It is time for students to begin returning to school. What should be an exciting time for all is, for too many, a time of anxiety and fear; fear of how they will be treated because they are (or perceived as) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT). Will they be bullied, laughed at, the target of slurs, or excluded? Will they have to hide or deny who they are in order to be a valued member of their school community?
The +GLSEN 2013 National School Climate Survey concluded the vast majority of LGBT students in Missouri regularly heard anti-LGBT remarks. Remarks such as, "gay" used in a negative way (e.g., "that's so gay"), homophobic remarks (e.g., "fag" or "dyke"), negative remarks about gender expression, and/or negative remarks about transgender people.
If asked, no one would disagree that schools should be a safe haven for ALL students. But for LGBT students the expectation for this haven may be at the cost of cloaking their authentic selves. In other words: Don’t ask—Don’t tell.
Some believe the best solution is to not bring attention to yourself or your circumstances as to not invite problems. Simply put this approach is wrong. It is dismissing the emotional wellbeing of LGBT students for the sake of individuals whom at best are uninformed or uncomfortable or at worst homo/transphobic.
In your school:
- Do the adults feel a responsibility to educating themselves to better understand LGBT individuals?
- Do teachers/administrators take the lead in meeting the needs of LGBT students or wait until there is a district policy or law enforcing it?
- Are “jokes” allowed or overlooked as long as no LGBT individuals hear it?
- Do people immediately jump to the conclusion that every image with rainbow colors is promoting a “gay agenda?”
- Are there individuals that take every available opportunity to express their personal anti-LGBT views?
- Would you confront and/or willingly report a fellow educator for discriminatory behavior toward LGBT individuals?
As educators it is our duty to advocate for all students. That means calling out behaviors that are negative toward any individual or group.
It is essential that we confront these behaviors in classrooms, hallways, locker rooms, fields, courts, cafeterias, teacher lounges, offices, or meetings—everywhere and always.
Although, the focus of this writing has been on students, the reality is this is about all LGBT persons, including educators themselves. It is naive to believe LGBT students feel welcomed, accepted, and valued in schools if LGBT teachers remain cloaked and hidden. That is a loud and clear message: "You tolerate me because you have to. You do not value me."
This is about human rights. Our public schools are built on the premise of equal rights for all. As educators we must honor the sanctity of human rights above all else. Not to do so is malpractice. +Human Rights Campaign