Why ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bills are Antithetical to an Equitable and Inclusive Education

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According to a 2019 GLSEN national survey of LGBTQ+ students, nearly 60% of surveyed students reported they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 43% because of their gender expression. Within the same survey, nearly all (98.8%) LGBTQ+ students reported hearing “gay” used in a negative way at school, 95% heard other homophobic remarks, and 87% heard transphobic remarks.

When I was an educator, it was essential to my practice that all my students felt safe. If I were to hear any negative remarks about a student or become aware one of my students felt unsafe due to their identity, it would be my ethical, and moral, obligation to do something to create a safer and more inclusive learning environment; a core part of my role as an educator was to teach empathy and compassion in my students. This could be as simple as having a classroom discussion about the choices of language and how using words such as “gay” with a negative connotation can be hurtful to their classmates. This could also mean sharing my own identity as a queer man so my LGBTQ+ students knew they had someone they could turn to for support, and to normalize queer identities for all my students and their families. Either of these actions would require I discuss the importance of accepting all sexual orientations and gender identities.

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