As educators, it is important to make sure every student you work with feels supported and accepted in school. From using inclusive language, to hanging a sign in your room that says, “safe space”, there are several ways you can support LGBTQ students.
- Use Inclusive or Neutral Language: Though we often don’t think about it, much of our daily communication operates on a gender-binary basis like She & He, Boyfriend & Girlfriend, etc. Being mindful of the words that are used when teaching is a crucial skill that educators have, and adopting inclusive or neutral language is easier than one may think. Using words like: They & Their, Partner & Spouse, etc., can let students know that a teacher is an ally to the LGBTQ community, often without saying so.
- Speak Out Against Homophobia/Transphobia: A great way for an educator to show they are an ally is to NOT remain silent when harassment occurs. Taking a stand against even the smallest expressions like, “that’s so gay” can show students that you do not tolerate the bullying of others, even if it is indirect. Make a commitment to always address comments or behaviors, regardless of how small they may seem.
- “Come Out” as an Ally: Being a visibly supportive educator lets students know that they can come to you if they need support or information. You don’t need to be an expert in LGBTQ issues to be a great ally, just a willingness to hear what someone is telling you. If a student comes out to you, thank them for trusting you. The student may have just wanted to share their story with someone. If they need information or support that you can’t provide, help them find someone who can, and follow-up to see how things are going.
- Get Involved: If your school has a GSA or LGBTQ club, attend a meeting, and ask how you can be an ally to the group. Many times, students are thrilled to find out there is more than one educator who is interested in making sure their school is safe for all students.
- Integrate LGBTQ Culture: Many LGBTQ people have made incredible contributions in the Arts, English, History, Mathematics, and Science. Be creative, and find ways to celebrate not just their contributions, but them as a historical figure in American and global culture.
- Educate Yourself: There are countless resources for educators who are interested in LGBTQ history, culture, and how to be a better ally to students. Iowa Safe Schools even offers License Renewal and Graduate Credit on these subjects through Safe Schools Academy. If you have questions, or would like more information, contact Iowa Safe Schools.