As the summer draws to a close and the feeling of fall is in the air, whether you are in the closet, have recently come out, are currently in the process of self-exploration and questioning, or have been out and proud for years, you might be anxious to start the new year.
According to research conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 60% of LGBT students feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation and around 44% because of their gender expression. A majority of LGBT students experience cyberbullying and more than 80% of students hear "gay" used in a derogatory way frequently at school. In the school hallways, in the cafeteria, on the bus, and even in the classroom, LGBT students often feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and targeted just for being who they are.
There are plenty of resources to refer to as LGBT students and allies get ready to walk through the high school doors.
Look at GLSEN's information on how to report bullying and harassment. Don't let the bullies get away with their hurtful actions!
If your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance or a similar club for students of all different identities, JOIN IT! You'll hopefully find a safe, supportive environment and make new friends who share some of your experiences. If your school does not already have a club like this, find out how to start one and check out GLSEN's Jump-Start Guide for tips.
Visit Matthew's Place, where you can read personal stories and advice from teen bloggers who have gone through the same experiences as you. You can also check out the site's Resources section for a comprehensive list dealing with anything from coming out to religion. Also join TrevorSpace, a social networking site designed to connect LGBT young people and allies.
If you or a friend are in danger or in need of immediate assistance, there are ways to get help. GLBT National Help Center offers free and confidential support through their talkline, as well as through a one-on-one online chat. The Trevor Project also has a Lifeline for crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Don't feel embarrassed or nervous to use these resources. They are here to help!
Remember, fall doesn't just mean that your homework is due soon – there are some events to look forward to! National Coming Out Day happens in October, and people around the country celebrate being openly LGBT or allies. GLSEN's Ally Week , October 13-17, is devoted to creating a national dialogue about how everyone can become a better ally! And don't forget GLAAD's Spirit Day will be on October 16 this year. Millions around the world go purple in support of LGBT youth and in a stand against bullying, so make sure you pledge to wear purple and encourage others to do so as well!
Watch this quick, uplifting video created by a bunch of LGBT YouTubers before you head off to school:
Support your children and listen to their needs. ONE Community posted a great article this time last year with excellent advice on how to talk to your LGBT child as the school year begins.
Check out PFLAG, an organization for parents, families, friends, and allies. Their website can connect you to even more resources and advice.
Know that by reading this, you are already taking a step in the right direction. Your child knows that you are supportive, which is one of the best things you can be!
If you are an LGBT parent, read over the Family Equality Council's (FEQ) Back to School Tool. According to FEQ, children with LGBT parents may face heightened levels of bullying, name-calling, and harassment. FEC' guide lists steps you can take to help bring inclusivity to your children's schools.
There are plenty of resources available online for making your classroom a safe space. GLSEN has a whole section of their website devoted to Educator Resources, including LGBT-inclusive curricular materials and lesson plans. You can also order a Safe Space Kit from GLSEN to help show your support for your LGBT students.
Check out Queer Youth Advice for Educators, a report put out by What Kids Can Do. Youth contributors helped to create the report, which includes advice on what teachers can do to meet their LGBT students' needs.
In case you missed it, Education Week hosted a Twitter chat for teachers and school administrators the beginning of this month. Check out highlights from the chat, where educators like you shared strategies and pointed out further online resources they've used.
With so many resources out there to help you, this school year can certainly be the best one yet!