Sexual & Gender Diversity

LGBTQ*, LGBTQ +, GLBT, LGBTTQ and LGBTQ2 are acronyms that refer to the spectrum of sexual and gender identities, including lesbiangaybisexual, transgender, two‑spirit, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual. The asterisk (*) or plus sign (+) shows there are other identities included that aren’t in the acronym. These acronyms mean the same as ‘sexual and gender minorities’.

When we talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, it’s important to understand the terms below:

  • sex: categories (biological characteristics that make a person female or male)
  • sexual orientation: a person’s emotional and sexual attraction to others. It can be fluid and may or may not reflect sexual behaviours
  • gender identity: a person’s internal sense of identity as female, male, both or neither, regardless of their biological sex
  • gender expression: how a person presents their gender. This can include their appearance, name, and pronoun (e.g., he, she, they, zie, zim)

Sexuality is an important and central part of every human being. Heterosexual and cisgender identities are often considered ‘normal’ and the only identities valued in our society. Many people use words that assume everyone is heterosexual and cisgender (heteronormative language). An example of this would be using ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ instead of ‘partner’ without realizing it excludes sexual and gender minorities. You can’t assume someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity by looking at them.

Many sexual and gender minority youth face challenges throughout their lives.

Fear about how family and friends may react as well as fear of bullying, harassment, discrimination and prejudice may stop young people from publicly identifying as a sexual or gender minority.  Supportive families, schools and communities have a vital role helping LGBTQ+ children do well in school and in life. Alberta Education released guidelines for school boards to create policies and practices to support LGBTQ+ students, staff and families.

What Teachers Can Do

Teachers play an important role in helping students develop and show respect for sexual and gender diversity. Here are some things you can do to support your LGBTQ+ students, families and colleagues:

  • Reflect on your practices and beliefs.Look at your own actions and behaviour. It may help to think about your personal values, beliefs and biases before talking about sexual and gender diversity with your students (see the Your Values page).
  • Educate yourself and others. It’s important to educate yourself about sexual and gender diversity. There are some great online resources (see below). Think about what you can do to challenge the norm that only heterosexual and cisgender identities are normal.
  • Be a role model and set a positive example for those around you. Don’t use anti-LGBTQ+ language and slurs. Don’t laugh at jokes that make fun of person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Use gender inclusive language and don’t make assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Create a positive environment. Use inclusive graphics, posters and images such as safe space materials. Make sure that documents, forms and processes are respectful and inclusive of diversity. If possible, provide gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Be supportive. Be respectful, open and non-judgemental. Listen to people who ‘come out’ to or confide in you. Keep your conversations confidential—you never want to ‘out’ a person. If you make a mistake, say sorry.
  • Support GSAs/QSAs, and inclusion initiatives and events.
  • Identify and address inappropriate behaviour such as teasing, bullying and harassment.
  • Get support. Find resources and supports that may help students, colleagues and staff
  • Think about integrating LGBTQ+ literature into your school library or repertoire of required readings.
  • Be an ally. An ally is a person who advocates for the human, civil and sexual rights of sexual and gender minorities. The above steps are all things you can do to be an ally for your LGBTQ+ students and colleagues. Remember, even the smallest actions can bring about changes.

The Every Body Tool is a great resource for the classroom.

For more information about sexual and gender diversity, see Additional Resources.

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