Bridging the Gap

Students respond to teachers’ questions on addressing LGBTQ+ inclusivity

Sarah Ward, Reporter

As a magazine staff, we realize that communicating with teachers on issues of gender or sexuality is difficult. We decided to collect a series of questions from teachers and have LGBTQ+ students answer them, in an attempt to “Bridge the Gap.” Just because these conversations can be uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that they’re unimportant.

Carolyn Funk: “What specific things do your teachers do that makes you feel welcome? Unwelcome?”

Junior Caleb Staggs: “Something that made me feel welcome is Mrs. Funk when she opens the class with “Lady’s and Gentlemen and everything in between” or when I open up to one of my teachers and the next day they ask “how’d your date go with your boyfriend” and they are really chill and sweet about it.”

Carolyn Funk: “How can teachers support you if other people in your life are not supportive of your sexuality?”

Senior Violet Craig: “The most pivotal advice I can give to a teacher about supporting your LGBTQ+ students, allow them a space to talk about their emotions and their struggles, not just one on one, but having them find out that they aren’t alone in their struggles of identity. Finding a way to incorporate historical figures that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community can also introduce the idea that you are comfortable talking about these topics, especially in an educational environment. Let your class be a release from the stress and societal pressure they feel from others.”

Jessica Seay: “What is the best way to ask about preferred pronouns without specifically addressing or pointing out the LGBTQ+ community members in my classroom?”

Senior Anoo Mallepalli: “The best way to ask about pronouns is to ask EVERYONE in your class because having preferred pronouns is not exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. Normalizing asking everyone their pronouns will create a safer place for LGBTQ+ students, especially transgender students, to share their preferred pronouns. Teachers can learn their students’ pronouns while calling attendance, through icebreakers, or through those “get to know me” forms for students who want to be called their preferred pronouns without outing themselves to their peers. The main takeaway is to frame asking for preferred pronouns NOT as an “LGBTQ+ thing” but as something that would benefit all students.”

Candace Bagwell: “What do students need most from teachers to feel the safest?”

Junior Autumn Bishop: “I think teachers need to let their queer students know that they have support on whatever’s regarding their self-identity; even in the classroom. I think what some of us want to hear is that we have someone supporting and hearing us— since a lot of us struggle with identity at home.”

Joshua Oglesbee: “How do I as a teacher prevent making a mistake in terms of pronouns if I don’t know? What do I do in that regard?”

Junior Maddy Schmuhl: “I think a good way to get to know your students is to ask from pronouns at the beginning of the year, in the same manner, you would learn their names. On behalf of students and students that deal with their gender differently than some of their peers, It’s important teachers are familiarizing themselves with the idea of pronouns and differences between their students and gender. I’d say an easier way if you’re unsure is to use ‘they/them’ or simply asking the student in private!”

Maria Knox: “What are the little things that can help you feel more comfortable daily?”

Junior Haylee Ringgenberg: “Little things like having LGBTQ+ signs or decor, just making your allyship known, helps us feel safer and more at ease in the classroom. Calling out or correcting homophobic, transphobic, racist, or otherwise ignorant or hateful remarks does a lot too. Possibly finding and sharing some of your favorite LGBTQ+ creators and sharing them throughout the year would be a small thing to help ease anxiety. I would love to see more of is asking pronouns, preferably at the beginning of the year form of some sort, as some may be anxious about making this information known to others. Without little things like this, as an LGBTQ+ individual, we can never know who or what classroom would be safe or accepting of us.