Actions Adults and Allies can take to support LGBTQ Students Right Now
Many of us are coming to grips with anxious feelings in the wake of last week's election, including LGBTQ-identified young people. How can we help them to live and thrive in a country where our President-elect and Vice President-elect have expressed and/or endorsed strong feelings against queer folks, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, poor folks - and all of those at the intersections of these identities?
Here are five immediate steps advisers, educators, parents, and allies can take to support queer young people in their lives.
- Keep a list of suicide prevention hotlines/websites posted somewhere visible. The Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860 in the U.S., and 877-330-6366 in Canada. If you don’t want to speak, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has an online crisis chat you can use to connect to someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Trevor Project also offers a hotline (866-488-7386) and chat option.
- Show up. Be an interrupter. When homophobic, transphobic, sexist, or racist comments are heard in the halls or classroom it’s your responsibility to interrupt the verbal violence at that point to stop further escalation. Use it as a teachable moment if appropriate, or provide follow up with the student(s) involved after class in a more private manner if it would compromise any students’ safety.
- Get to know local lawmakers’ stances on LGB/T policies and protections. Organize letter writing or call campaigns for students to have a voice. For example, the Philadelphia School District's Policy 252 was developed by staff and students of the Attic Youth Center, born of the experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming students who live in discomfort and feel unsafe in school. The policy’s goal is to, “ensure safety, equality, and justice for all students regardless of gender, identity, or gender expression so they can reach their fullest human and intellectual potential.”
- Maintain visibility in curriculum. Incorporate LGBTQ folks into all areas of study—science, math, literature, arts. If your classroom or school has a library, are there LGBTQ authors and stories for young folks? Here are a few titles: The Summer We Got Free, Two Boys Kissing, Keeping You A Secret, Geography Club, Everything Leads To You, Annie On My Mind, I'll Give You The Sun, I Am J, Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus.
- Start the conversation. Engaging your students in conversations that inspire critical thinking, compassion, and communication may be uncomfortable. Many may feel overwhelmed or underprepared for talk around this now-reality. Ask questions! What are your fears? What are your hopes? What would you like to happen?