One of the best resources I found is from GLSEN (thanks to Lane for pointing this one out to me!); the Safe Space Kit outlines how educators can create a space in their schools for LGBTQ students and allies to feel safe in. GLSEN explains in their “Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students” that “research shows that LGBT students with many supportive educators feel safer at school, skip fewer classes, and earn higher grades than students without supportive educators” (p. 2). This just goes to show how important it is to make sure LGBTQ students have at least one teacher and one classroom where they feel safe, understood, and respected. The kit has a Guide to Being an Ally, which takes you through what an “ally” is (with a personal beliefs self-assessment), terms you need to know, how to support LGBTQ students (including how to support them when they come out to you), how to handle instances of discrimination and hate speech in the school, how to educate others regarding LGTBQ issues, and how to advocate for LGBTQ students within your school. You can use this kit to learn what you need to know to be an ally and create a safe space in your classroom, and the kit has printable Safe Space stickers you can use to let students know your classroom is a Safe Space for them.
GLSEN also has a research division – you can follow @GLSENResearch to keep up with them! Some of their research was assembled into this 2013 National School Climate Survey infographic. One of the most heartbreaking pieces of information for me was that 65% of students surveyed had heard homophobic remarks at school, 85% were verbally harassed in the past year, and 30% felt so unsafe at some point in the last month that they missed at least one day of school because of it. If our students are feeling so unsafe and unsupported that missing school becomes their best option, we are obviously not doing enough to help them. If you’re interested in doing your own School Climate Survey, GLSEN provides a free online survey tool.
If you want to make LGBTQ students feel included not just in the classroom, but in the curriculum as well, GLSEN provides LGBT-Inclusive Curriculum and Lesson Plans on Bullying, Bias, and Diversity. These would provide teachers with fantastic opportunities to make LBGTQ students feel like their experiences matter and to help establish lines of communication (hopefully leading to understanding and tolerance) between LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students.
Another resource (thanks again, Lane!) I’m going to explore further is the PFLAG website. Their mission is to support LGBTQ people, families, and allies in their own communities. PFLAG has 400 local chapters across the US and many corporate sponsors (i.e. Walmart, USA Network, McDonalds, etc.). They also have a national scholarship program and chapter scholarship programs for LGBTQ students and allies who are active in advocating for and within the LGBTQ community. PFLAG has an online academy where PFLAG members can receive learning sessions on LGBTQ issues.
For ELA educators specifically, it is immensely important for students to find themselves represented in the literature on your shelves. I took to Google to find lists of LGBTQ literature. I found:
- This Buzzfeed list of 16 books that were influential to LGBTQ members of the Buzzfeed community.
- The Over the Rainbow list of 78 LGBT books for adult readers
- The Rainbow Book List of GLBTQ books for children and young adults
- This Goodreads list of LGBTQIA books
- This Goodreads list of LGBTQIA YA (young adult) books
- This Bookish list of 10 LGBTQ YA books
- This list on Sugarscape of 15 YA books that explore LGBT themes
- This Goodreads list of LGBTQ children’s literature (“And Tango Makes Three” is fantastic, by the way)
- This Brainpickings list of LGBT children’s books
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and new books exploring LBGTQ themes are being published more and more frequently. Google is your friend here – please continue looking for books to add to your classroom shelves!
I’m finding that there are a lot more resources out there than I initially imagined – you just have to look for them. I intend to investigate these resources more fully, and I will certainly complete the Safe Space Kit so that my classroom will be a safe space for all of my students. I hope all of you educators out there reading this will consider doing the same!!