The Facts:

  • At least one in ten students identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community (Erickson, Gladstone, Gottlieb, Ng & Parkins, 2011).
  • Students of all sexualities, genders, and racial or ethnic backgrounds are affected by homophobic acts (Erickson, Gladstone, Gottlieb, Ng & Parkins, 2011). 58% of non-LGBTQ students find homophobic comments upsetting (Taylor & Peter, 2011).
  • Transgender students are at a larger risk for severe harassment and physical harm (Erickson, Gladstone, Gottlieb, Ng & Parkins, 2011).
  • Bullying can lead to a decline in academic performance as well as increased rates of dropouts (Erickson, Gladstone, Gottlieb, Ng & Parkins, 2011).


It is the our responsibility to address issues of inequality wherever we see them. While LGBTQ+ rights can be a challenging topic for some families and institutions, the goal is equality for all students and a safe environment for all so that students can learn. It is the teacher’s responsibility to teach students to treat everyone with respect and dignity and to enable all students to feel free to express themselves without the fear of being bullied.

Teaching an LGBTQ+ -inclusive curriculum acknowledges the reality that many students who come from LGBTQ diverse families, are being taught by LGBTQ-educators, and are, increasingly, identifying as LGBTQ themselves even in elementary school. By promoting respect and acceptance, and teaching students more about the diverse people and families in the world, benefits all students in the classroom. Biases against the LGBTQ+ community hurts all children, both those directly affected and those who learn in an atmosphere of fear and tension, afraid to explore their own lives because of worry about disapproval and rejection.

Starting these conversations in elementary school, and teaching about identities that children might relate to themselves or their families will help them develop empathy for a diverse group of people. It is never too early for schools to set up a foundation of understanding and respect. Students of all ages must be allowed to learn that the words “gay,” “lesbian,” and “transgender” are adjectives that should be used with respect to describing people in their community, not words used in a negative way to hurt, insult, and degrade.

All students deserve to see themselves in their curriculum, including students who identify as LGBTQ and come from LGBTQ-headed families. An inclusive curriculum supports a student’s ability to empathize, connect, and collaborate with a diverse group of peers, and encourages respect for all.

GLEN’s (an American education organization which is working to end bullying, discrimination and harassment, based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression) National School Climate Survey (2017) shows that LGBTQ students with inclusive curriculum have better mental health outcomes and are less likely to miss school which leads them to better academic results and a successful future.

School should be children ‘s primary centre for learning, growing, and building a base for success in the world. However, LGBTQ youth is facing additional problems such as discrimination, harassment, and violence. Although education is at the centre of the LGBTQ bullying problem, it is also a huge part of the bullying solution. LGBTQ-Inclusive lessons and discussions are best introduced in a supportive environment.

GLSEN’s Ally Week (in September), No Name-Calling Week (in January), the Day of Silence (in April) and celebrating Pride month (in June) are great ways to change school culture to be more open and welcoming to LGBTQ+ people. Helping to ensure that educators could create a safer learning environment by challenging anti-LGBTQ+ remarks or comments. It is important to make sure that teachers show examples and react to Anti-LGBTQ language and behaviour.

Teachers can respond to LGBTQ+ bullying, name-calling, or harassment teachers using these 5 steps:

  1. Address name-calling, bullying or harassment immediately. Concentrate on stopping the behaviour at that moment. Remember: no action is an action.
  2. Name the behaviour. Describe what they saw and label the behaviour. “That word is derogatory and is considered name-calling. That language is unacceptable.”
  3. Use the teachable moment (or create one). Educate the children after stopping the unacceptable behaviour.
  4. Support the targeted students. It is important to support the student who has been the target of the name-calling, bullying or harassment, avoiding assumptions about what the student is experiencing.
  5. Hold students accountable. Make sure appropriate disciplinary actions are evenly applied across all types of name-calling, bullying and harassment.

Creating an Inclusive Classroom Environment

Teachers can become allies and we can use our positions to educate our students and school communities about anti-LGBTQ+ biases, and ways to create safer, friendlier school environments. To do that, it is crucial to teach students to:

  • respect each other
  • include positive representations of LGBTQ+ people, history and events into the school curriculum
  • engage other staff members in working to prevent and tackle LGBTQ+ bias and to help develop and support approaches to create safer school places.
But How?

A good beginning is to start using appropriate pronouns inside and outside of school, instead of assuming which pronoun person uses it is recommended to ask pupils to share their preferences and begin using the right vocabulary.

While there are many pronouns a person may choose to go by the most common pronouns are:

  • She/her
  • He/him
  • They/them

The lesson below meets the following Common Core State Standards (USA) and runs for about 30 minutes:

  • English Language Arts: Reading-Literature, Speaking and Listening, Writing: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking


Tips teaching LGBTQ+ vocabulary

Define words based on age appropriateness

Based on students’ age group, pick and choose which words are most appropriate to start with. The most common words have examples of definitions that are appropriate for different grade levels. Gay, bisexual, lesbian, and transgender are examples of words that are to be used throughout the grade levels. (LGBTQ Student Services. (n.d.)

Formal lesson plans are not always necessary

A formal lesson is not a necessity when introducing LGBTQ vocabulary meanings. It is important to use these words naturally, so these words become a part of students’ everyday vocabulary. (LGBTQ Student Services. (n.d.)

Avoid introducing all the vocabulary at once

It is essential to Incorporate LGBTQ topics in the classroom, even though it may be not possible to teach it in every subject or absolutely every grade level. It is suggested to spread it through the year, avoid overwhelming children with a long list of new words without creating meaningful situations and do not leave unanswered questions. (LGBTQ Student Services. (n.d.)

Address assumptions

If a child makes a comment assuming that all people in a specific group are alike, act or believe in the same way, educators should question them by asking the class to find an exception to the statement. It is important to use correct vocabulary words while guiding the discussion. (LGBTQ Student Services. (n.d.)

Ask questions

If students are using their own unique vocabulary educators need to ask them what they mean, students will feel accepted and understood better if teachers will invest their time into getting to know their thoughts and feelings.(LGBTQ Student Services.(n.d.)

Use situations to teach

Educators should use all the possible moments in the classroom to teach children. They could model the proper use of LGBTQ vocabulary when having discussions with a class or answering specific questions, hearing personal experiences, or when reading stories which challenge traditional gender roles.(LGBTQ Student Services.(n.d.)

Repeat the words used by children

It is important to ask every student words of the way they define themselves. If needed educators should clarify the meaning with the student. (LGBTQ Student Services.(n.d.)

Proper vocabulary should be used constantly

After introducing the vocabulary teachers should use these words throughout the year. Discussions might help if students have more questions or concerns.(LGBTQ Student Services.(n.d.)

Sample activities to introduce new vocabulary:

Words in action

Teachers should give each student, or group of students, a word to investigate over the course of the week. Ask them to record when it was heard/used and in what context (newspapers, television shows, literature, school hallways, other classroom discussions, etc.) At the end of the week, teachers should ask the students to report their findings. Were there any surprises? Where could a word have been used or included, but was not? Did their understanding of the word change over the week, if so, how? (Classroom Resources: Activities, Lessons and Vocabulary [Brochure]. (n.d.))


Student Definitions

Allow the students to come up with their own meaning of a word before offering a definition of their own. How do the two definitions compare?(Classroom Resources: Activities, Lessons and Vocabulary [Brochure]. (n.d.))


History, Current Events & Pop Culture

Brainstorm people in history, current events, politics, and pop culture who are part of the LGBTQ community. Within this brainstorm list, include LGBTQ persons who belong to different races, ethnicities, nationalities, ability levels, religions, cultures and other identities.(Classroom Resources: Activities, Lessons and Vocabulary [Brochure]. (n.d.))

Integrating LGBTQ+ and gender-inclusive material across the curriculum:

One way educators can create a safe inclusive school and classroom environment for LGBTQ+ is creating lesson plans which include positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community, avoid bias and question people to achieve an equitable learning environment.


It is important for students to see themselves reflected in the school curriculum. Using literature is one of the simplest ways to incorporate inclusive material into the classroom.

Books including family diversity, picture books that go beyond traditional gender roles and books that highlight ways to handle bullying and name-calling are good ones to use. Many of the books work well with individual curriculum units. Teachers may use these books as part of the reading programme. Some can be used for read-aloud sessions and others available for students’ individual reading. These books can lead to rich class discussions about families, about respecting differences and about understanding differences. Even picture books, although at an early reading level, can be used with older students as a focal point for discussion.

Some of the books mentioned (GLSENS, n.d), like Worm loves Worm by J.J Austrian, or 10,000 dresses by Marcus Ewert  make excellent sources for writing topics to use in your Writer’s Workshops. Encourage students to write about their own families, and then expand the topic to include writing about families different from their own. Students could discuss or write about their aspirations for the future after reading an inspiring biography. Depending on the age group, they could write poems, personal short essays, or fiction stories. When a teacher provides names for biography projects, they need to include some accomplished women or men who succeeded in some non-traditional fields, such as Mae Jemison, the astronaut or Bill T. Jones, the dancer.

Use everyday problems all the students face for writing prompts, such as:

  • I can be an ally to my classmates when I…
  • I can help create a caring classroom by…
  • I was a bystander (saw someone bullied) once and I…
  • I was bullied and I felt…

Between the classroom’s social studies books, it is important to include ones about famous lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, such as Alice Walker or Harvey Milk. Also include men and women who have excelled in non-traditional realms, such as the dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Alvin Ailey; Rachel Carson, the scientist; or Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot. Classroom teachers can also help students explore more than just the lives of a few famous LGBTQ people. When talking about discrimination or stereotypes, including LGBTQ people. When talking about the civil rights movement, including Bayard Rustin, a key strategist for Martin Luther King Jr. Including significant moments in LGBTQ civil rights, such as the Stonewall riots in 1969 in New York City or the election of Harvey Milk as the first openly gay politician. While posting articles about current events, add articles with LGBTQ content or that highlight LGBTQ people in the news or history. (More ideas can be found: http://www.lgbthistorymonth.com/).


Use diversity of the word problems reflecting all kinds of families and not just families with a “Mom and Dad.” That can help children get more familiar and not see it as abnormal.  Examples can be as simple as: “Jack and his moms went apple picking. Jack picked 27 apples and his moms picked 42 apples. How many apples did they have all together?” Or: “Ema went to the grocery store with her dads. Their bill was 54.67euros. Ema’s parents gave the cashier 60.00 euros. How much change did her dads get back?”(Human Rights Campaign, 2020).


It is important to encourage the teachers of these special subjects to participate in discussions with colleagues about providing safe, inclusive learning environments for all children. Make resources available to these teachers. Special subject teachers see all the students in a school and can be important in providing continuity to this work.


These lessons can help to encourage all children’s artistic or musical abilities. Teachers should be prepared for teachable moments, such as when one student says to another, “Oh, pink is a girl’s colour, why are you using that?” or “Choir is for girls.” Reading books that challenge traditional gender roles in the arts, such as The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola or Dance by Bill T. Jones to the students can be a great way to teach inclusion. Point out the contributions LGBTQ artists and musicians have made. Highlight famous LGBTQ dancers or musicians such as Leonard Bernstein or Katherine Lee Bates, author of “America the Beautiful.” Include artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, pop artist Andy Warhol or photographer Annie Leibovitz. (Human Rights Campaign, 2020).


This should provide opportunities for both boys and girls to participate in all activities. Educators should not let comments such as “You throw like a girl” or “A boy is a sissy if he likes to dance” slide. Teachers should be prepared with responses for these comments, Initiate discussions to break down gender stereotypes or discuss gender limitations. Provide an inclusive classroom environment by talking about physical differences and abilities. Making sure to offer all children chances to do activities such as moving equipment and helping to clean up after activities.(Human Rights Campaign, 2020).


Books provide an important mirror for children to see themselves reflected in the world around them. At the same time, they provide a window into the lives of others and expand students’ personal experiences. If possible, libraries should include books with different kinds of families and with cultural, racial, economic and ethnic diversity. Also, books that show a wide range of activities, emotions and achievements for boys and girls. By displaying books in the library that feature different kinds of families, a welcoming inclusive environment can be created. (Human Rights Campaign, 2020).


These sessions are a wonderful time to include children’s experiences with LGBTQ issues. When you teach about name-calling, ask if they have heard the word “gay” used as an insult. Talk about what it really means, and then teach them how to use their words to stop such name-calling. Teach them how to be allies for everyone. When you talk about stereotypes include stereotypes about LGBTQ people and gender stereotypes.(Human Rights Campaign, 2020), (GLSEN.READY, SET, RESPECT! GLSEN’s Elementary School Toolkit, n.d).

“LGBT young people are coming out earlier than before and primary/elementary schools are increasingly reporting that they actively support the trans students in their care” (Rivers, I., & Duncan, N. (Eds.). (2013). Bullying: Experiences and discourses of sexuality and gender: Experiences and discourses of sexuality and gender. New York: Routledge).

The world is evolving. More and more countries and people recognise LGBTQ+ challenges, celebrate differences and support each other. Recently (as from 2020) The UK decided to continue with mandatory LGBTQ+ inclusive education in primary schools. Hopefully, in the future, more teachers will be able to provide support for LGBTQ+ students who are facing difficulties because of who they are, help them feel accepted and succeed in life.

LGBTQ+ organisations

There are several organisations that support and inform the LGBTQ+ community, as well as provide information to potential allies about the community. As a teacher, it can be very beneficial to be aware of these organisations so they can refer them to their students or their student’s parents.

An example of an organisation that provides resources, research and advocacy in support of queer youth is GLSEN. According to their website, ‘’GLSEN works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment. Together we can transform our nation’s schools into the safe and affirming environment all youth deserve.’’ A group of teachers in 1990 founded this organisation, so therefore they have a lot of relevant information and resources for teachers. They even have some inclusive lesson plans that teachers can use in their classroom.

Instead of joining an already existing organisation, students can also form their own club or organisation within their school.  There are several rights which are guaranteed to kids who attend public schools. One of these rights is that ‘’Students have a right to form GSAs. If your school permits other student clubs, then it should allow students to form and publicize a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). As long as that GSA complies with rules your school sets up for all student clubs, it must be treated accordingly.’’ (‘’TT’s NEW LGBTQ Best Practices Guide’’, 2018)

Another thing that organisations do is organise awareness days and celebration days. Examples are ‘International Pronouns Day’, ‘LGBT Pride Month’, and ‘National Coming Out Day’. Teachers can use these days to bring up the topics and give the students information or do small activities about the topic.

‘’LGBTQ adolescents experience higher rates of mental health disorders than their heterosexual peers.’’ (McDonald (2018). It also depends on the level of social support. Higher levels of social support were associated with a higher self-esteem. On the other hand, low self-esteem, shame, risky sexual behaviours, alcohol or drug misuse, anxiety, and higher levels of depression were found in association to lower levels of social support or lack of support. (McDonald, 2018).

Mental health issues can also lead to suicide. An organisation that helps prevent this is ‘The Trevor Project’. They are an American non-profit organisation focused on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. They provide support and crisis counselling, educate youth, and advocate for laws and policies. They have confidential text, chat, and call services as well as an online social networking space where LGBTQ+ youth can find support and allies. It can be very beneficial for students who might struggle with self-esteem or their sense of belonging in the LGBTQ+ community to have a space where they can find support. Especially if a teacher feels like they might have or develop mental health issues related to this.

There are more things that The Trevor Project website has to offer, like online learning modules and in-person training for teachers. ‘’The Lifeguard Workshop is a free online learning module with a video, curriculum, and teacher resources for middle school and high school classrooms. The Trevor Project’s pieces of training for Professionals include in-person Ally and CARE training designed for adults who work with youth. These pieces of training help counsellors, educators, administrators, school nurses, and social workers discuss LGBTQ-competent suicide prevention.’’

The Trevor Project releases a report of their annual national survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health with insights into the unique challenges that LGBTQ youth face every day. Click here to see the key findings of the report from LGBTQ youth in the survey:

These statistics show why it is so important to provide support to students in regards to LGBTQ+. One way to do this is to make them aware of certain organisations or to be aware as a teacher of these organisations and what they can gain from it. Another way to provide support is to build a network of support as teachers. They can create awareness and support in their classrooms, amongst teachers, or with their student’s parents.


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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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