The Learning Accelerator Blog/Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and Staff All Year Long

adult wellbeing diversity, equity, and inclusion social-emotional learning student-centered learning

Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and Staff All Year Long

by Taylor Bowers on July 21 2022

At The Learning Accelerator, we believe an inclusive and welcoming environment is critical to push learning forward and create spaces that allow students and educators alike to engage, grow, and develop as members of our local and global communities. The classroom should be a safe place for all students and faculty, no matter how they identify. While our celebration of Pride Month has come to a close, it is important that we continue to support students and faculty that represent the LGBTQ+ community throughout the entire year.

Supporting Students

So, how can you take steps to ensure students who identify as LGBTQ+ are supported? Here are some ideas and strategies to consider.

  • Expand your awareness, particularly with regard to gender role and gender expression norms, as well as any potential internalized bias you may have developed. Based on what you discover, you may mitigate inadvertent harm and help to make the classroom a safer and more welcoming place.

  • Use more inclusive vocabulary in the classroom. For example, instead of saying "boys and girls," you might refer to your students with gender-neutral terminologies, such as "students" or "class."

  • Promptly deal with any homophobic or disparaging comments made by students or staff members at your school. Make it clear from the start of the semester that you will not accept hateful terminology in your classroom, and teach your students to avoid using phrases they don't completely comprehend, as their improper use could lead to harmful interactions.

  • Use visual representations, like stickers or posters, to mark your classroom as a safe space. While this approach may seem simple, its impact can be powerful. Students can better understand that you are welcoming and friendly toward those in the LGBTQ+ community, and these visual representations present an opportunity for you to explicitly communicate that you are willing to confront anti-LGBTQ+ comments or harassment if such situations arise.

  • Take advantage of any chances for personal or professional growth. These may include professional development opportunities, inclusive workshops, or trainings that can help you better understand the LGBTQ+ community and the issues that students may face.

Importantly, remember what lies at the heart of your goals: supporting students. While you may feel that you are not knowledgeable enough to effectively support LGBTQ+ students, or worry about making a mistake, appearing insensitive, or falling short of being a ‘perfect’ advocate, your support and willingness to stand up for your students is what’s most critical. An ‘imperfect’ advocate is far preferable to a silent observer.

Supporting Staff

Effectively supporting LGBTQ+ faculty begins in the hands of leaders. When leaders model inclusive support, they can help others in their system become more aware and educated, and they set the tone for an environment that is welcoming toward new ideas, deeper understanding, and authentic collaboration. How can you support staff who are part of the LGBTQ+ community?

  • Be outspoken and active with your allyship to support the wellbeing of your LGBTQ+ team members. You may consider steps like taking part in rallies, spending time or resources supporting groups that advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, or even taking part in your community’s Pride events. Active allyship demonstrates your willingness to go beyond mere words and may promote better acceptance among LGBTQ+ employees.

  • Speak up for the rights of your LGBTQ+ staff members when you hear about or observe discrimination or harassment. According to a recent study from the Boston Consulting Group and New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 75% of employees identifying as LGBTQ+ have had at least one negative workplace interaction because of their identity. Remember that you may not know who among your staff members identify with the LGBTQ+ community; research has found that approximately 40% of LGBTQ+ employees have withheld information about their identity at work, and 26% of them shared that they wished they would not have to hide their identity. This underscores the importance of making it clear that discrimination and harassment against students and staff will not be tolerated.

Even as Pride Month has come to an end, educators and leaders can continue to support individuals in the LGBTQ+ community – inside and outside the classroom, all year long – and commit to educating themselves on the value of inclusion for all.

These additional resources from other organizations provide strategies and considerations for you to use in your practice:

About the Author

Taylor Bowers joined TLA in 2021 as the Marketing and Social Media Intern. She bridges her academic background in journalism, telecommunication, and diversity with her work experiences in social media and communications to bring her skills to TLA's External Relations team.