By Rae Sweet
It’s been a long time since we last experienced the school bells ringing, feet shuffling in the hallway, and the hum of chatter, laughing, and learning. Entering back into the world — let alone school — can easily feel a bit jarring. Being LGBTQ+ brings with it a unique set of challenges and questions.
As the school year begins, here are some of the most common questions LGBTQ+ students are asking, and some resources to help you along the way:
How do I enter back into my community after being isolated for so long?
- Be patient with yourself. You may be showing up, expressing yourself, and interacting with the world in a whole new way after being in quarantine. Give yourself room to adjust & remind yourself that it’s ok if you’re showing up differently than you used to.
- Take it slow. Join a club or spark a conversation with a classmate, and then give yourself time to recuperate after. Don’t push yourself to be as social as you used to be.
- Remember that you’re not alone. We all were (and still are) affected by COVID-19 in many different ways. So your classmates are most likely feeling a lot of the same feelings you’re having, and are coming back to school with their own concerns, fears, and reservations.
- If you’re in need of immediate support, visit The Trevor Project’s website.
How do I find out if my school has a safe & inclusive space for LGBTQ+ students?
- Ask a teacher or staff member you trust.
- Check out the school website, bulletin boards, calendar, club list, or social media pages.
- Start your own GSA with GLSEN’s “10 Steps to Start Your GSA”.
- Find LGBTQ+ community spaces outside of your school using It Gets Better’s Get Help page.
How can I join my school’s GSA without outing myself?
- Attend GSA meetings with a friend that you trust.
- Join your GSA as an “ally.”
- Ask the club advisor or president if there’s a way to join the meetings virtually (through zoom, etc) so you can attend anonymously.
How do I navigate gendered restrooms at school?
- Know your rights using NCTE’s Resources.
- Ask a staff member you trust if there is a private bathroom you could use.
- Have a buddy-system with your friends so that you feel safe when using the restroom.
- Use It Gets Better’s Get Help page to find local resources.
How do I educate my parents/guardians on my identity?
- Check out the Trevor Project’s Coming Out Guide.
- Encourage your parents/guardians to join their local PFLAG Chapter.
- Encourage your parents/guardians to do their own research. They can use resources like Gender Spectrum and TSER, or they can watch these It Gets Better videos about families with LGBTQ+ kids:
How can my school show its support for LGBTQ+ students?
- Encourage teachers and staff to check out It Gets Better’s EduGuides so they can introduce LGBTQ+ stories into the classroom.
- Encourage teachers to make their classroom more LGBTQ-friendly using It Gets Better’s Resource List and GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit.
- Encourage administrators to adopt NCTE’s Model School District Policy.
– Rae Sweet is the Education Coordinator for the It Gets Better Project.