Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
September is just around the corner, which means a new academic year is approaching. But schools aren’t always the ideal space for self-expression, and for some folks in the LGBT community, that could bring on some anxiety. There has been a national push for LGBT equality lately, and you — students, teachers, administrators— can help bring social justice to schools.
Whether you’re able to commit hours every day or just a few minutes of your time, there are ways for you to be an advocate for LGBT folks, and make your school a stronger, fully inclusive community and a safe space for all students.
- Start a GSA or other LGBT advocacy student group.
This is probably one of the most direct ways you can create LGBT spaces in your school community. It’s not just about the group of students coming together for support, though. In forming a GSA, you will find teachers and administrators that support your cause, and they can be powerful allies in your push for inclusion.
- Speak at Board meetings about ways to improve the learning environment.
Starting conversations is the best catalyst for change. Bring any concerns you have about LGBT inclusion in your community to Board of Education meetings. These meetings are often televised, so you can begin to spread your message beyond the walls of the school while bringing issues to people with the power to instill change.
- Write to or speak with your school’s administration about policies that enforce the inclusion of all students and protection against discrimination.
Whether it’s an informational conversation or one where your goal is to spark change, this is an important conversation to have as an advocate. If the school already enacted policies to protect students against discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity, it is important to understand the systems in place, just in case you ever need to take action against bullies. If there are not any explicit protections in place, this conversation could be a starting point for necessary change.
- Report any and all discrimination immediately, and demand administrative action.
LGBT youth are among the most bullied kids out there. Whether you identify as part of the LGBT community or an ally, you should never be a bystander. If you’re not comfortable directly intervening in a situation, find an adult who is. This is where those administrative allies mentioned earlier would come in handy. The most crucial part, though, is that you demand action. Reporting is great, but following up is essential.
- Make class discussions intersectional.
No matter the subject, bring up LGBT perspective whenever you see fit. Ask questions from an LGBT perspective, and shed light on LGBT authors or political figures in history. Make LGBT folks’ stories the forefront of discussion, either actively in conversation or in the presentation of the classroom and material.
- Start conversations among teachers about making their classrooms inclusive.
If you continually find yourself bringing up LGBT perspectives in a particular class, talk to your teacher or professor about integrating that angle into the initial discussions. If you’re studying and you come across a related LGBT perspective that you think should be discussed, email them before class with a link to an article or ideas for discussion.
- Write for school publications about LGBT issues and perspectives.
Whether it’s a newspaper, yearbook, literary magazine, or online publication, find an outlet and make your voice heard. If you’re on the introverted side but still looking to make a difference, try writing an anonymous column or article about LGBT issues. Journalism is about starting conversation through education of the masses, which should be a top priority in this type of social change.
The most important thing, above all, is to develop a network of peers and allies that are willing to work toward full LGBT inclusion with you. Change is impossible unless you’re willing to take first steps to build momentum, and that’s a much less daunting task when you have a support network around you.
Keshet can be part of that support network, either online with our Equality Guide, or in person with a training session. Together, we can make a truly inclusive community possible.
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