Expert Resources to LGBT Inclusivity in the Classroom

Expert Resources and Guide to LGBT Inclusivity in the Classroom

By Richard Greggory Johnson III
Professor of Public Administration
University of San Francisco

Professor and Program Director, Richard Greggory Johnson III is a progressive author, educator and Fulbright Scholar who focuses on social equity and human rights within public policy and administration. His areas of expertise include race, gender, sexual orientation and social class issues, human resources and higher education management.

As a teacher, Dr. Johnson aims to bring down the walls that he believes often separate academia from the real-life advocacy and action required to bring about social change and justice. He is the recipient of five prestigious grants from the United States Department of Education.

It’s a big world out there, and at every level of academia, the traditional classroom still ranks as the prime place for learning about that bigger world – we hope with open books, open minds and open hearts. That’s precisely why the basics of LGBT life, history, and culture have been included within the curricula of California’s elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges since 2016. When the state’s lawmakers did finally pass mandated requirements on teaching the history of LGBT leaders and historic milestones for LGBT rights, the impact was clear: California’s students who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender likely no longer feel as ostracized in their classrooms.

For those of us who believe not merely in tolerance, but in non-judgmental, mainstream acceptance, California’s enlightened law stands as a triumph of educational equality. Indeed, the state isn’t just the first to mandate an LGBT curriculum, it remains the only one.
Not surprisingly, these factors often lead to lower graduation rates, bouts of depression and a suicide-attempt rate that’s up to four times higher than their non-LGBT peers. Now that California’s history textbooks do address the history of LGBT-themed leaders, issues and achievements, I’m well aware that teaching the topic still remains potentially awkward for some teachers at all levels.
That in mind, here are five ways to best approach teaching these subjects effectively, accurately and with acceptance.

Five Ways to Ensure LGBT Inclusivity in the Classroom

1. Treat the topic with academic respect.

Cultivate a serious-minded learning climate that’s LGBT-inclusive, an environment where all students learn and thrive together without bullying. By seeing themselves reflected in textbooks and class discussions, their experiences are validated, their sense of self-worth reinforced.

2. Be aware of your students’ comfort or discomfort levels.

Take care to address LGBT students in the way they wish to be addressed. Be aware that some LGBT students may not want to share their gender identity. Let each situation reveal itself on a case-by-case basis. Try to make all students feel as comfortable as possible.

3. Update your subject-matter topics and reference materials.

Encourage your school system to provide progressive-themed textbooks and resources that recognize the achievements of LGBT history’s great minds. For starters, think Alexander the Great, Leonardo di Vinci, Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, so many others. Examine recent societal shifts on same-sex marriage and the constraints of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

4. Encourage the use of appropriate terms. Discourage language that’s inappropriate.

Make your classroom a safe place for honest inquiry, questions, and dialogue. Encourage students to use inclusive language and terms that are non-judgmental. Advise students who use inappropriate language that your classroom is a sanctuary, free from name-calling, harassment, and bullying.

5. Vow to become an ally for social equality.

Show support for your LGBT students. Be a willing resource and sounding board. Be an educator who’s aware and accepting of our changing culture. Emphasize that everyone is unique with gifts of their own. Join your students in making inclusivity a school-wide priority. Celebrate social equity that makes all your students feel welcome and inclusive.

Resources and Organizations for LGBT Inclusion

Human Rights Campaign (HRC): “The Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community”.

Glsen: Glsen aims to “create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”.

Glsen Inclusivity in Classroom: Resource and further information on how to make classrooms more inclusive.

Glaad: Guides and resources for transgender individuals who may be in crisis or in need of support.

LGBT Homeless Youth Project: Support for those within the LGBT community who are struggling with homelessness.

Lambda Legal Resourses by State: State specific resources for LGBT individuals who are looking for further information in their area and who to contact.

Family Equality Council: “Family Equality Council’s mission is to advance legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families, and for those who wish to form them, through building community, changing hearts and minds, and driving policy change”.

NCAA: The NCAA Inclusion Initiative Framework “believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators.” This page provides a detailed list of NCAA resources, organizations and articles of interest including:
LGBT Terminology
LGBT Organizational Resources
NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes
Inside Higher Ed: Accommodating Trans Students