3 Ways Students And Educators Can Promote Acceptance In Classrooms

by Jessica Mahmoud

It’s not hard to understand that the LGBTQ+ community is a minority group, and there are various struggles that come along with being a part of it.

These challenges can especially be seen in the classroom and on college campuses.

Even though people may seem open-minded or “totally accepting,” it can still be hard to embrace a heteronormative school setting when you identify within the LGBTQ+ community.

Here are some problems that can arise and some advice on how to handle them, whether you’re a student or an educator:

1. Being Misgendered

I work in a retail store that caters, in our gendered clothing world, to women.

Often, when individuals come in, my coworkers will say things like, “Hey, ladies.”

My question is, what if that person identifies as nonbinary or transgender?

We can also see this in the use of "ma’am" and "sir."

We assume people's identities based off how they look.

A third way people can be misgendered is by using pronouns.

In our binary society, most individuals identify through she, her and hers or he, him and his.

Just between those two, mixing those up is automatically misgendering someone.

When asked how people decide what pronouns to use, most people go by appearance, and this is a huge problem.

Additionally, not everyone even uses binary pronouns.

There is a whole long list of pronouns such as they, them and theirs or ze, zem and zirs for those who may not identify with the binary genders of male and female.

So, what do you do?

If you are misgendered, I advise you to correct the person who did so.

This allows for some great educational moments as well as the freedom to express your gender identity.

However, I am not necessarily suggesting you correct retail store workers when they say, “Hey, ladies” because I’ve learned that in the retail world, gender is all too often assumed.

I'm hopeful that the day will come soon when clothing and products become more gender-inclusive.

For pronouns, though, I suggest correcting people.

If they use the wrong pronouns, simply say, “Actually, my pronouns are [insert your pronouns].”

Another way to stop this from happening would be to start introducing yourself with your pronouns.

This can be hard (and I admit I don’t always practice what I preach), but I think it’s something we should all work on.

If you’re an educator reading this, first of all, you’re rad!

To avoid misgendering your students, have them introduce themselves with their pronouns on the first day of classes.

Also, if possible, get in touch before the first day to make sure the name on the roster is the name they go by.

2. Promoting Inclusivity

Being a student member of or an ally of the LGBTQ+ community can really make you notice when conversations are not inclusive of gender identities, sexual orientations, racial identities or disabilities.

This can be seen in classes like film, human sexuality and health.

Maybe you only watch movies that bring visibility to certain communities, or maybe you don't talk about same-sex sexual experiences and protection.

It's great to recognize these instances, and they definitely can turn into educational moments.

But what can you do?

As a student, if you recognize this inclusivity, try thinking a little bit more about the situation.

Is there a way the curriculum can be changed so the subject matter be taught more inclusively?

Do you have any ideas?

Are you passionate or interested in the course?

How well do you know the teacher or professor?

If you have ideas and are comfortable and confident discussing your ideas, you should definitely go for it.

Try to meet with the professor or teacher after class or in during office hours and see what he or she says.

At the very least, your professor may change the course for next year or semester.

If you’re an educator reading this, try to implement different identities into your coursework.

Can you assign an LGBTQ+-related novel for your literature class?

Can you watch "And the Band Played On" or "Before Stonewall" in your history and/or film course?

Can you have students write a paper about their identities in an English class?

Can you focus on healthy sexuality for the LGBTQ community in a health class?

Inclusive education really goes a long way, and it can set a great standard for other classes.

3. Discrimination

Identifying within the LGBTQ+ community can often make one seem different.

Let’s remember that queer can also be defined as “out of the ordinary.”

Since we live in a society where most people just want to be normal, this identity can sometimes lead one to be discriminated against.

This can be seen in choosing friends, leaving one behind after he or she comes out or just unfair treatment.

So, again, what can you do?

If you’re blatantly discriminated against, you totally have the right to question it, especially in a classroom setting.

"Why do you always misgender me?"

"Why do you never pick on me in class?"

"How come my LGBTQ+ topics never get approved?"

"How come you don’t stop the other students from bullying me?"

Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where all classrooms are inclusive and where all educators are educated on the LGBTQ+ community.

However, you have the right to be treated fairly, and you should definitely bring it up to school professionals if you do not feel safe in class or feel that your identity is stopping you from being treated equally.

In regards to friends discriminating you, sometimes we have to face the fact not everyone is accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

If your friends can’t respect you for who you are, you are better off without them in your life.

The mistreatment of LGBTQ+ individuals is a serious, but commonplace occurrence.

While this is not acceptable anywhere, it certainly should not happen in educational settings.

Hopefully this gives you some ideas on how to foster acceptance and promote visibility as members or allies of the LGBTQ+ community.

This article was originally published on Gay The Straight Away.