Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Create A Safe Space For LGBTQ+ Youth In Your Classroom
Published Apr 28th, 2021 & updated on Apr 28th, 2021
There has been increasing acceptance of the LGBTQIA2S+ community in recent years. All of us at DiveThru are Millenials and Gen Z, and even we don’t even remember having a totally inclusive curriculum, or classroom space, for LGBTQ+ youth when we were in school. Thankfully there is more societal acceptance and recognition of people in the Queer Community now. (FINALLY!)
If you’re a teacher, you’re probably trying to keep up with all the changes in the world to make sure that your students feel safe and accepted in your classroom, but it can be hard to know where to start with that.
Here are some tips on how to make your classroom more inclusive!
1. Ask Your Students Their Preferred Pronouns.
This might seem like a really small action, but it can be huuuge. Maybe some of the LGBTQ+ youth in your class aren’t out to their families yet, and the only place they can be themselves is at school.
Asking students to use their pronouns when introducing themselves allows you to help them be more confident in how they identify.
2. Teach An Inclusive Curriculum
Kids are never too young to understand gender diversity and sexual orientation. There are always age-appropriate ways to approach this subject. Some people might not think that the kids will understand, but they will!
You probably already know that kids are capable of understanding soooo much more than many of us give them credit for. They are also extremely open-minded and accept people of different sexualities and gender identities without question. It’s really amazing to see.
3. Use Gender-Neutral Language And Don’t Assume Someone’s Gender
Practice using they/them pronouns. And, keep these things in mind when interacting with your students:
- Gender expression isn’t the same thing as gender identity.
- There is no one way to be trans. Trans people look and present in alllll different ways!
- Trans people don’t have to look cis or “pass” to be respected.
If you follow and respect these things, your students (no matter what their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression might be) will be extremely grateful for it!
4. Don’t Rely On Queer Students To Explain Queer Characters
This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it juuuuuust in case.
If you’re teaching students about Queer characters in a book, don’t look to the LGBTQ+ youth in the classroom and single them out. They might just be discovering who they are. They might not even be totally comfortable in their own skin yet. And, singling them out puts undue pressure on them to perform a certain way and know about things they might not have even heard of before.
Singling them out might make them feel like the token Queer kid and not a 3-dimensional human being. This child has other interests and hobbies, but if you boil down their identity to this one thing, they’ll learn that their queerness is the only aspect of their identity that people are interested in.
5. Don’t Choose Learning Material That Has Stereotypical Queer Characters and Promote Stereotypes
Queer representation isn’t just about watching an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race and calling it a day. Reallyyyy do your research and find books and materials that show a varied and nuanced representation of characters.
Try and find age-appropriate materials that talk about a variety of things from gay marriage to being trans. This can come in the form of educational books or YA graphic novels. And, don’t be afraid to reach out to notable and educated Queer people in your community if you aren’t sure where to start.
6. Follow Inclusive Educators
@kepaterson is a PhD candidate who focuses on creating inclusive education materials for teachers and shows that it’s possible to educate kids on queer issues. Give them a follow because the work that she does is so valuable!
She has even contributed to a new resource for teachers that includes some example lesson plans! We highly recommend following them or even contacting them to advise you on how to make your classroom inclusive to everyone!
7. Teach Queer History
Who was Marsha P. Johnson? Silvia Rivera? These important figures were trans women of colour who changed the course of history. They were outcast by their own community because they were trans, yet still fought for the rights of everyone in the LGBTQIA2S+. This is important history that deserves to be explored.
What were the Stonewall Riots? This was the start of a revolution for Queer people all over the world to gain the right to love who they want to love.
You already know the importance of teaching history. Learning about what others have done before us is a great way to avoid the same mistakes, find role models, and develop our own decision making skills.
8. Do The Work Yourself
This is probably the most important point that we can make. Doing all the things we mentioned above is all well and good, but the only way that you can make a space TRULY inclusive is to remove yourself from gender bias.
Asking pronouns and giving trans kids a bathroom is all well and good, but if you still see a trans boy as a girl, or a nonbinary person as a boy or a girl, then your space isn’t inclusive and you’ll actually harm your students.
So do the hard, internal work in order to make your students feel as welcome and as safe as possible!
To make your classroom truly inclusive for LGBTQ+ youth, you have to go above and beyond just posting rainbows around your classroom and celebrating pride month. It takes a lot of work, but we know that you’re up for the task!