Friday 27th is Day of Silence, a student-led national event where individuals take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ+ voices at school. In this short post I want to share some of the efforts at my school and also some resources that might be of use to you and your students.
My school will again be participating in the day and information has already been shared with the faculty and student body in advance of the day. Posters are on display around the building and t-shirts have been sold during the lunch periods. We are fortunate to have a social work support group where our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students can find a meeting place and group support. We also have an ally group called Committed to Action and they are our students that are promoting awareness of #DayofSilence. Additionally we have group of transgender/gender expansive/questioning gender group that meets regularly.
In advance of #DayOfSilence (that’s the hashtag to follow) teachers in our advisory system have met to discuss the history of the day, the meaning behind it, and shared ways in which to navigate discussions with all students prior to the event. Teachers can show support in a number of ways, including wearing t-shirts, acknowledging students who wish to remain silent, and by continuing to have conversations about why there is a need for a day such as this. Although legally students don’t have the right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks them to speak, our teachers will most likely encourage their silent students to participate in other ways.
Our own YRBS survey shows that when our students report feelings of stress, incidents of bullying and feeling safe in school, it is our LGBTQ students who ‘score’ higher in these categories. The 2015 GLSEN National School Climate Survey states that although incidences of verbal harassment is on the decline there is still much more work to be done.
- Most LGBTQ students have experienced harassment and discrimination at school.
- 85% experienced verbal harassment based on a personal characteristic, and nearly two thirds (66 percent) experienced LGBTQ-related discrimination at school.
- Due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, nearly a third (32 percent) of LGBTQ students missed at least one day of school in the last month, and
- Over a third avoided bathrooms (39 percent) and locker rooms (38 percent).
One area in which I have improved as a teacher is in the way that I have become more mindful of my use of language in the classroom. There was a time when my curriculum, and my teaching was heteronormative. Attending an awesome gender and sexuality presentation from Dan Rice and Nora Gelperin at an ASHA conference many years ago was a real eye-opener for me and gave me the resources and the language that I needed to make my classroom more inclusive.
Teachers at my school have had education on proper pronouns, what is meant by a gender neutral pronoun, and how not to misgender students. “What Are Pronouns” from Minus 18 is a good place to start if you are in need of a good resource on this topic.
This article Gender and Sexuality: Beyond ‘He’ or ‘She’ by Katy Steinmetz might be of interest.
I spoke with one of my past health students today, now a senior and they told me all about a project that they are coordinating which will result in the creation of a crowd-sourced website specifically aimed at providing LGBTQ+ resources for high school students. As soon as this project goes live and the call for submissions is released I will add a live link to this paragraph.
Finally let me share a lesson that a co-worker of mine tried with her students this week. It’s taken from Advocates for Youth who have a great site, particularly their resources for creating a safe space for young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The heterosexual questionnaire lesson gives straight people an opportunity to experience the types of questions that are often asked of gay, lesbian, and/or bisexual people. A series of 12 questions are presented, including questions such as:
- What do you think caused your heterosexuality?
- When and how did you first decide you were heterosexual?
- Is it possible that your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?
- If heterosexuality is normal, why are so many mental patients heterosexual?
- Why do you heterosexual people try to seduce others into your lifestyle?
- Why do you flaunt your heterosexuality? Can’t you just be who you are and keep it quiet?
A series of discussion questions are asked at the end and students debrief.
I’m looking forward to this Fridays event as it will be affirming to see the show of solidarity from my students. Although there are areas in which we can still improve, I am fortunate to work at a school that does a lot of things right in striving to provide a safe and respectful school for all.