In September 2022, our Education Coordinator, Rae Sweet-Sandoval (they/them) and our Youth Voices, Hailey (she/her) and Aidan (he/him), met with students and educators involved in our 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices initiative to talk about how to make a classroom (and schools at large) LGBTQ+ friendly.
First, we watched Chella Man’s video, I Always Knew Gender Was Fluid, where students related to the ways in which Chella navigated different spaces and the different ways he tried to fit in. Students reflected on the ways in which representation in a space is crucial in order for a space to feel safe. One of the biggest takeaways from the video was that a safe space for LGBTQ+ people is a space where we don’t have to monitor our movements.
What Does an LGBTQ+ Friendly Classroom Look Like?
Inspired by Chella’s story and his art, the group participated in an activity where they each tapped into their artistic expression in order to depict what an LGBTQ+ friendly classroom looks like, or feels like, to them. Students and educators drew pictures, wrote poems, and created detailed descriptions of what this looks like.
Reflecting on their art, students and educators shared that an LGBTQ+ friendly space is one that…
- is an intersectional space.
- is a place for community to come together & be able to bask in queer joy safely.
- takes bravery.
- has “out” and proud allies.
- is trauma informed, not trauma focused.
Our Youth Voice, Hailey, added…
“To me, an LGBTQ+ [friendly] classroom looks like a place where trans people and all LGBTQ+ people can exist safely and not have to be conscious about their self and their own gender experience when they’re in the classroom. What they should be conscious about is what they’re learning, and not anything else.”
Hailey went on to give a specific example of a time that she felt safe at school…
“Specifically, my English teacher, at the beginning of the year, came up to me when no one was around, which was good because I wouldn’t want to be singled out or made to feel othered in front of my peers. But she came up to me, and told me ‘I support you, I know a lot of the administration is not really fighting for you in the ways that they should be, but just know that I’m here for you if you ever need to talk about anything. I know that this is a really hard time for you, etc.’ So ya, a lot of it is just making it known to your students that you are an ally or just that you care about them that deeply.”
Steps Towards Inclusivity
To close out the discussion, students and educators shared what they are currently doing to make their school more LGBTQ+ friendly…
Making sure everyone knows they are welcome and can always be themselves
Revising the curriculum to be more inclusive. Teacher and student trainings. K-12 GSA vertical alignment.
Ordering books by LGBTQ+ authors
Making an all-gender single-user locker room
Working with admin to get out a press release about our grant…
Books for the library featuring LGBTQ+ characters and authors
the grant, applying for the RYE fellowship to make an lgbtq progress project
New sinage for all bathrooms and locker rooms
- EduGuides – https://itgetsbetter.org/media/
- Help educators introduce our best stories to your classroom or GSA group. Each EduGuide comes with discussion questions, fun activities, and even complete lesson plans that make for an engaging presentation.
- LGBTQ+ Fundamentals – youtube.com/itgetsbetter + LGBTQ+ Glossary – itgetsbetter.org/glossary
- A basic rundown on LGBTQ+ terms and concepts, so you can educate yourself, friends, and fam!
- More Videos