comments 5

Supporting LGBT Students

“Remember, it’s not about politics—it’s about supporting students. Any educator, regardless of his personal beliefs, can be a resource for LGBT students,” says the page on tolerance.org. If you are a teacher, if you are in a classroom, your students are a priority.

This issue has been very present on my mind lately. As someone who has so many friends who are part of, and who have faced the consequences in school and out, of being part of the LGBT community, I have personally been challenged to learn what this means to me.

I remember a day in High-School band–I was asking one of the other students about their experience as someone who is gay. I told them, “I’m just interested because I haven’t known that many gay people.”

The joke was on me, as people all around chorused, “I’m gay!” “I’m bi!” “I’m bi-curious.” I was shocked. Not that I was surround by so many people who were “different” than me, but that they were just people. I learned that day that they were people first, and that I couldn’t see what was below the surface, whether that was sexual orientation, emotional distress, or whatever-what-have-you. They were people first, and that was good enough reason for me to treat them like people, and not like problems.

That was how I thought I would treat people if they were gay on entering High-School. As problems to be solved. Thank you everyone who spoke up that day, who weren’t afraid of what I might have thought.

So, with that in mind, here are the “top five takeaways” that I have learned about being an Ally to those in the LGBT community, student or otherwise:

  1. They are people first. That, and not their sexuality or gender identity, defines how we ought to treat people, regardless of who they are. Not only is this a moral thing, but as Americans it is a constitutional right protected under the first amendment. People are protected to act based on what they believe, provided that we as educators don’t discriminate. Sure, if girls can wear dresses, then gay men or trans women, you go for it too.
  2. Respect their privacy. If someone confides in you about their gender or sexuality, do not assume that they want the whole world to know. Being able to keep the information they have entrusted you with is a good first step towards being a “safe space.” This goes for anything (within lawful application of course, teachers are still required by law to report suicidal thinking, abuse, etc. to parents and administrators).
  3. Do not tolerate bullying. Yes, I did write an earlier post asking about how we can support bullies, but that does not mean we must tolerate bullying behavior in our classes and schools. Schools should have resources in place, and training for staff and administration in order to protect students from bullying of all stripes. And make sure that you, as the person you can control, is not a bully, and is a resource that is safe for students to turn to if they are being bullied. Train students to be aware of bullying, and to act on behalf of others if they see bullying behavior.
  4. Address the religious question. Yes, religion and the LGBT community are often at odds with one another, but disagreement doesn’t have to end in a fight, argument, or belittling. Use opportunities in your classroom to allow students to practice confrontation and disagreement in constructive ways. Consider fostering an environment where disagreement leads to greater understanding on behalf of both parties, rather than leading to conflict. This goes back to seeing people as people first.
  5. Remember that safety and change both start with you. You cannot control or fix all of the environmental aspects of your student’s lives. This goes for both LGTB students, and any other students in your classroom. You may not be able to control the beliefs of their parents, peers, or even your co-workers. But, you can craft in your own classroom a place where discrimination isn’t tolerated, were students of all stripes feel safe to voice their beliefs and ideas, and perhaps most importantly, do disagree with one another on important issues while knowing that their words, ideas, and identities will be respected.

Resources to check out if you are interested in learning more:

http://www.tolerance.org/lgbt-best-practices — a good resource on an overview of what being an LGBT ally in the classroom looks like

https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/files/gse-mcc/files/lgbtq_resource_list_0.pdf — a resource with links to helpful pages on how to be an ally to subsets of LGBT students like, “LGBT students of color” and resources for creating inclusive curricula.

https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/supporting-lgbt-students-your-school — this site has helpful tips on how to create an inclusive environment in your school, not just for LGBT students, but for everyone.

Do you disagree with me on any of the above? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you have to think.

 

Advertisements
Filed under: Uncategorized

About the Author

Posted by

I am Charlie Eich. I am a student, friend, and occasionally, a writer. Native to the great state of Colorado. This site is where you will find any and all words of mine. Whether they be a short story, poem, or simply thoughts, these are the things I found worthy of the world wide web. Enjoy.

5 Comments

  1. picturesofmailboxes

    Yo Charlie, I’m a queer student. I think this is a really important topic, since it does come up in the classroom. Sometimes educators who believe themselves to be allies say things that make queer kids not trust them (for instance, you saying “if girls can wear dresses, then gay men or trans women, you go for it too” would make a trans girl uncomfortable since it puts her in the category of something other than a girl. I can of course tell that your intentions are good but just from that, I would feel less safe from it.) The teachers who have been my closest allies in this respect are mostly ones who listen in the classroom, who ask questions and don’t try very hard to make political statements, particularly about groups of people they may not understand firsthand. Trust is hard to earn as well as to give, but it’s important, and I admire you for seeking it. (Also, my most recent blog post is sort of about this same topic)

  2. Hey! Thank you so much for your input and helping me to be more aware of how my language affects students. I know I’m nowhere near the end of my journey on becoming an ally, and I am so thankful for those who are willing to help me along. I will definitely check out your most recent post. Perhaps it will help me to get another step forward. I hope that my future students will be able to approach me with the grace you have, acknowledging and challenging my mistakes, so that we can grow together.

  3. Pops

    I agree. Both as another person, but also as a Christian. We each need a Savior. We all are sinners. We all of us Believers need to extend the same Grace exhibited by Christ to our fellow man.

  4. I’m so curious to know what teachers who are homophobic do in regard to LGBTQ+ students. How many still exist? I don’t know… I’m so curious to know all the specifics of what you write about here. Like how exactly do we foster an environment of confrontation and disagreement??? Scary stuff to imagine the real, uninsulated-by-liberal-college-students world where people aren’t just chillin.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s