone: 0300 330 0630)

Hidayah is a nationwide charity supporting LGBTQI+ Muslims in the UK.

The Proud Trust is a life saving and life enhancing organisation that helps LGBT+ young people empower themselves, to make a positive change for themselves, and their communities.

The Rainbow Project works to improve the physical, mental & emotional health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender people in Northern Ireland.

LGBT Health and Wellbeing aims to improve the health, wellbeing and equality of LGBT people in Scotland.

Lesbian Visibility Week, a chance to celebrate our Lesbian volunteers

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