- Homophobia in Schools
- Including GLBT Curriculum in Classroom
- Creating Safe Learning Environment
- Multiple Choice
Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual, and Transgender Students (GLBT) in the Classroom
By Jocelyn Carter
Students should be able to:
a) Identify Homophobia in Class.
b) Identify the Importance of incorporating GLBT curriculum in the classroom.
c) Describe strategies for creating a safe classroom for GLBT Students.
Human diversity is a normal, natural thing. We teach our kids that it is alright to be different, but we don’t tell them how different it is okay to be. Today, the most common place to study differences of the world is in the classroom. If children are to grow up prepared to live in a complex, multicultural society, more issues of diversity need to be discussed in the classroom (Banks 1993). The issue of sexual orientation has become of great importance to today’s children. Researchers and Social scientist suggest that 1 to 3 of every 10 students is either gay or lesbian, or has an immediate family member who is (Wood p.16). This article will focus on homosexuality and homophobia, GLBT students in the classroom, social bias, and what can be done to provide a safe classroom for GLBT students.
Why is “Homophobia” present in the Schools?
Most people would agree that the topic of homophobia carries very negative undertones; I guess that is unless you are homophobic. Homophobia is the fear, dislike, and hatred of same-sex relationships or those who love and are sexually attracted to those of the same sex. It occurs in schools on personal, institutional, and societal levels (Woods p 14). Homophobia is often based on ignorance, because an individual is so closed-minded that they are not willing to educate themselves on something they know nothing about. When Eric Marcus, a homosexual man and author, addressed the question, “What do students learn about homosexuality in elementary school and high school?” his answer was simply stated. “Students learn plenty about homosexuality in school, almost all of it informally, and nearly all of it bad. The first lesson occurs when one child calls another a fag in elementary school cafeteria, and the lesson continue right on through high school, when a group of students decides to torment a theater teacher they think is gay” (Marcus, 1999 p 173)
We are taught when young that being “gay” is bad. You may not even know what the word gay means, but your parents and everyone else around you have already put in your head that it is wrong and not accepted. Everyone is afraid of what they don’t know. When you are introduced to something new, it is a natural reaction to be skeptical about it. You hesitate to try it, or you state from the beginning; I know that I am not going to like it. How do we teach students about GLBT related topics? How do we protect our GLBT students in the school?
Why is it important to include GLBT related issues into the curriculum?
“Many of us, particularly in the dark days before the Stonewall riots, remember going into libraries to check for references that would give some validity to the vague stirrings inside us we knew marked us out as different” – Curry
Imagine this, Lindsey is sitting in her 4th grade class on the first day of school, and everyone is sharing stories about their families. When it’s Lindsey’s turn she tells the class that she has two moms because they are lesbians. The class is confused and Megan asks “What is a Lesbian?” What do you do as a teacher? DO you answer the question or ignore it and change the subject? How do you answer this without overstepping your ethical boundaries? When discussing the inclusion of GLBT it is important to understand the diversity in a classroom. There may be students in your class that are already struggling with understanding their own sexual orientation. One report indicated that lesbian, gay, and bisexual students first come to realization of their sexual orientation at age 10( D’Augelli & Hershbeger, 1993) When you put that age into perspective, that child is in the 3rd or 4th grade. People fear the unknown. They fear what they are unfamiliar with. On the issue of homophobia, Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network states, “ If you really want a long-term solution to homophobia, you’d better start when kids are young, and start teaching very early” (Quinlan, 1999).
There are different reasons why incorporating GLBT issues in the classroom may come result in negative results rather than positive. It may not be the best to bring these issues up with children that are 8 or 9, even though some may already be experiencing a feeling of attraction towards the same sex, and not understand why they feel that way. Teachers could feel great discomfort in speaking about this subject in the classroom. Many parents feel that incorporating GLBT curriculum into the classroom, may cause their child to choose a gay lifestyle. When a teacher raises gay and lesbian issues in the classroom, some students respond with intellectual curiosity, but often the consequences are less positive. Some students: become embarrassed and uncomfortable, become hostile, or even question the teacher’s sexuality. A lot of times students tend to make homophobic accusations against other students in the class or against other students and staff within the school (Lipkin 1999). Negative results could come about when GLBT issues are raised in the classroom.
Creating a Safe learning environment for GLBT Students
Everyone is entitled to a safe learning environment, no matter what your sexual orientation is. I think it is important to let the GLBT students know that we care, and that they are not alone. It is the duty of a teacher to keep order and command respect for everyone in their classroom, and I am sure many people sincerely would like to create a safer environment for GLBT students. There are ten suggestions that were compiled by Youth Pride, Inc. that would help with reducing homophobia in your environment:
1. Make no assumption about sexuality.
2. Having something gay-related visible in your office or classroom.
3. Support, normalize and validate student’s feelings about their sexuality.
4. Do not advise youth to come out to parents, family and friends as they need to come out at their own safe place.
5. Guarantee confidentiality with students.
6. Challenge homophobia.
7. Combat heterosexism in your classroom.
8. Learn about and refer to community organizations
9. Encourage school administrators to adopt and enforce anti-discrimination policies for their schools or school systems which include sexual orientation
10. Provide role models.
It is important to incorporate this suggestion into the school. GLBT students need to be protected and I think the best way to start that is by educating their classmates and peers on what it means to be GLBT. “Opening these conversations with young children gives us an opportunity to prevent prejudice, discrimination, and violence and to support the lives of all children just as they are” (Chasnoff and Cohen, 1997, p 10)
An estimated 6 to 11 percent of school children have gay or lesbian parents, and another 5 to 9 percent will at some point realize that they are homosexual (Chasnoff and Cohen, 1997). Even with these statistics, schools are still hesitant to include gay or lesbian curriculum into the school. The fact remains that in the present 21st century, gay and lesbians no longer represent a taboo. Students are choosing to come out while still in school, and they are expecting to be accepted. No matter what a student’s sexual preference is, they deserve to be able to come to school and feel like they are safe. Whether or not it is the teacher’s or school’s responsibility to educate students on GLBT issues, is still to be decided. But in the meantime it is of upmost importance that these students are treated with respect and equality.
1. Which of the following is NOT a way to reduce homophobia in the classroom?
A. Challenge homophobia
B. Point out all the GLBT students in your classroom and tell the students not to make fun of them.
C. Provide role models
D. Support, normalize and validate student’s feelings about their sexuality.
2. What is the definition of Homophobia?
A. Refers to sexual behavior with or attraction to people of the same sex, or to a homosexual orientation.
B. Refers to sexual behavior with or attraction to people of both sexes, or to a bisexual orientation.
C. The fear, dislike, and hatred of same-sex relationships or those who love and are sexually attracted to those of the same sex.
D. To cause harm to those who are not like yourself within sexual preference.
3. Researchers and Social scientist suggest that ___ of every 10 students is either gay or lesbian, or has an immediate family member who is gay?
A. 1 to 3
B. 4 to 6
C. 7 to 10
D. 2 to 4
4. If a teacher hears a student yell out “ That is so Gay” how should they respond to the student’s outburst?
A. Ignore it.
B. Laugh with the students, because it’s not like they called a specific student gay.
C. Take the student to the side and explain to him or her why that is an inappropriate thing to say.
D. Tell the student to go to the principal’s office.
Banks, J. A. (1993). The canon debate, knowledge construction, and multicultural education. Educational Researcher, 22, 4-14.
Bass, E., & Kaufman, K. (1996). Free your mind. New York: HarperPerennial.
Bullough, V. L. (1979). Homosexuality: A history. New York: New American Library.
Chasnoff, D., & Cohen, H. (Producers). (1997). It’s Elementary: Talking about gay issues in school [Film]. (Available from Women’s Educational Media, San Francisco, CA) Children’s right to a loving family. (1999). Retrieved September,3 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www.pflag.org/press/current/tips_tactics/tips_apr99.htm
Clay, J. W. (1990). Working with lesbian and gay parents and their children. Young Children, 45, 31-35.
D’ Augelli, A. R., & Hershberger, S. L. (1993). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in community settings: Personal challenges and mental health problems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21, 56-63.
Lipkin, Arthur (1999). Raising Gay/Lesbian Issues in the Classroom Retrieved October 1, 2008 from the World Wide Web: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/193.html
Answers 1. B 2. C 3. A 4. C