10 Back to School Tips for LGBTQIA+ Students
Students spend the majority of their time in school, which means it’s an important environment (out side of the home) to recognize. Going back to school, in person, can be very stressful during times of COVID-19. Not all students have supportive school systems or homes to return to at the end of the day. This is a short list of tips/tricks for LGBTQIA+ students who may or may not have an accepting household/school.
- Open the Conversation by Asking About Pronouns
A way go gauge where your audience stands on pronouns is to first open up the question. “What do you like to be called and what is your pronoun?” Many people will be receptive to this and respond back with the same question, respectfully. Those who do not respect pronouns, you’ll know by their response. In that case, move on and find those who respect you whether that’s a teacher, mentor, or other peer. You deserve to be respected and you are worthy of that respect.
2. Coming Out in School…
Coming out can be complicated, because sometimes you don’t have a supportive school or home or both. In cases where you have a safe space at home and want to come out at school, express to your guardians your interest to come out at school and express what you need from them to support you. If you do not have a home you feel safe to come out at, but you feel safe at school to come out, then discuss with a trusted adult at school about coming out. You’d be surprised by the positive responses you may receive. If both school and home are not receptive of who you are, find those in your community who do. There may be other parents, friends, students, teachers, and other community members who do stand by you. Coming out is not an easy task and for many it can feel like the end of the world, but have hope. Things do get better. If you know who you are and you’re on the journey of self-discovery, that’s what matters the most. Love yourself, because you are worthy.
3. You Are Valid!
Regardless of whatever happens, your feelings are valid. Focus on the positives and what motivates you. Taking up an instrument, joining an art class, or playing a sport with friends are just some activities you can do to uplift yourself during difficult times. You may find more support from your peers who you interact with in these activities. Find healthy coping mechanisms by finding healthy activities to be apart of.
4. Know Your Trusted Adults
There are many educators out there who support LGBTQIA+ youth. You may also have some family members who are LGBTQIA+ or accepting. These people are great go-to’s when times get rough. (From personal experience as a transgender student in 2008, I didn’t have an accepting home/school. I lived in my car and on people’s couches, worked three jobs, and was team captain of my soccer team for four years. To this day my soccer coach, librarian, and other teachers/peers still support me. They all supported me through each piece of my transition. Sometimes your family is what you make it.)
5. Find Yourself, but Be Patient…
Find yourself through expression in trusted environments. Whether it is in your bedroom alone, among trusted people, or openly at home/school, your expression is apart of self-discovery.This is your journey and no one else’s. Seek balance when you feel imbalanced from not being free to express yourself in all places. Meditate, practice yoga, practice some self-care…because you deserve the love you can give yourself. Reconnect with yourself if you’re feeling lost.
6. Check Your Records
See if your school is willing to put in their charts and communicate to teachers your name/pronoun. Some schools are receptive to this and may be open to accommodating.
7. Mentor and Help Others
There maybe a school GSA or LGBTQIA+ diversity group you can participate in actively. These groups are super helpful for getting through school, because you get peer support, important information, and a platform to express your needs in the school community.
8. Connect with LGBTQIA+ Leaders
There are many organizations nationwide that support LGBTQIA+ people. This may be a local not for profit, LGBTQIA+ owned business, or local politicians/school board members who stand for all children.
9. Binding and Tucking
Always carry extra clothes in case you have to remove your tuck/binding for any sports/music activities. If you can bind at school and not at home, then have a change of clothes to change into before you return home to avoid any negative confrontation.
10. Use Your Resources
Local/National LGBTQIA+ resources may be very helpful. Sometimes local youth centers host support groups for LGBTQIA+ youth and host activities. There’s online support groups now with COVID-19, many resources moved online.
This article was written by Transgender Latino Mental Health Advocate Tony Strat who grew up in rural Vermont in a predominantly white community with very little LGBTQIA+ resources. Since growing up, Tony has educated Supervisory Unions and Schools on Diversity and Inclusion. In 2017, Tony made the process to change gender marker’s on birth certificates in Vermont/New Hampshire an easier process. Working at Mental Health Partners as the Digital Media Specialist, he is able to provide diverse/inclusive social media posts and resources for the community.