Pride Month: How to Support LGBTQ Students
Pride Month: How to Support LGBTQ Students
The 2017 National School Climate Study conducted by GLSEN, an organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students, found that 82 percent of students who identify as LGBTQ have experienced verbal harassment specifically based on sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender and that 62.2 percent have experienced LGBTQ-related discriminatory policies or practices at school.
Adolescence can be a difficult time for anyone—but for members of the LGBTQ community, there are many additional challenges they face not only during their school years but also throughout their lifetimes. In honor of Pride Month, we’ve gathered some resources for teachers who want to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for these students at school. Let’s start with some of the top tips we found—but please keep in mind that these are only suggestions for a starting place.
- Educate yourself
Invest time into seeking out information on LGBTQ issues, learning the correct terminology, and staying informed on current events and policies that could make students feel unsafe, including reports of acts of violence against people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community, or the recent federal policy change that erases protections for transgender patients in medical settings.
- Always use a student’s appropriate name and pronouns
It may seem like a no-brainer to call learners by their own name, but this can make a world of difference to students who may no longer identify by the name or pronouns they were assigned at birth. According to this article by Larry Ferlazzo from Education Week: “Research shows that when others use the chosen name that matches a youth's gender identity, transgender youths report 71 percent fewer symptoms of severe depression and 59 percent fewer suicide attempts.”
- Use inclusive language when you’re teaching
Not everyone falls within the gender binary of “boy” or “girl.” Instead of saying things like “Hey, boys and girls,” practice using more gender-neutral language like: “Hey, everyone!” or “Listen up, folks!”
- Include LGBTQ stories in your lesson plans and LGBTQ literature in your class library
Ensuring that reading selections include diversity in gender identities and orientations can help LGBTQ students feel seen and represented, and it can also help encourage ally behavior from those who don’t fall into a particular group. This Edutopia article about creating inclusive elementary school classrooms has a short list of book recommendations for mostly grades K to 5.
- Speak up against anti-LGBTQ behavior
It’s important to let your students know that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behavior from other students (or other teachers or staff) will not be tolerated.
- Know your policies
Inquire about schoolwide or districtwide policies around LGBTQ inclusion and teacher training on how to handle these issues, especially if you’re in an administrative position. Systemic change can help give guidance to teachers who are unsure of what to do, as well as show students that their school is a supportive place to be rather than just individual classrooms where teachers have taken it upon themselves to be outspoken allies.
- Display a “safe space” sticker or sign
This is a simple way to let students know that your classroom is a place where they will be valued and respected regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. There are many free printables out there that you can find by conducting an Internet search for “safe space classroom sign.” You can also find one in GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit, which is a comprehensive guide on being an LGBTQ ally as a teacher.
Additional Resources for Educators:
- GLSEN has been focused on ending discrimination, harassment, and bullying in K–12 schools since 1990. The organization has a webpage full of educator resources, including guides, lesson plans, and safe space kits.
- Teaching Tolerance, an organization whose mission is “to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy,” has a guide to Best Practices for Serving LGBTQ Students that is incredibly comprehensive. The appendix alone has a list of LGBTQ books and movies for the classroom, a list of historical figures to reference or teach about, a list of terminology and acronyms, and a school checklist to see how well your school is meeting the needs of LGBTQ students. Teaching Tolerance also has an article about intersectionality (a framework for understanding how social identities combine to create unique modes of discrimination—for example, sexual identity and race).
- Edutopia has a great article about teachers struggling to find ways to help LGBTQ students that provides examples of why it’s so important to be allies and how to go about starting.
- This article from Accredited Schools Online has a great overview of LGBTQ terms, students’ legal rights, actions to take to prevent bullying, and more.
Every educator knows that what students learn in the classroom goes way beyond what the curriculum dictates. By stepping up and supporting your students who need an ally, you’re not only helping them on their journey toward academic success, but you’re also teaching them that they matter and that they are deserving of their success.
This blog was originally published June 2020 by Maddy Settle, and has been updated.