Communities are growing and evolving. Businesses are becoming more diverse in their training and awareness of DEI initiatives and growth opportunities. A vital pipeline for our communities and businesses is being overlooked: the classroom. Pew Research Center notes that members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet. We need to support this group of young people inside of our classrooms now so they feel seen, safe, and heard. When students know they are truly supported, included, and safe in the classroom, they are more engaged, creative, and take more risks.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that only 26 percent of students say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people. This one fact makes it clear there is not enough focus on creating safe and supportive environments for LGBTQ+ students.
Here are some easy to implement active ally tips whether you are an employee working in the school system or a caretaker at home.
- Go neutral! Gone are the days of addressing students as “boys and girls.” Try using kids, class, y’all, students, friends when addressing more than 1 child.
- Display Pride / Safe Space symbols. Grab a rainbow flag, window decal, pin for your lanyard, or sticker for your badge from any number of online sources. The progress pride flag is the most inclusive flag available.
- Know your pronouns. Add your pronouns to your email signature and social media profiles. Displaying your pronouns communicates to a member of the LGBTQ+ community that you are a safe and inclusive ally.
- Lean into educating about LGBTQ+ history. Billie Jean King, Stonewall riots, and Marsha P. Johnson, Pedro Zamora, and Kehinde Wiley are great examples of LGBTQ+ excellence and are the tip of the rainbow iceberg.
- Update the informational forms! Request (or update yourself) that hard and soft copies of informational forms use inclusive language. Use Parent / Guardian / Caretaker instead of Mother / Father. If something comes home with gendered language, mark it up and send it back or email the school. Be the catalyst for change!
- Stay neutral! Daddy-daughter dance? Mother-son Soirée? How about include everyone and call it a Fancy Dance?
- Bring it home. Make your home as inclusive as possible. The toys that you buy, the podcasts that you listen to, and your circle of friends all impact the message of inclusivity that you send.
- Love your people. Being an active ally involves continuous work that can be distracting from one of the most important things that you can do – loving your people. Remember to tell your LGBTQ+ students how much you appreciate them, value them, and (if appropriate) love them.
Being an active ally takes practice and is a continuous journey. Allies often worry about doing or saying the right thing and wonder if their efforts are too small and therefore not impactful. I can tell you this, successful allies listen, amplify voices, and call others to action. Allies mess up, own it and move forward. Allies recognize no effort is too small and create real change and impact. Here’s to being active allies!