With more and more schooling taking place online these days, it’s essential that digital classrooms, just like in-person ones, be safe and inclusive places for LGBTQ+ students. This is especially important for students who might lack identity-affirming support at home.
That’s where the It Gets Better Project comes in. We’re here to help you build the kind of digital classroom your LGBTQ+ students need. Below you’ll find a list of actions you can take and resources you can use to help you get there.
Use inclusive and supportive language.
It goes without saying that your digital classroom should be a place free from derogatory and discriminatory language, a place where only encouraging language is used. Take some time to review with your students what that means for your classroom, and consider having them visit our online glossary to learn more about LGBTQ-inclusive terminology.
Have a conversation with your students about pronouns. Share with them what pronouns you use to refer to yourself and why. Take it one step further and display your pronouns in places like your email signature and on your Zoom profile. Encourage your students to do the same, and remind them to always respect how others identify.
Include LGBTQ+ stories in your curriculum.
According to The 2017 National School Climate Survey by the GLSEN Research Institute, LGBTQ+ students in schools with inclusive curriculum are less likely to feel unsafe. What does inclusive curriculum look like?
Inclusive curriculum is one that regularly highlights LGBTQ+ people, history, and culture in a positive way. It’s one that respectfully acknowledges what LGBTQ+ communities contribute to this world. It’s one that values diversity and recognizes intersectional identities and experiences.
To build this type of curriculum, start by incorporating inspiring LGBTQ+ stories like those collected and crafted by the It Gets Better Project. We offer a growing collection of free-to-download educational materials – what we call EduGuides – that make it easy to do just that. To learn more, go to itgetsbetter.org/edu.
FUN FACT: Did you know that 5 U.S. states – California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland – mandate that all K-12 schools include LGBTQ+ history in their social studies curriculum?
Display your pride.
Who says allyship has to be subtle? According to the GLSEN report highlighted above, LGBTQ+ students thrive when they can identify supportive staff at their school. So don’t hesitate to show your pride loud and… well, proud.
In a digital setting, like on a video call with your class, this can be as easy as wearing a t-shirt or sweater that showcases your support, like those found in our online store. Or maybe you could use an LGBTQ-friendly virtual background for Zoom, like the ones we offer here. You could even consider decorating a shelf with LGBTQ+ YA books that can be seen on camera. These are small gestures, but they can mean a lot to LGBTQ+ students looking for a supportive adult.
Once more classes start taking place in a non-digital classroom, consider ordering a Safe Space Kit from our friends at GLSEN.
Make space for unique activities.
When LGBTQ+ students feel good at school, their educational outcomes are significantly stronger (GLSEN, 2017). That’s why it’s important to find time for activities that do both, ones that prioritize your students’ mental health and encourage their academic success. When these activities help affirm and validate your students’ identities and experiences, even better.
A movie watch party could fit the bill. There are literally hundreds of uplifting LGBTQ+ films out there that you could screen together with your students using an app like Netflix Party. If time is limited, you can ask your students to watch the film on their own or in a small group and come prepared to discuss the film during class time. This is also a great activity for a GSA.
Need a suggestion? Consider screening Moonlight or Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall, both of which are currently available to stream on Netflix. Just click their titles here to learn more, and don’t forget to download our EduGuides to accompany them.
You could also tune in with your students to our Instagram Live sessions with LGBTQ+ writers that take place every Tuesday at 12p PST (3p EST). You won’t want to miss them.
Keep your students informed.
Many of your LGBTQ+ students may be in need of support that is beyond your capacity to provide, like medical care, housing security, and legal aid. You can help by connecting your students to the community-based resources that are there to serve them.
At itgetsbetter.org/GetHelp, we offer an online database of over 1,100 organizations in 40+ countries around the world providing support to the LGBTQ+ community. The database is searchable by name, location, and service type. We also offer a number of identity-based resource lists for youth in the United States.
For a list of organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community specifically in relation to COVID-19, click here.
Share (and repeat) messages of support.
Words of support can go a long way in helping your LGBTQ+ students through a tough day. Something as simple as hearing that things can change for the better can help them dodge depressive symptoms (NPR, 2014). So why not be the one to share an encouraging word?
Since 2010, the It Gets Better Project has amassed an online collection of over 70,000 video stories, many of which can be found at itgetsbetter.org/stories. It’s the world’s largest storytelling effort for the empowerment of LGBTQ+ youth. These video stories and the inspirational messages they contain are available to share with your students at any time.
Help your students stay connected to their community.
As was stated in a report recently published by The Trevor Project, it’s important that LGBTQ+ students continue to seek out social connections online during times of social distancing. This can go beyond family and friends, to include members of the broader LGBTQ+ community.
Making connections is a key part of the It Gets Better Project’s mission. We use our social media channels to help facilitate that effort. You can access an aggregate of all our accounts in one spot at itgetsbetter.org/connect, or click here for YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. While you’re there, make sure to follow us and share our accounts with your LGBTQ+ students.
FUN FACT: Did you know the It Gets Better Project has a Global Affiliate Network that currently spans nearly 20 countries across 4 continents? Click here to learn more and to connect with LGBTQ+ communities around the globe.
Share the word.
As a nonprofit, we have a big mission to fulfill and we could use your help:
Have you discovered something that is helping to make your digital classroom a safer and more inclusive space for LGBTQ+ youth?
We’d love for you to share it with us. You can email our staff at email@example.com.
Are you interested in volunteering with the organization, perhaps as a writer or an advisor on an upcoming EduGuide?
Take a look at the opportunities we currently have available at itgetsbetter.org/opportunities.
Would you be willing to share about our organization?
Please consider sending this resource list to your fellow educators or posting an article like this one to social media.
Thank you for all you do to support LGBTQ+ youth. We’re extremely grateful to have educators like you on our side.
This resource list was written by Justin Tindall, MPH (he/they), the It Gets Better Project’s Director of Education and Global Programming.