You’ve just read a lot of information about the benefits of creating an LGBTQ-friendly educational experience (see “Benefits”) as well as information about LGBTQ people and their unique life experiences (see “Information”).  Now, the question remains…

How do you create an LGBTQ-friendly educational experience?

This section will provide you with some suggestions about how to do this.  Before providing specific suggestions, there are a few overarching principles that are useful to keep in mind.

1. All people are different.

You will come into contact with students who identify as LGBTQ as well as students who have friends and family members who identify as LGBTQ.  It can be risky to assume that you can tell someone’s sexual orientation or gender just by looking at them.  Instead, it’s safer to assume that all people are different and to treat them as individuals.

 2. LGBTQ people face unique challenges related to their minority statuses.

It would be wonderful if we could reduce these challenges in the classroom and at the university.  It’s important to be mindful of the fact that LGBTQ people are discriminated against and that this discrimination can be difficult to recognize at times. Students can bring this prior knowledge into the classroom, which has the potential to hinder their ability to learn novel material. The more energy that LGBTQ students spend monitoring their environment for potential discrimination as well as monitoring their own behavior to protect themselves from being the target of discrimination, the less cognitive resources they will have to devote to learning. Further, some LGBTQ people have low self-efficacy, because they receive such negative messages from society, which can also impact their academic performance. Keeping this in mind can remind you why it’s so important to try to make your educational environment as friendly to LGBTQ students as possible.

 3. Maintain an accepting/affirming attitude towards all people.

Above all else – be accepting and affirming!  The benefits of maintaining accepting/affirming attitudes towards all people cannot be emphasized enough.  These supportive attitudes can be communicated in very explicit ways (e.g., including a non-discrimination policy on your syllabus that includes sexual orientation and gender identity) and in less explicit ways (e.g., using inclusive language).  Ways to convey accepting/affirming attitudes will be discussed in more detail below.

These three principles can be thought of as the foundation for an LGBTQ-friendly educational experience.  If you keep these principles in mind as you continue your work with students, you are already setting the stage for an educational environment that makes all students feel comfortable and welcome.  Below you’ll find more suggestions for specific things that you can do to foster a comfortable learning atmosphere for your students.