Imagine being an LGBTQ+ student and never hearing of any LGBTQ+ people, never learning about famous LGBTQ+ historical events or ever discussing relevant LGBTQ+ issues in your classes?
While unintentional by most educators, this lack of formal and informal discussion in schools can be further marginalizing and trivializing for LGBTQ+ students. The following information is intended as suggestions for educators to provide a more inclusive classroom environment for their LGBTQ+ students.
What Educators Can Do Now
Talk regularly about history’s important and positive LGBTQ+ people in your classroom. Some examples are:
- Alan Turing, mathematician, philosopher and scientist. Often referred to as the father of the modern day computer and the one who helped break the Nazi Enigma Code in 1940’s. Hollywood movie, “The Imitation Game” based on Turing. (1912-1954)
- Anderson Cooper, broadcast journalist. (1967-present)
- Annie Leibovitz, famous American portrait photographer. (1949-present)
- Bayard Rustin, civil rights leader. Key organizer of the March On Washington in 1963. (1912-1987)
- Chris Mosier, American transgender triathlete, advocate and speaker. First out transgender athlete to earn a spot on a US national team and is considered the catalyst for IOC policy changes regarding trans athletes. (1980-present)
- Ellen Degeneres, American TV host, actress, writer, and producer. First lesbian actress to come out on TV as an openly lesbian character. (1958-present)
- Francis Bacon, artist, figurative painter. (1909-1992)
- Harvey Milk, gay rights activist and first openly gay official in 1977. (1930-1978)
- Kyle Allums, first openly transgender male to play on NCAA Division 1 women's basketball team. (1989-present)
- Ma Rainey, famous blues singer, credited as being "Mother of the Blues". (1886-1939)
- Neil Patrick Harris, American actor, singer and comedian, best known for his lead character role on, Doogie Howser, MD. Also, the first openly gay person to host the Academy Awards. (1973-present)
- Oscar Wilde, Irish poet, author and playwright. Most famous works are his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, and novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. (1854-2000)
- Robin Roberts, African-American news co-anchor of Good Morning America. In 2014, she came out on GMA as gay and acknowledged her long-time partner, Amber Laign. (1960-present)
- Sally Ride, first American woman in space aboard the space shuttle, Challenger. (1951-2012)
- Shepard Smith, TV news anchor of Fox News Channel and managing editor of Fox News Channel's Breaking News Division. (1964-present)
- Tammy Baldwin, first openly gay US Senator. Elected to the Senate in 2012 by her home state of Wisconsin. (1962-present)
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc. First CEO of a Fortune 500 company to openly come out as gay. (1960-present)
Let LGBTQ+ youth know you are a safe & supportive person. Some how-to examples:
- Post “Safe Space” stickers in your office and classroom (talk to your school nurse or GSA Advisor for stickers).
- Display positive posters and pictures of LGBTQ+ people in your classroom.
- Use gender-neutral language, such as “is there any special person in your life?”, instead of, “do you have a boy/girlfriend?”
- Incorporate LGBTQ+ inclusive classroom materials, such as reading books about transgender people in English class, talking about LGBTQ+ people who are positive role models in history class, i.e. Harvey Milk/politician, Oscar Wilde/author, Ellen Degeneres/comedienne, etc.
- Regularly make positive comments about LGBTQ+ people in the news, LGBTQ+ politics and current affairs.
- If you see or hear any negative comments because of a student's gender expression and/or sexual orientation, immediately identify it, question it and stop it.
Confront any discrimination immediately: Name it, Claim it, Stop it!
- Name it: Name the behavior that you just saw/heard. Say something like, "I just saw you make fun of that person" or "I just heard you use a slur".
- Claim it: State how that action/statement made you feel. Say something like, "I don't like that" or "My best friend is gay and your words are offensive".
- Stop it: Tell the offender you don't want to hear/see that again. Say something like, "Don't do that" or "That's not funny and don't say it again".
Name it, Claim it, Stop it: Developed by Darryl Cummings-Wilson and Kevin Berrill, former director of the Anti-Violence Project of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
Resources & Tools for an Inclusive Curriculum
Founded in 1990 by a small but dedicated group of Massachusetts’ teachers, GLSEN is now a leading and nationally recognized voice in providing safe and affirming schools for all students and educators.
- Multiple resources and tools to help educators provide a respectful, inclusive learning environment. Includes ways to talk to elementary students about gender roles and family diversity, how to add positive LGBTQ+ role models in classroom lessons, how to be a supportive ally and more.
- GLSEN LGBTQ+ resources that encompasses best practice, theory, lesson planning and meets common core standards
- A list of elementary school-aged, LGBTQ+ friendly and developmentally appropriate books, complete with discussion guides.
- Unheard Voices is a collaborative effort between ADL, GLSEN and StoryCorps; an oral history and curriculum project which offers a variety of ways for educators to integrate LGBTQ+ history and people into their school programs.
Gender Spectrum is a national organization providing support and resources for the LGBTQ+ community, their allies, and educators. This site contains multiple, various resources for understanding gender, ways to provide gender inclusive schools and districts, policy and legal issues, and more.
- A Gender Spectrum resource, this toolkit provides information, ideas and tools for a warm, inclusive and safe classroom environment for all students, and in particular, LGBTQ+ students.
- Provides simple steps for teachers to follow in their classroom, from ways to avoid gender-defining language (i.e. "hey boys & girls", etc) and alternative suggestions, to standing up to bullying gender language.
- Exactly as it says, this is a list anyone can use in their classrooms to be more inclusive of gender differences.
Keeping Schools Safe
- Written for everyone from parents, teachers and administrators, this is a simple guide outlining 10 easy ways to make your school a safe and supportive place to learn.
- A guide to being supportive to LGBTQ+ youth in your classes. Research shows that students who feel supported in their schools get better grades, skip less school, and feel safer coming to school.
- GLSEN’s resources for PD for educators, includes lesson plans for LGBTQ+ students of color, elementary school educators, K-12 librarians, and more.
- GLSEN’s Jump Start Guide for new or established GSA Clubs. This guide provides many great ideas, activities and projects to incorporate into your own school's GSA Club.
- A Gender Spectrum research brief exploring harassment for transgender and gender nonconforming students and offers suggestions to help make schools safer for all students.