10 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom for LGBTQ Students

An image of LGBTQ Students waving a flag in rainbow colors

LGBTQ+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and more. These are terms used to describe a person’s sexuality or gender identity. Most LGBTQ students often require extra attention at school, this EDU Blog explains why:

What is LGBT-inclusive education?

The school is the place where lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, or queer young people are most discriminated against. Therefore, It is important to have education systems that respond to the needs of LGBTQ students.

To change this, school administrators must design curricula that encourage young people to be more respectful and accommodating to others. Teaching about LGBT rights, identities, and issues in schools can foster a positive learning environment. And it can help LGBT students thrive academically.

What percent of LGBTQ students are bullied?

The United States has been leading global LGBT acceptance campaigns. Yet LGBTQ students still experience a higher level of anxiety, drug addiction, and depression than their heterosexual peers. This may be because of bullying, harassment, social exclusion, verbal abuse, physical assault, and curriculum-based discrimination based on their perceived sexual orientation.

Data from a 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey reveals that 34 % of LGBTQ students in the U.S. were bullied on school property, while 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon in school. The same survey discloses 29% of LGBT youth had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year, compared to 6% of heterosexual youth. Interestingly enough, some states restrict LGBT-related content in school sex education programs. Only nine states in the U.S. require that sex ed be inclusive of LGBTQ+ young people. 

In England, the Classroom reveals 97% of pupils report regularly hearing homophobic language in schools.    

Internationally, LGBTQ students live in fear of intense bullying, especially in conservative societies like the Middle East, and Africa where homosexuality is criminalized. 

In the end, many LGBTQ+ students avoid school altogether in response to constant bullying and harassment.

How to support LGBTQ students?

It is the responsibility of educators worldwide to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For LGBTQ students around the world, this is important, as they may face discrimination and marginalization at school and in society as well.

Even for conservative educators, who may hold beliefs that differ from those of their LGBTQ+  students, it is possible to uphold personal beliefs while also maintaining an accommodating environment for all students.

Taking these steps will help provide a safe, respectful learning environment for all students:

10 Ways to Create an Inclusive and Safe Classroom for LGBTQ Students

1- Create a welcoming atmosphere:

A great start is to purge hostile energy by ensuring that all students feel welcome and included in your classroom or school community.

This could include a range of activities like marking tent-pole moments for the LGBTQ+ community, displaying posters or symbols of support, such as rainbow flags and even asking students to include their pronouns when they introduce themselves.

2- Use inclusive language for LGBTQ students and everyone :

This involves using gender-neutral terms and avoiding using phrases that assume everyone is straight or cisgender (meaning their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth).

3- Use preferred pronouns and names:

Be respectful of students’ preferred pronouns and names if you have trans or in-transition students. Use them consistently and encourage others to do the same.

4- Be an ally:

It is necessary to actively support and defend the rights of LGBTQ students. So, this can involve avoiding stereotypes or standing up against homophobic, bi-phobic, and transphobic actions or comments in schools.

5- Provide resources:

Make sure that LGBTQ students have access to resources and support, such as counseling services or LGBTQ+ student groups. In addition, incorporate LGBTQ+ themes and content into the curriculum.

This can help normalize and recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals and create a more inclusive environment for all students.

6- Educate yourself and others:

Make an effort to learn about the experiences and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. So, this can help create a more understanding and supportive environment.

Use role-play and scenario-based exercises to help learners understand and practice inclusive behaviors. This can also be a good way to address issues that may come up in the classroom.

7- Respect students' privacy:

If a student has not disclosed their LGBTQ+ identity to you, it is important to respect their privacy. In a scenario where they divulge, do not “out” a student or share their identity with others without their permission.

It is critical to remember that each student’s needs and experiences are unique.  Some students are even bullied because of their perceived sexual orientation. Without prying, it may be helpful to have one-on-one conversations with students being bullied who aren’t “out” to figure out how you can best help.

8- Have open and honest discussions:

Encourage open and honest discussions about LGBTQ issues in the classroom. A fun way to engage the students can be through a “diversity brainstorm” which involves having students brainstorm and share examples of diversity in the classroom, such as different cultures, languages, abilities, and identities.

This can foster understanding among students and help them appreciate the diversity within the class.  

9- Encourage students to share their own experiences:

The experience of every student is valid, when shared it can make them feel seen, heard, and respected. Encourage students to share their own experiences and perspectives, whether related to LGBTQ+ issues or not.

Educators can use “get to know you” activities or games that allow students to learn more about each other and build connections. So, this can help create a sense of community and belonging.

10- Implement inclusive policies and procedures for LGBTQ students and everyone:

Take action to advocate that your school’s policies and procedures are inclusive of LGBTQ students. So, this can involve things like enforcing anti-bullying policies and allowing students to wear clothing and use facilities that align with their gender identity.

According to GLSN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), supportive educators save students’ lives. As educators responsible for the well-being and holistic development of learners, it is essential to acknowledge the struggles that LGBTQ+ students endure. 

Keep in mind that creating an inclusive and safe learning environment is an ongoing process and requires continuous effort and commitment. Sign up to EDU Passport, join our community and stay connected for more free resources.

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