The first step in becoming an ally is getting Informed. We’re so glad that you’re here to gather information to help ensure that LGBTQ+ students feel safe and respected in your home, school and community.
Find links to all of the 2021 AISD Pride Week sessions at AustinISD.org/Pride
In the “Don’t Wait to Become an Ally” session, we discussed four primary areas where we all can continue to strive to be better allies:
- Being a visible ally
- Supporting students who come out
- Responding to anti-LGBTQ language/behaviors
- Supporting school clubs such as Gay/Straight Alliances
Urgent ally action is needed this week as dangerous anti-transgender bills are being voted on in the Texas legislature. Your best sources for the most current information are Equality Texas, TENT (Transgender Education Network of Texas) and the Texas Freedom Network. You can link to all of their social networks from their websites.
Additional local LGBTQ+ resources can be found on our resources/partners page.
Below are links to the information shared with each group so you can refer to your group’s materials at a later date or dive deeper into the materials that other groups reviewed. All materials and links we have shared are from GLSEN’s educational materials for educators. GLSEN offers a wide variety of training for educators to help improve school climate and personal outcomes for LGBTQ+ students.
BE A VISIBLE ALLY
One of the most important parts of being an ally to LGBT students is making yourself known as an ally. In order to come to you for help, students need to be able to recognize you as an ally. Even if students don’t come to you directly, just knowing that there is a supportive adult can help LGBT students feel supported
- Wear a visible marker. Wear a supportive button or wristband or even a simple rainbow bracelet. These will let your child/their friends know that you are a supportive ally without saying a word.
- Take visible actions. (added by IP) Share LGBTQ supportive materials on social media, attend Pride events as allies and speak out against harmful legislation. Support LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education.
- Make no assumptions. When engaging with your child’s friends, their parents or school staff, do not assume you know their sexual orientation or gender identity. Don’t assume that everyone is heterosexual or fits into your idea of gender roles – Show your child that you understand there is no one way a person “should” be.
- Use inclusive language. Through casual conversation make sure the language you are using is inclusive of all people. When referring to people in general, try using words like “partner” instead of “boy-friend/girlfriend” or “husband/wife,” and avoid gendered pronouns, using “they” instead of “he/she.” Using inclusive language will help LGBT students feel more comfortable being themselves and coming to you for support.
- Respond to anti-LGBT behavior. Responding to anti-LGBT behavior when it occurs or when you hear about it will let students know that you do not tolerate homophobia or transphobia. It sends a strong message that anti-LGBT behavior is not acceptable to you and not allowed in your home/school. More information about how to do this available in Group 3’s: RESPOND TO ANTI-LGBTQ BEHAVIOR & LANGUAGE below.
SUPPORTING STUDENTS WHO COME OUT
As an ally, LGBTQ students may come to you for support, comfort or guidance. You may encounter a situation where a student comes out or reveals their sexual orientation or gender identity to you. You may be the first or only person an LGBTQ+ student comes out to. It is important that you support the student in a constructive way.
Keep in mind that the student may be completely comfortable with their sexual orientation and may not need help dealing with it or may not be in need of any support. It may be that the student just wanted to tell someone, or just simply to tell you so you might know them better. Below you will find more information on the coming out process and how you can be a supportive ally when students come out to you.
WHAT DOES “COMING OUT” MEAN?
Simply put, coming out is a means to publicly declare one’s identity, whether to a person in private or a group of people. In our society most people are generally presumed to be heterosexual, so there is usually no need for a heterosexual person to make a statement to others that discloses their sexual orientation.
Similarly, most people feel that their current gender is aligned with their sex assigned at birth, therefore never having a need to disclose one’s gender identity. However, a person who is LGBTQ must decide whether or not to reveal to others their sexual orientation or gender identity.
To come out is to take a risk by sharing one’s identity, sometimes to one person in conversation, sometimes to a group or in a public setting. The actual act of coming out can be as simple as saying “I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender,” but it can be a difficult and emotional process for an LGBTQ student to go through, which is why it is so important for a student to have support.
One positive aspect of coming out is not having to hide who you are anymore. However, there can be dangers that come with revealing yourself. A student who comes out may be open to more anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment, yet they may also feel more comfortable and free to be themselves. One of the most important things you as an ally can do for an LGBTQ student is to be there for them in a safe, respectful and helpful way.
Materials for Youth Considering Coming out:
National Coming Out Date is October 11th
RESPOND TO ANTI-LGBTQ BEHAVIOR & LANGUAGE
Anti-LGBT behavior comes in all shapes and sizes: biased language, name-calling, harassment and even physical assault. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey consistently finds that many LGBTQ students regularly hear homophobic slurs, such as “faggot” or “dyke,” at school, and most students have been verbally or physically harassed in school.
One of the most effective things you can do as an ally is respond to anti-LGBT behavior.
1. Address Name-Calling, Bullying or Harassment Immediately.
Concentrate on stopping the behavior in that moment. Sometimes it’s a simple response to hearing a derogatory term like “That language is unacceptable in our home/classroom.” Make sure that everyone can hear you. Never miss the opportunity to interrupt the behavior. Remember: no action is an action — if an incident is overlooked or not addressed it can imply acceptance and approval.
2. Name the Behavior.
Describe what you saw and label the behavior. “I heard you use the word faggot and that is derogatory and is considered name-calling. That language is unacceptable.”
3. Use the Teachable Moment (or Create One)
Make sure to educate after stopping the behavior. Decide if you are going to educate in the moment or later, and if it will be publicly or privately. If you decide to educate later you will need to create the teachable moment.
4. Support the Targeted Student.
Support the student who has been the target of the name-calling, bullying or harassment. Do not make assumptions about what the student is experiencing. Ask the student what they need or want. You will have to decide whether to do this in the moment or later, and if it will be publicly or privately. Suggest that the student visit with a counselor only if the student requests extra support.
WHAT DO I SAY WHEN THEY SAY “THAT’S SO GAY”? RESPONDING TO UNINTENTIONAL ANTI-LGBT LANGUAGE
Almost all LGBTQ students regularly hear the word “gay” used in a negative way at school. Though many downplay the impact of expressions like “that’s so gay” because they have become such a common part of the vernacular and are often not intended to inflict harm, most LGBTQ students say that hearing “gay” or “queer” used in a negative manner causes them to feel bothered or distressed. Especially because these expressions are so pervasive in our schools, it is critical that an ally treat this like all other types of anti-LGBTQ language and address it.
Not all students may understand why this language is offensive, so you may need to educate the students on why this is anti-LGBTQ language. For example, ask them why they would use “gay” to mean that something is bad or boring. Let them know that it is offensive and hurtful to LGBTQ people when they use “gay” to describe something as undesirable. When challenged on using this type of language, a common response from students and adults is that they did not mean “gay” to mean homosexual. They may say that it’s just an expression and they don’t mean any harm by it.
The chart below suggests some strategies for dealing with these types of responses, including the benefits and challenges for each strategies.
For public service announcements, lesson plans, discussion guides and other resources that address anti-LGBT language, visit www.ThinkB4YouSpeak.com/educators.
Example of a group exercise for students to address name calling: GLSEN’s Blow the Whistle On Name Calling
SUPPORT STUDENT CLUBS
For many LGBTQ students, student clubs that address LGBTQ student issues (used to be called Gay-Straight Alliances or GSAs, now more accurately referred to as Gender & Sexuality Alliances) offer critical support. These clubs are student-led, usually at the high school or middle school level, and work to address anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools and promote respect for all students.
The existence of these clubs can make schools feel safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ students. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey has found that compared to LGBTQ students without a GSA, students in schools with a GSA or similar student club:
▼ Reported hearing fewer homophobic remarks;
▼ Experienced less harassment and assault because of their sexual orientation and gender expression;
▼ Were more likely to report incidents of harassment and assault, and
▼ Were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation or gender expression
▼ Were less likely to miss school because of safety concerns
▼ Reported a greater sense of belonging to their school community.
GSAs, like all student clubs, must have a faculty advisor. As an ally, you may need to advocate for the rights of students to establish a GSA in their school and to find a supportive advisor.
Although some opponents of GSAs have attempted to restrict the existence of or access to these clubs, the federal Equal Access Act of 1984 requires public schools to allow GSAs to exist alongside other non-curricular student clubs.
ADDITIONAL MATERIALS & DEFINITIONS