Supporting and Advocating for LGBT+ Students

Advocating for and supporting all students in school is so easy and so important, it can change a life, and it can save a life. Creating a safe space for teens lets them know that they are welcome and accepted, that they can feel safe in that classroom or schoolThe students that can benefit from these safe spaces include LGBT+ students. These students may feel alienated or even endangered because of their identity. Many LGBT+ youth live in homes and communities that are un-accepting so having a place where they know they can be themselves and be protected makes all the difference. 

Throughout this article, LGBT+ terms/phrases will be used, if you see one you don’t know, that’s okay! I have an LGBT dictionary also published on The Planet that I will link right here. 


Creating a safe and welcoming environment for LGBT+ students can be done in a lot of different ways. This article will encompass the simplest ways and some examples on how to do them 

Respecting a students’ preferred name and pronouns is probably the easiest way to support LGBT+ students. By using the name and pronouns that a student identifies with, it immediately signifies to that student that you support them. For some students, school is the only place they receive that support. As I’ve mentioned in my previous works on this subject, I am non-binary and use they/them pronouns. This year was the first year I asked my teachers to use those pronouns, and my experience with it has been incredibly positive. To a cisgender person, pronouns and a new name might not seem like a big deal, but for someone who is just starting out in their transition or someone who gets purposely called the wrong pronouns and deadnamed at home; that validation and support can change their life. I understand the challenges of things like they/them pronouns, and I can think of a few circumstances in school where they might be difficult. As an example, in foreign language classes there is not a widely accepted gender-neutral option, but when I asked my teachers to use my preferred pronouns this year, my Spanish teacher did some research and found the negender-neutral terms and she was happy to make accommodations so I could use them. That experience is something I will never forget, the simple act of doing that research and finding a way to support me no matter what told me that my identity be respected in her classHowever, learning to use any new pronouns/names can be difficult, and slip-ups are going to happen. If an old pronoun or name is accidentally used the best way to correct yourself is just re-state the correct pronoun/name, try not to make any long apology or explanation, that can cause embarrassment on both parts and possibly ‘out’ a student to their classNo one is perfect, my very supportive family accidentally uses the wrong pronouns sometimes too. ‘It’s the thought that counts’ applies to preferred pronouns/names too. 

Another easy way to show your support for LGBT+ students is by changing the wording on certain forms. Many teachers have “get to know you” forms for their students on the first day. Adding a question about what pronouns each student would like to use would show any LGBT+ student that they were safe in that class. Even if a student isn’t transgender, seeing that would let them know that all members of the LGBT+ community are welcome there. Also, the student doesn’t even need to be LGBT+ them self to benefit from these things. A student could have parents, siblings, or friends that are LGBT+ and having an openly supportive teacher could dispel any worries they might have about speaking freely about their family or friendsOther small things on forms could be asking if a student has “siblings” instead of “sisters or brothers” or asking about “Parent 1 and Parent 2” instead of “Mom and Dad”. Again, these may seem like meaningless changes, but I promise that even the smallest acts of silent support will be noticed by those LGBT+ students who are searching for it. On the topic of silent support, having a pride flag, or pride flag patterned things in your classroom has that same effect. Even if it’s the tiniest pin, it will not go unnoticed. I can tell you from experience, I always look for pride themed things in every classroom on the first day of school and so do my LGBT+ friends.  

Advocating on behalf of LGBT+ students is certainly harder to do, but it’s just as important. There are so many times in school where progress could be made towards school-wide respect for LGBT+ students. So often in the halls and in class I hear homophobic/ transphobic slurs being used in both hateful ways and because some people still think that’s funny. Making jokes using hateful language aimed at anyone is awful, but I find homophobic and transphobic slurs are used most often. Hearing those slurs in class reverses all the work teachers have done towards making that classroom feel safe for everyone. I do not feel comfortable asking another student not to say those words, because I could be putting myself in a dangerous situation. However, a teacher has the power in their classroom, and can stop those jokes and slurs from being used. Also, stepping in when another student is purposely misgendering/deadnaming or shaming LGBT+ student is often necessary. Sadly, there are still a lot of people who wish to do harm to LGBT+ people, and a student may feel threatened or unsafe because of these situations and having a teacher step in and advocate for them can diffuse a situation.  

If a student has even one teacher that advocates for them and supports them, it can make a difference in their life. Knowing there is a safe space where their identity will be respected, and they are safe can give a LGBT+ student hope that more spaces will soon be the same The LGBT+ students at Dakota are so grateful for the support and help we already get from the teachers and administration. There are always improvements to be made, but we are headed in the right direction and the work that’s been done so far is incredible.