Supporting LGBTQ+ Students

February 21, 2018 in inQueery

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Supporting LGBTQ+ Students

A far from comprehensive list of methods and resources for supporting students that belong to the LGBTQ+ community, and modeling correct behaviors for other students to become allies.

I was in middle school the first time I witnessed a friend (I will call him David) being mocked because someone said he was gay. In groups of four, we turned short stories into skits. My group was assigned a fairy tale, and we chose David to play Prince Charming. The neighboring group overheard our decision and told David that he couldn’t play a prince because he was gay. I remember thinking it was a dumb reason because we were all pretending to be things that we weren’t. I also remember that the teacher was there and he did not say anything.

As an adult, and as an educator I have reflected on this experience often and tried to ensure that none of my students have similar memories of me. Any school teacher, tutor, or babysitter knows that there is a long list of things that cannot be said or done for other people’s children. I struggled with that greatly in my classroom, but being frustrated about the ways that we are unable to help takes focus away from the numerous ways that we can make students in the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and supported. I want to talk about those.

-Go in strong by explicitly explaining to students that you have no tolerance for discrimination before it happens. Be sure to include LGBTQ+ students (and faculty, while you’re at it) specifically alongside race, religion, etc.

-Assign literature that depicts diverse characters and families. Goodreads has a list of 100 young adult short stories and collections with LGBT themes.

-If for any reason you cannot assign these books to your students, make sure that they have access to them by including one or two in book speed dating, or in a special section of the classroom library. It has been my experience that if you tell students a book is “controversial” they will read it.

-Make it known that you are an ally in whatever way you can. Display supportive materials in your classroom such as flags or information. Become a faculty advisor for a student club such as GSA. Put a sticker on your notebook.
gay straight alliance
-Don’t white out the LGBTQ+ community when discussing history or civil rights. It is difficult to find representation in textbooks, but organizations like GLSEN help fill in those gaps in the curriculum and providing lessons plans, professional development, and other resources to educators.

-Do not act on assumptions. It is hard enough for students to break gender norms without being interrogated by teachers. If you think a student is struggling with their sexual identity, keep it to yourself and just give consistent reminders that you are a safe person to talk to. This advice holds true if any of your students do decide to come and talk to you about their sexuality or identification. It is not up to you to assume that they are struggling with it, or that they are ready to share with the whole world.

-Remember to listen. It is too easy, as the adult, to jump in trying to fix things, or take over the conversation. Anyone who comes to you wanting to share of themselves, deserves to be fully heard. When they are done saying what they needed to, ask them what you can do to better support them.

There are, of course, many more ways to help LGBTQ+ youth. A simple google search on the topic will provide you with hours of reading and a variety of resources to turn to. Look at them often, and remind yourself that you can always be growing as an ally. We should always be reflecting on ourselves, checking our own biases, and ensuring that we are going beyond tolerance. Human beings want to be more than just tolerated; they want to be supported.

Amy Ballard is a Visiting Writer at InQueery.