Let’s Make Adult Ed Classes LGBTQ Inclusive
Posted by Laura McLoughlin on June 18, 2021 in categoryDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In honor of Pride Month, let’s step back and evaluate the education field’s efforts to be LGBTQ inclusive.

To begin, does your program include resources or discussion about LGBTQ topics and understanding. Why or why not?    

The reality is that most classroom materials and curricula don’t incorporate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning communities. Until recently, the contributions of LGBTQ events and people in U.S. history have not been included in classroom instruction, and even now they’re not widely included. The report Supporting LGBTQ-Inclusive Teaching states:

A 2017 national survey of LGBTQ students from GLSEN paints the picture: When polled, only one in five LGBTQ students reported that they were taught positive representations of LGBTQ people, history, or events in their classes; and more than half (64.8 percent) of students reported that they did not have access to information about LGBTQ-related topics in their school library, through the internet on school computers, or in their textbooks or other assigned readings. At the same time, over a quarter of students (25.9 percent) said their administration was very or somewhat unsupportive of LGBTQ students; and 42.3 percent said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable talking with a teacher. Because the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) does not report on gender and sexuality in schools, self-reported data from the GLSEN survey is the most robust information available.

While the report is focused on K-12, Adult Education and Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities points out that the same is true in the adult education field: “In adult education and English-as-a-second-language programs, values of diversity, multiculturalism, and inclusiveness are often celebrated, yet LGBTQ persons remain invisible.”

If we want to create a welcoming environment for all of our students, we can’t ignore the LGBTQ community in our classrooms. Not to mention it’s also a matter of family literacy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, despite this community being historically undercounted, it found there are over 1 million households in the U.S. with same sex couples living together with 191,000 children in these households. This does not account for the LGBTQ parents not living in a same-sex household.

The standard curriculum assumes a heterosexual family structure, and by doing so, it excludes this entire group of people. We know that the education level of a parent directly impacts the educational abilities of the child, so we need to create classrooms that motivate all students to persist.

So, what can we do when there are so few teacher resources available with LGBTQ content? Here are some ideas:

Just as you make an effort to be inclusive when it comes to diverse races and cultures, make time to do the same in regards to sexual orientation.

  • Do some research and learn about the LGBTQ community and its history.
  • Find professional development opportunities related to LGBTQ inclusion.
  • Be sure your communication with students is accurate and respectful.
  • Go beyond the lesson plan and ask students to write about personal experiences or their families. Have them share their writing.
  • Include supplemental materials in your lessons with important figures in LGBTQ history. Assign readings written by queer authors.

This list is not exhaustive. With a little thoughtful effort, there are a multitude of ways to incorporate LGBTQ perspectives in your programs.

Taking steps like these will not only create a space that is inclusive of everyone, but it will also help all students and instructors understand an important facet of our communities.

Check out the Library of Congress’ primary source set on LGBTQ Activism and Contributions.

ProLiteracy is dedicated to building diversity, equity, and inclusion within the adult education field. Read more about our efforts on our website.



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