To celebrate Pride Month, diversity, and inclusivity, we wanted to provide teachers with valuable information that they can use now and in the long term—when class is back in session—to foster safe and welcoming learning environments for LGBTQ students.
Teachers should strive to make their classrooms—whether in person or virtual—fun, safe, and inviting for all students. Unfortunately, sometimes our most vulnerable students are forgotten, whether intentionally or not. Providing LGBTQ* (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning*) students with representative curricula, supportive staff and school policies, and affirming spaces can have positive effects, enabling them to feel a greater sense of belonging to their school community and be less likely to face discrimination and victimization, according to a recent GLSEN school climate survey.
*While LGBTQ is a commonly used acronym, other variations may be substituted (such as LGBTQIA+ to include those who are intersex, those who are asexual, and others.)
LGBTQ Support in Schools
So, how do we make our classrooms/schools welcoming to queer students? (For the purpose of this blog post, I’ll use the word “queer” as an umbrella term for all LGBTQ people.)
There are several simple ways teachers (and every education stakeholder) can make classrooms, hallways, and schools safe for queer students. I have given a professional development seminar about this topic. Here are the most impactful strategies from the presentation.
1. Terminology Matters.
Language is our main communication method, and we learn from others, including family members and friends. A lot of ways we speak can unintentionally harm the queer community. If you start to listen to how you address people, you might find that our language reinforces the gender binary (for instance, “boy” and “girl” are the only two gender options).
It takes work to unlearn these phrases and retrain our brains to use more inclusive language; it won’t always be perfect, and you will make mistakes. But, that’s OK! Even after years of working to stop calling my students “ladies and gentlemen” or “guys,” I still slip up. What’s important is that you reflect and correct yourself if you do make mistakes. Here’s a screenshot of one of the slides of my presentation that I think is helpful in framing what to say instead of using certain words.
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