I always remember the day that we talked about gay marriage in class. It was ninth grade, and I was deeply in the closet and in the throes of self-hate. When my teacher brought it up, I felt every beat of my heart and slumped down in my chair so I didn’t seem “too interested” in the discussion. Yet hearing my teacher and my classmates discuss LGBTQ rights, not as a bad thing, but because it was important to discuss, was incredible.
Hearing some of my classmates express their support let me know that one day, very far away, things would be okay for me, and that I would be accepted (something I desperately wanted at the time). Years later, I think I remember this experience because it’s the first time that I got confirmation that you could see gay people in a positive light (outside of Will and Grace).
June is Pride Month, and I think that creates a special opportunity for teachers to celebrate LGBTQ people and history with their students. For your students who identify as LGBTQ, it gives them the chance to see themselves in the curriculum and to feel recognized, and for those students who do not, it offers them the chance to think about what it means to be an ally for others.
Here are five things you can do to celebrate Pride Month with your students:
- Display books with LGBTQ characters. It’s important that students see themselves and different groups of people represented in the classroom, so they can know and feel as if all types of people have a voice and a place. Pride Month is a great month to display books with LGBTQ characters and can be an easy way for your students to read even more. Try the list of Stonewall Award-winning books to find great texts across different grade levels.
- Discuss Stonewall and other moments in the LGBTQ rights movement. After a year when we’ve seen so many other groups stand up for their rights in protest, discussing Stonewall with your students can be a great way to examine discrimination and the way that gay individuals have stood up to oppression over time. For students, Pride Month can be a great time to learn their own history and add to their understanding of justice and resilience in our country.
- Discuss what it means to have a safe space for all. Though it can be easy to assume that all students understand what you mean when you say “safe space,” discussing it during this month can be especially helpful to push your class to think through who’s included and what can make others feel safe in your classroom. For your LGBTQ students, it’s especially helpful for them to hear you articulate that your classroom is a safe space and to have that conversation (again, in some cases) because it helps them to know they have a place in your classroom where they’ll be included and hear the positive comments of their classmates.
- Use multiple representations of family. Whether it’s in a word problem, a shared writing exercise, or a short story you pull, use these moments to include all forms of families that we have today so that your students can continue to understand that families don’t just look one way.
- Be you! If you identify as LGBTQ or if you’re an ally, share that with your students in whatever way feels best! Don’t be afraid to let your students know that you support the LGBTQ community, share a picture of your own family, or put a rainbow pin on your backpack. Being your true self can mean a lot of different things, but don’t be afraid to celebrate that in whatever way feels comfortable to you this month!
As you celebrate, just remember one thing: spending a few minutes discussing Pride Month and LGBTQ people now will mean so much for how some of your students are one day able to live their lives with pride.