*ONE supportive adult* in the life of an LGBTQ+ adolescent can reduce the risk of suicide by 40%.
YOU could be that adult.
(Lititz Chooses Love, 2022).
Teachers and Administrators can be among the most influential people in the lives of LGBTQ+ students.
In the Classroom
- Display your support in your classroom – the Safe Space symbol, rainbow colors, trans colors, non-binary colors, etc. (Swanson & Gettinger, 2015).
- Announce your preferred pronouns to your class and in your email signature.
- Announce GSA activities, such as conferences or fundraisers, to your classes, and encourage support of the GSA (Mayberry, 2012).
- Speak inclusively to your classes (and all students/staff) whether or not you believe you are speaking to any members of the LGBTQ+ community. First, you don’t know if you are, or not. Second, you are modeling behavior for all the other students, and benefitting every student they come into contact with (Lititz Chooses Love, 2022).
- Include LGBTQ+ issues in your curriculum (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016; Sutherland, 2019).
- Ensure your curriculum contains no negative LGBTQ+ content, language, etc. (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016)
- Have information available about LGBTQ+ resources in your community, such as support groups, health clinics, and hotlines (Sutherland, 2019).
- Have accessible print materials related to LGBTQ+ issues (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016). Ensure trans students are included with information/resources concerning name change and gender change.
- Be aware that not all LGBTQ+ students want to be open, and support your students where they are on their journey.
Support and Participate in the GSA Even if You are Not a Sponsor
The presence of many visible supportive adults at GSA meetings helps bolster students when negative interactions occur, and shows students that supportive communities exist throughout the school (Mayo, 2013; Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).
“I didn’t know there would be SO many adults when I first started coming! …[I]t didn’t feel like “Oh, there’s teacher supervision!” It feels more like “Oh, there are more allies who want to come and talk about this and actually care about this.” And it did show me some people in the [school] community who I might not have necessarily guessed would be supportive. The more people you know are supportive, the more comfortable you feel. (interview, Karen, May 29, 2009)” (Mayo, 2013)
“Well I had a student who came out this year, and in the course of coming out had conversations with six teachers and five of them … five of them where the student was convinced [to speak with them] after hearing something the teachers said or seeing something the teachers had in the room. To me, it is almost miraculous that so many adults could be that supportive and show that [support] outwardly in a way that a student would [feel] safe enough to approach them and say who they are and what they are going through. (interview, J.J., May 28, 2009)” (Mayo, 2013)
In the School
Request LGBTQ+ professional development training from your administration and school district (Mayberry, 2012).
Enforce the school’s anti-bullying policy (Underhill, 2017).
Speak up every time you hear students or staff use anti-LGBTQ+ language (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).
Wear attire sold by the GSA, like t-shirts. That’s an easy way to show LGBTQ+ students that you are an ally, and help build a safer school climate (Mayberry, 2012).
Work to create multiple gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms in the school.
Work to allow students to use their chosen name and pronouns in the school computer system.
Give students diplomas in both their legal and chosen names, in case they legally change their names.
All the Time and Everywhere
Vote, and encourage your students to vote when they are eligible (Lititz Chooses Love, 2022).
Learn LGBTQ+ terminology, and use it. Be willing to adapt as language changes (Killermann, n.d.).
Be an outspoken advocate everywhere you go (Swanson & Gettinger, 2016).
Be aware of cis-normative and hetero-normative systems, and work to counter them (Sutherland, 2019).
Be aware that when kids (and adults) come out, they are at their most vulnerable, so be an especially vigilant ally at that time.
Killermann, S. (n.d.). Comprehensive* list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions. It’s Pronounced Metrosexual. https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/
Mayo, J. B. (2013). Critical pedagogy enacted in the gay-straight alliance: New possibilities for a third space in teacher development. Educational Researcher, 42(5):266-275. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23462392
Sutherland, D. K. (2019). The push for transgender inclusion: Exploring boundary spanning in the gay-straight alliance. Sociology Compass, 13:e12739. doi:10.1111/soc4.12739
Swanson, K., & Gettinger, M. (2016). Teachers’ knowledge, attitudes, and supportive behaviors toward LGBT students: Relationship to gay-straight alliances, antibullying policy, and teacher training. Journal of LGBT Youth, 13(4):326-351. doi:10.1080/19361653.2016.1185765
Underhill, C. (2017). Navigating spaces: Moving along the (dis)enfranchisement spectrum through a high school GSA. Theory in Action, 10(4):89-99. doi:10.3798/tia.1937-0237.1728