Be Prepared for LGBTQ+ Questions & Concerns

Produced by the HRC Foundation

When receiving professional development training from HRC Welcoming Schools or using our materials, families, school staff or school boards may initially feel nervous about creating inclusive classrooms and schools, especially for LGBTQ+ people.

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Often, educators and school staff tolerate anti-LGBTQ behaviors because they...

  • Aren’t sure how to address it.
    Many teacher education programs lack LGBTQ-specific resources and training, so educators aren’t equipped to effectively stop anti-LGBTQ comments and behaviors.
  • Are nervous about reactions and resistance from other adults.
    Some educators fear that family members, school staff members, or other teachers will react negatively to LGBTQ-inclusive practices and materials in the classroom.
  • Don’t see the importance in stopping the behavior.
    Some educators don’t see anti-LGBTQ behaviors and words for what they are: bullying.

Some community members may feel concern about creating LGBTQ-inclusive school environments. When addressing concerns and fears, emphasize values of community and respect rather than dwelling on myths and stereotypes about LGBTQ people.

Creating welcoming learning environments supports all students by developing a safe school climate where students can focus on learning. 

Here are some points to keep in mind when discussing LGBTQ-inclusive initiatives and topics:

We are talking about families.
All students need educators to validate and respect their families, regardless of family members identities that may be LGBTQ, cisgender, adoptive, straight, divorced or married.

We are talking about respect.
Anti-LGBTQ and gender-related put-downs are among the most common slurs in school environments, and addressing these slurs is essential for the physical, emotional, and academic well-being of all students.

Diverse people come together at school to learn.
Schools are places where people of different races, families, ethnicities, faiths and gender identities come together. Understanding, discussing, and valuing differences at school is essential for healthy learning environments.

LGBTQ parents and guardians are diverse.
LGBTQ people are family members  to youth across the country and schools need to reflect that reality.

  • Households headed by same-sex couples are reported in virtually every U.S. county according to the U.S. Census.
  • In heavily rural states such as Mississippi, South Dakota and Alaska, same-sex households are more likely to have children than same-sex households in other states.
  • In a look at U.S. Census data, approximately two thirds of same-sex Latino couples are raising children.
  • California Census data show that more than half of African-American same-sex couples are raising children.

Youth must understand the world and the people in it.
Your students will meet people in their lives both in and outside of school with many kinds of families and identities, and hear about LGBTQ people in their places of worship, at the dinner table and on TV. It is normal for students to be curious about  LGBTQ people. Adults must be prepared to participate in conversations with students to help them to learn facts instead of myths and stereotypes.

Some states require guardian consent when school curricula address sexuality. However, when educators discuss family diversity, they are not talking about sexuality –– they are talking about understanding the importance of family, love and acceptance for everyone. 

Communication between educators and families is essential.

From the current math unit to discussions about marriage equality, it is important for parents and caregivers to know what is going on in the classroom. HRC Welcoming Schools encourages educators and administrators to hold regular “Family Nights”---evening forums where family members can meet other families as well as school staff. Family Nights can cover specific topics such as bullying or gender identity or just be a general gathering for families and school staff to meet in support of one another’s differences. 

Family respect includes respect for religious beliefs.

Schools include people with many different religious beliefs, and schools can help foster climates that respect the diversity of beliefs and families within a community. Schools build respect by acknowledging community diversity, promoting opportunities for dialogue and teaching kindness and empathy. 

Schools are a place for informed and open discussions.

Learning about LGBTQ people will not “turn” students LGBTQ. What learning about LGBTQ people will do is:

  • Give students the opportunity to understand LGBTQ people instead of  learning about them through negative myths and stereotypes.
  • Allow students to respect all types of families and people.
  • Help students to better understand the world around them.
  • Minimize shame or unhappiness in students who do and will identify as LGBTQ.
The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ+ community.