It is estimated that between 3 and 10 percent of the population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQIA+). This means that in a classroom of 30 students, it is likely that at least one student identifies as LGBTQIA+. Although LGBTQIA+ people have made significant progress in legal protections and social acceptance in recent years, they still experience higher levels of violence, discrimination, and mental health issues within the educational system. This can lead to poor psychological and physical health outcomes and decreased academic achievement.
Creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for LGBTQIA+ students is essential to their success in school and life. It is not enough to not discriminate against or harass these students; we must actively work to create an environment in which they feel welcome, respected, and supported.
Studies show that when students feel like they have a supportive and safe environment at school, they are more likely to succeed academically and socially. As educators, we must create an inclusive and supportive environment for all our students. This includes LGBTQIA+ students who often face unique challenges and may feel marginalized in the classroom.
There are several things that educators can do to make their classrooms more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ students.
Table of Contents
Know the Terminology
One of the first steps to creating a safe and inclusive environment is to familiarize yourself with the terminology. This shows your students that you are willing to learn and grow with them.
Various terms are used within the LGBTQIA+ community to describe sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Here are some common terms and their definitions:
LGBTQIA+: An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual/aromantic.” This acronym is used to refer to the community of people who identify with any or all of these sexual orientations and gender identities.
Pride: A feeling of love, respect, and joy for one’s identity and community.
Ally: A person who supports and advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Lesbian: A woman who is attracted to other women.
- Gay: A person who is attracted to people of the same gender.
- Bisexual: A person who is attracted to people of both genders.
- Pansexual: A person who is attracted to people of all genders.
- Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction.
- Cisgender: A person whose gender identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Transgender: A person whose gender identity does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth.
- Non-binary: A person who does not identify as exclusively male or female.
- Genderqueer: A person who challenges the binary construct of gender.
- Genderfluid: A person whose gender identity fluctuates.
- Straight: A person who is attracted to people of the opposite gender.
- Questioning: A person who is exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Coming out: The process of disclosing one’s LGBTQIA+ identity to others.
There is no one right way to identify, and everyone has the right to self-identify in the most authentic way. These are just a few of the many terms used within the LGBTQIA+ community to describe the vast array of sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
Create a Classroom Environment Welcoming to All Students Regardless of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation
It is essential for educators to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. A safe and inclusive classroom environment is one in which all students feel welcome, respected, and supported.
There are several steps that educators can take to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for LGBTQIA+ students. First, it is vital to be aware of the unique needs and experiences of LGBTQIA+ students. This includes understanding the challenges that LGBTQIA+ students may face concerning their gender identity or sexual orientation. It is also essential to be aware of the different forms of discrimination that LGBTQIA+ students may experience.
Second, educators should make a conscious effort to create an inclusive classroom environment. This includes using inclusive language and avoiding assumptions about students’ gender identities or sexual orientations. It is also essential to provide resources and support for LGBTQIA+ students.
Third, educators should be prepared to respond effectively to discrimination or harassment against LGBTQIA+ students. This includes knowing how to report such incidents and how to support students who have experienced discrimination or harassment.
Lastly, when creating a safe and inclusive learning environment for LGBTQIA+ students, it is also essential to be aware of transgender and gender non-conforming students’ unique needs. Transgender and gender non-conforming students often face additional challenges, such as discrimination, harassment, and violence. They may also have difficulty accessing affirming healthcare and legal services. Educators can create a more inclusive environment for transgender and gender non-conforming students by being aware of these issues and taking steps to address them.
Create an Inclusive Curriculum That Respects LGBTQIA+ Identities and Experiences
Our curriculum must include LGBTQIA+ identities and experiences to be respectful of all students. By creating an inclusive curriculum, we are sending a message that all students are valued and respected. This can help to create a more positive and supportive school environment for all students.
There are several ways to ensure that our curriculum includes LGBTQIA+ identities and experiences. One way is to ensure that we use inclusive language when discussing topics related to sexuality and gender. For example, rather than referring to “boys and girls,” we could say “students.” It is also vital to use gender-neutral pronouns (such as “they/them”) when referring to someone whose gender is unknown or a group of people that includes individuals of multiple genders.
Another way to make our curriculum more inclusive is to ensure that we are featuring diverse perspectives and experiences in our lesson plans and instructional materials. This includes incorporating texts and other resources that reflect the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals. It is also essential to ensure that we are teaching about the history and contributions of LGBTQIA+ people.
Lastly, to create an affirming curriculum, avoid making heteronormative assumptions and center LGBTQIA+ narratives in your teaching material whenever possible. For example, rather than having students read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in English class, try “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel or “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. Both novels feature LGBTQIA+ protagonists and tell coming-of-age stories that students can relate to.
We can create an inclusive curriculum that respects LGBTQIA+ identities and experiences by taking these steps. This is important in creating a more inclusive and supportive school environment for all students.
Use Inclusive Language
When using inclusive language in the classroom, it is crucial to be aware of the different needs of LGBTQIA+ students. These students may have experienced discrimination or violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and, as a result, may be feeling insecure or unsupported in the classroom. Creating an inclusive environment in which all students feel safe and respected is essential.
There are a few simple things that teachers can do to use inclusive language in the classroom:
- Use gender-neutral language when referring to students. For example, instead of saying “he” or “she,” say “they.”
- Avoid making assumptions about students’ genders or sexual orientations. For example, don’t assume that all students are heterosexual or that all students are cisgender (meaning, their gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth).
- Use inclusive language when discussing relationships. For example, instead of saying “husband” and “wife,” say “partner” or “spouse.”
- Be aware of the different pronouns that students may use. For example, some transgender and gender non-conforming students may use pronouns other than “he” or “she,” such as “they,” “ze,” or “xe.”
- Avoid making jokes or comments that could be interpreted as homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic.
By using inclusive language in the classroom, teachers can create a more supportive and respectful environment for all students, including LGBTQIA+ students.
Use Preferred Pronouns
By using the preferred pronouns of LGBTQIA+ students, educators can signal that they are welcome and respected in the classroom. This can make a big difference for LGBTQIA+ students, who often face discrimination and exclusion.
When using preferred pronouns, it is important to be respectful and accurate. This means using the pronouns that the individual has specified and using them correctly. For example, if a student has specified that their preferred pronouns are they/them/their, you should use these pronouns when referring to them. It is also essential to avoid making assumptions about someone’s pronouns. If you are unsure about someone’s pronouns, it is best to ask them directly.
It is also important to be aware of people’s different types of pronouns. Some common pronouns include he/him/his, she/her/hers, and they/them/theirs. There are also less common pronouns, such as ze/hir/hirs and xe/xem/xyrs.
Be an Ally to Your LGBTQIA+ Students
One of the most important things you can do as an educator is an ally for your LGBTQIA+ students. An ally is someone who supports and stands up for the rights of someone else.
As an ally to LGBTQIA+ students, you can help create a safe and inclusive learning environment by speaking up if you witness someone being harassed or discriminated against. Additionally, speaking up when you hear the homophobic or transphobic language, checking your bias and privilege, and using your platform to amplify often marginalized voices.
You can encourage your students to be allied with each other. This includes supporting each other in and out of the classroom. You can also educate others about LGBTQIA+ issues and promote understanding and acceptance. Lastly, you can also support your LGBTQIA+ students by attending Pride events and marches with them.
Be Aware of Your Own Biases and Assumptions About LGBTQIA+ People
Assuming that all LGBTQIA+ people are the same is a common bias. This can be harmful as it leads to stereotypes and generalizations. It is important to be aware of your biases and assumptions about LGBTQIA+ people to avoid unintentionally causing harm.
One way to become more aware of your biases is to educate yourself about the diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community. There is no one “type” of LGBTQIA+ person, and each individual has their own unique experiences and perspectives. Learning about the varied experiences of LGBTQIA+ people can help you to avoid making assumptions about them.
It is also important to remember that everyone has individual opinions and beliefs about LGBTQIA+ people. Just because someone identifies as LGBTQIA+ does not mean they automatically support all community members. It is important to respect the views of others, even if you disagree with them.
By being aware of your biases and assumptions about LGBTQIA+ people, you can help create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.
Display Inclusive Materials in Your Classroom
Displaying inclusive materials in your classroom about LGBTQIA+ people is a meaningful way to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students. Students will feel more included and respected by seeing themselves represented in the materials you display. Additionally, inclusive materials can help students learn about and understand the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people.
When choosing materials to display, be sure to select age-appropriate items that reflect the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community. Books, posters, and articles are all great options. You can also find many resources online.
Some things to keep in mind:
- It is essential to be respectful of students’ privacy. Not all students may feel comfortable sharing their own experiences or identities.
- Some students may not be out to their families or friends. Create a safe and confidential space for students to share their thoughts and experiences.
- Some materials may contain triggering content. If you are unsure about whether a particular material is appropriate, please consult with a school counselor or other trusted adult.
There are several ways to display inclusive materials in your classroom about LGBTQIA+ people. Here are some suggestions:
- Include books with LGBTQIA+ themes or characters in your classroom library. This will send a message of acceptance and inclusivity to all students.
- Hang posters or other visuals that celebrate LGBTQIA+ people and pride. These can be found online or created by students.
- Plan lessons and activities that focus on the history and experiences of LGBTQIA+ people. This will help all students better understand and appreciate our world’s diversity.
- Be open and willing to discuss LGBTQIA+ issues with your students. This sends a message of support and creates a safe space for students to ask questions and express themselves.
Respect Students’ Confidentiality and Privacy
Respect the confidentiality of LGBTQIA+ students. This means not discussing a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity without permission.
Respect students’ privacy by not asking them personal questions about their gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity unless they have explicitly stated that they are comfortable discussing these topics.
Make sure you are familiar with resources available to LGBTQIA+ students, such as support groups, counseling services, and scholarships. You can also create a list of resources to make available to students in your classroom.
Additionally, educators should be aware of the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ students and be prepared to support them. This includes providing resources on coming out, AIDS/HIV, and transgender issues. It is also important to have policies in place that protect LGBTQIA+ students from discrimination and harassment.
LGBTQIA+ students face unique challenges in the educational setting. They may experience discrimination, harassment, and violence in and out of school. They may also feel isolated, invisible, or unsupported. As a result, LGBTQIA+ students often have lower grades, higher absenteeism rates, and higher rates of dropping out of school than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers.
It is vital for educators to be aware of the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ students and to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all. This includes ensuring all students feel welcome and respected, providing resources and support, and promoting positive representation of LGBTQIA+ people and issues. When educators take these steps, they help create a more equitable and inclusive society for everyone.
LGBTQIA+ students deserve to feel safe, supported, and respected in your classroom.
HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE
Llego, M. A. (2022, September 8). How to Support LGBTQIA+ Students in the Classroom. TeacherPH. Retrieved September 8, 2022 from, https://www.teacherph.com/how-to-support-lgbtqia-students-in-the-classroom/
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