Celebrating Pride: LGBTQIA+ Students and Stories Matter

Holly Spinelli, June 2023

June is Pride Month, and this year’s centering and celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, histories, stories, and voices is paramount. It is important to acknowledge that recent book challenges, book bans, curricular censorship, and draconian school policies largely focus on LGBTQIA+ authors, content, and students. It can be difficult for members of school communities to navigate, especially when they work hard to create curricular choices that reflect and include a variety of materials in which students can see themselves. No matter what, our LGBTQIA+ students, colleagues, and community members deserve to be represented, recognized, and celebrated. It is important to acknowledge that while at times it can feel daunting to know where to begin, you are not alone in trying to find ways to navigate and rise above the negativity, and support and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ members of your school community.

The National Council of Teachers of English revised their guidelines for affirming gender diversity through the ELA curriculum. Last spring, NCTE also included an informative blog in which one section specifically offers educators ways to support and affirm all students, especially the LGBTQIA+ students. It’s important to note that the blog also includes actionable steps for folks who are currently teaching in districts with curricular bans and challenges. If you are in a place with open support, this NCTE blog post includes links to resources for creating LGBTQIA+ affirming classrooms and educational spaces.

If you’re looking to update your classroom library, Barnes and Noble recently curated a list of YA literature titles to add for this year’s pride month and beyond. It is no secret that students need to see themselves represented in the literature they read. Penguin Random House also published a list of books that include titles that may serve as great entry points for educators to dive into learning more about the LGBTQIA+ community’s past, present, and future; the first book listed, We Are Everywhere, by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown, is a rich photographic text with pertinent historical information to bring LGBTQIA+ history to life on the page. Educators, read it. You won’t be disappointed. Some of the images in the text could serve as excellent sources for creative, reflective, and analytical writing assignments, too. For those looking for audio resources, the oral history hub has an entire library of stories centering histories and advocacy in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Early in my career, a colleague introduced me to a “resources corner” – a space in the school where students could find pamphlets with information that spanned physical and mental health information, housing resources, legal resources, and local organizations that specifically serve LGBTQIA+ youth. Thankfully, there are numerous organizations and resources that serve LGBTQIA+ youth, their families, and loved ones:

GLSEN is an organization that has been providing resources and support for LGBTQIA+ K-12 students since the 1990s.

The Trevor Project includes advocacy, digital crisis center information, and other educational resources for LGBTQIA+ youth. They recently launched a 24/7 Crisis Services for youth in Mexico, too.

New York State Office Of Mental Health offers state-wide information that specifically focuses on LGBTQIA+ mental health

NYC Unity Project has extensive lists of links and contacts for LGBTQIA+ youth support services

It’s the end of the school year, and there is much to celebrate. The LGBTQIA+ community is no exception. Our students deserve to be seen, heard, and included in all aspects of their educational experiences. Feel free to add other links and resources in the comments. Happy Pride, everyone!

Holly Spinelli is an advocate for equality through anti-racist, anti-bias, and anti-oppressive facilitation within and beyond the classroom. She continues to cultivate community-inspired work as an English teacher at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, New York, and as an adjunct instructor in the English Department at SUNY Orange County Community College. She is an Academy for Teachers fellow and served two terms as an active member of the National Council of Teachers of English Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. She is currently an NCTE Open Educational Resources Fellow (2023). She is excited to be part of the NYSEC executive board.

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