LBGTQ+ Teacher-Authors on Teaching Inclusivity

Educators have an important role to play in having essential conversations with students around identity, inclusivity, and acceptance. But figuring out what steps to take can be a challenge. To help with this important work, we asked LGBTQ+ Teacher-Authors: “How can educators build LGBTQ+ inclusive classrooms where students can feel supported?” Read on for their recommendations on implementing inclusive teaching strategies.

5 Ways to Build More Inclusive Classrooms

Here are a few ideas from LGBTQ+ Teacher-Authors you can consider when thinking about how to create inclusive classrooms. 

Highlight the missing stories and voices in your curriculum.

When you’re choosing classroom reading materials, it’s important to choose texts written by the voices of those that have been traditionally oppressed as a way to help your students think deeply and speak thoughtfully about history, current events, and social issues. 

Nouvelle ELA does this by including a range of LGBTQ+ leaders, thinkers, inventors, scientists, performers, and athletes in her curriculum. “For example, when my students are studying the Harlem Renaissance, we talk about the tension between the blues scene and the ‘high art’ scene,” she says. “This allows me to share about Ma Rainey — a blues icon and queer feminist — and gets students to think critically about differing perspectives on Black art during that era. As another example, we study the poetry and essays of Audre Lorde for rhetorical analysis.” She also adds that teachers can challenge students to find the “missing stories” in their textbooks, like the tales of women and people of color who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Similarly, The SuperHERO Teacher makes sure to include examples of LGBTQ+ characters in informational text and reading samples in all the resources she creates for middle and high school ELA. “Representation is so important. The sooner we normalize and acknowledge the fact that every single classroom will have LGBTQ+ students in it, the sooner we can make sure those students have the resources and safety they need to be confidently themselves.”

Include LGBTQ+ literature in your classroom library.

In order to ensure that all students are seeing themselves in their learning materials, a number of Teacher-Authors stressed the importance of having a classroom library filled with books written by LGBTQ+ voices or that feature diverse characters. “Inclusivity means accepting that these kids are in our classrooms right now,” says A Teacher’s Plan, a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher. “We, as educators, must make space for them to be seen and heard.” 

The Teaching Texan, who also teaches Kindergarten and 1st grade, echoed that sentiment: “Just as we would be thoughtful in our planning to include individuals of different ethnicities, varying socio-economic backgrounds, and physical abilities, we MUST be sure that we take time to find individuals that represent LGBTQ+ individuals,” he says. “We are blessed that there are more titles than ever before with characters or individuals representing the community LGBTQ+, and we should use those resources to the best of our ability.”

For younger students, Kindergarten Smorgasboard believes that using books can be an effective way to have age-appropriate conversations about diversity. “Books give students a starting point for questions and discussions and allow us to have powerful conversations around diversity issues,” he says. “They also allow my students to see characters who look like them, which is powerful.”

Create a space where LGBTQ+ students feel safe and seen.

According to the 2021 Trevor Project’s survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.* So, creating a space where LGBTQ+ students feel not only seen, but also safe and welcomed is important. 

“As teachers, we have the chance to be another adult in students’ lives who clearly know and celebrate that LGBTQ+ people exist,” says math tutor Jane Gillette. “Be overtly welcoming. Decorate your classroom with a rainbow, pink triangle, an #IllGoWithYou sticker, or posters about people with different backgrounds. When someone who is LGBTQ+ walks into a new space, they consciously (or unconsciously) look for evidence that it is going to be safe in that space.” 

Similarly, 2nd grade teacher Just Add Glitter ensures that her classroom is full of signals — such as rainbows and signs that say all are welcome — in order to let her students know this is a place they can be comfortable and find acceptance. 

In addition to classroom decor, high school science teacher and instructional specialist Bond With James also recommends recognizing or working with the school’s GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) group as a way to help LGBTQ+ students feel safe and welcomed. He also advises to quickly address all inappropriate or discriminatory actions because these behaviors can manifest into long-term trauma for the recipients.

Use inclusive language.

Using inclusive language in the classroom goes a long way toward creating an environment that is welcoming for all students. According to The Brainy Corner, a PreK curriculum creator, teachers can do this by stating their pronouns and having open conversations about the pronouns their students identify with. “Words matter. Having open discussions about the LGBTQ+ community is not only beneficial for them, but also for your classroom as a whole. Get familiar with the terminology, and get to know ALL of your students. These suggestions just barely scratch the surface, but are a great place to start.” 

To add to this, Jane Gillette advises using language that doesn’t overtly make assumptions about students or their family make-up, using gender neutral terms whenever possible. “For example, use ‘your adults’ versus ‘your Mom and Dad,’ ‘friends’ versus ‘boys and girls’ when addressing the classroom,” she says. “And don’t assume a student is interested in or dating someone of a different gender (or at all!).”

Seek out more information. 

As James from Bond With James notes, it’s important for educators to diligently research the history and current perspectives of LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized groups. “When you step into that classroom,” he says, “it is your responsibility — your commitment — to educate and support ALL students no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or ability.” 

By committing to research and professional development, you can listen, learn, ask questions, and ultimately, improve your ability to build inclusive and culturally informed classrooms. To that end, Danielle from Nouvelle ELA advises teachers to seek out professional development from thought leaders of all backgrounds and to advocate for districts to provide more voices. If that’s not a possibility, she adds that teachers can alternatively seek out webinars, books, and Instagram accounts from these leaders.

If you’re looking for resources on LGBTQ+ history and inclusivity, here are some to get you started:

LGBTQ+ History Poster Set

LGBTQ+ History Poster Set by Nouvelle ELA

Not Grade Specific | English Language Arts

If you’re looking for classroom decor to celebrate Pride Month, check out these illustrated posters with inspirational quotes from famous LGBTQ+ figures.

LGBTQ Support Group Interactive Notebook Activity

LGBTQ Support Group Interactive Journal FREEBIE: Grades 7-12 #kindnessnation by The SuperHERO Teacher

Grades: 7th – 12th | All Subject Areas

This free interactive journal can be used to promote tolerance and acceptance among your older students.

5 TEACHER TIPS For A More LGBTQ+ Inclusive Classroom by Queer Kid Stuff

Staff | Classroom Community

This free video is an educator resource that includes 5 quick tips to help make your classroom more LGBTQ+ inclusive for your students.

I Wish My Teacher Knew {Now My Teacher Knows} by Sarah Plum

Not Grade Specific | Classroom Community

Create a way for students to always be able to share what they want you to know with this free resource.

Affirming Safe Space Classroom Posters by Zero Waste Classroom

Not Grade Specific | Classroom Community

Help create a safe, inclusive space in your classroom where all students feel accepted and respected with these posters.

*If you, or someone you know, needs to talk to someone, here’s a resource where you may be able to find support.

This blog, originally published in 2021, has been updated for 2022.