Support and Resources for LGBT Youth Seeking Advice
Sara Train (bio) suggests how teachers can position themselves as potential allies, as well as some resources for LGBT students.
How a teacher can be more supportive of LGBT youth is something that is so crucial to this piece because teachers really play a role that is unique to the development of young people in our schools.
The first thing I would say is, be a visible ally. Let your young people know, even before they come to you, that you're going to be there to be a support, because that is already setting a tone for people who are questioning, or who maybe have family members who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or transgender. And just by being a visible ally, you're letting that person know, "You're OK with me." Right? And that sets a tone just by being visible.
And there are ways to do that by putting up a visual in your classroom, talking about it, not ignoring situations that might — incidences that might happen — addressing them right at the time. Making sure that people understand what behaviors you are not going to tolerate in your classroom.
And all of those things send a message, especially to the young person who's questioning, "Is this person going to stand up for me or not?"
And then when young people do finally come to you and maybe share that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or an ally — and they want to become more involved — to listen is the first thing. Listen! Make sure that you're really taking that person into account and what their desires are or what their thoughts are, because often we're like, "Yes, here's a resource and I've got it ready for you," but really listen and pay attention to the youth.
And then connect them to resources as appropriate. There's a really awesome resource called the GSA Network. GSA stands for Gay, Straight Alliance. They're a national organization and they actually have a curriculum and a whole program on helping advisors, teachers, and/or other school staff, supporting youth in schools, creating a club where it's safe to be LGBT. And GSA clubs have been really instrumental in changing that culture at a school, and it's a really great place to start.
Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.