Back to school can be an exciting and daunting time. Forming new social relationships, getting to know new teachers, and adjusting to new classes are hurdles for all students, but as an LGBTQ+ student, ensuring your own emotional and physical safety is a priority. As you navigate the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, here are six tips to help you feel safe and empowered. 

  1. Look for supportive adults.

Is there a teacher always sporting a pride pin? Are there safe space posters hung up in their classroom or pride flags displayed? These are strong indicators that adult will affirm and uplift your identity. If you are unsure but want to test the waters, ask an adult what their pronouns are. Judging by their response and if they return the question, something small like this can help you determine if they are a safe person. 

  1. Find a queer-affirming club(s) at your school. 

Does your school have a GSA or diversity club? Consider joining to build a supportive community and form connections with people you can relate to. If your school does not have a pre-existing club, consider finding an adult advisor to help and start your own GSA. Find more tips on how to do so here:

  1. Trust your gut.

If you don’t feel safe in a situation, trust your instincts. If possible, remove yourself from the environment and ask for help; know that it’s ok to not share your identity with everyone, especially if you feel they are not a safe person. Conversely, if someone does make you feel safe and loved, believe that feeling too. You are in charge of who gets to know you.

  1. Check out YA books exploring queer identities.

An amazing way to learn more about queer experiences is to read about them. There are countless young adult novels and graphic novels that can help you better understand yourself and others. Titles like The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes, Taproot by Keezy Young, Out of Character by Jenna Miller, and Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker are all great stories to explore. For a more comprehensive list of LGBTQ+ YA books, visit

  1. Seek social support.

What would life be like without friends? Although you may not click with everyone at your school, you are not alone. LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, even if it’s hard to see sometimes. Find friends who support your identity or are a part of the community as well! 

  1. Remember! You have every right to be exactly who you are.

You are the only person who can define your identity. The terms you use to refer to yourself can evolve over time, or can remain the same, but as long as it feels right to you that’s perfect. Believe yourself, and do not doubt your worth. Growing up is a difficult process but remember, it gets better. 

Sarah Dean is an 8th grade English teacher based in Nashville, TN with a passion for uplifting LGBTQ+ students. From her childhood in California to her new adventures in Tennessee, Dean has always loved to write, seeing words and art as a beautiful way to develop empathy and compassion for others. Deen’s school is the recipient of grant money from our 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices. initiative in both 2022 and 2023.