benefits of queer education
When schools offer LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum on campus, everyone benefits.
Queer education can refer to a range of topics that are inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities. These topics include the history of LGBTQ+ community and sexual health information that is both medically accurate and inclusive of queer people. Currently, there are 5 U.S. states that specifically require students to receive LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum. While many states do not have laws for or against queer education practices, without the necessary legislation in place, educators typically lack the resources and/or funds to integrate this new content into their classrooms.
Of note, there are seven states that either prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics or specifically encourage educators to speak about these topics in a negative way. For example, in Alabama, legislation specifically states, “Classes must emphasize, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” Alabama State Code § 16-40A-2(c)(8).
Promoting negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people can have a harmful effect on the mental and emotional health of self-identified queer youth. Additionally, this can foster a hostile environment that is homophobic, biphobic, and/or transphobic. When students experience a hostile learning environment, everyone suffers. Negative attitudes towards queer people can encourage bullying or harassment on campus. Student-borne harassment is damaging to LGBTQ+ youth; however, there are a number of negative consequences experienced by heterosexual and cisgender students as well. A school climate that is hostile towards LGBTQ+ identities can encourage students to "perform"gender. For example, male students may engage in behaviors typically associated with toxic masculinity in an effort to demonstrate their manhood. These behaviors can include violence towards others and even sexual aggression.
According to a 2016 report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Positive environments can help all youth achieve good grades and maintain good mental and physical health." Providing students with queer education can help mitigate the instances of student-borne harassment to create an inclusive school climate. This information can equip students, faculty, and staff with the tools to curate an affirmative campus environment. By developing cultural competencies and speaking positively about queer people, schools create the opportunity for all students to achieve academically. Additionally, LGBTQ+ inclusive education practices validate the experiences of queer students, a population of youth that is disproportionately at risk for depression and suicide ideation.