Teachers are some of – if not the most – influential people in students’ lives.
However, teachers do not only teach core classes and electives. They also teach social skills such as respect, kindness, patience, and most importantly, acceptance. Learning about acceptance is especially important in classes with children who question their sexuality, romantic attractions, gender, or other aspects of their lifestyle and beliefs. When teachers show that they accept their students no matter what, it shows their students that it is okay to be themselves.
Some children lack exposure to the LGBTQ+ community until they are teens or adults – or at least in real life. So they may feel out of place if they question any aspects of their identity. One of the worst times to feel like you don’t belong is in childhood and puberty, where most other kids may be discovering themselves. School is rarely easy for anyone; usually consisting of bullying, relationships, and other things that can make life difficult during the awkward phases between middle and high school. Without adequate representation and support to children and teens, they may begin to feel rejected and depressed. This lack of portrayal is saddening to both the students and other members of the community.
Many students live in areas where it can be hard to express their identity due to harsh bullying from their peers. Nearly half of the countries across the world have laws preventing LGBTQ+ people from being themselves. Unfortunately, until lawmakers in those countries tear down those unjust laws, people of the community who live in those areas will have to move or stay hidden. In the other half of countries without these bans, there is no excuse for the unequal representation among teachers.
Unfortunately, there are more than just laws preventing total equal representation. In areas where these laws are not in effect, there is prejudice making a large block in the road. In more conservative or antiLGBTQ+ friendly communities, there is more evidence of bias preventing LGBTQ+ teachers from getting a job there. If they don’t hire people from the community, younger members who live in those areas may become unhappy as they are forced into conformity and hiding their own identity. Thus, the cycle continues, and places such as those stay rooted in their old ways and students don’t receive the representation they deserve. Though not every small town or area is like that, it is still a common practice in those areas, which is saddening for many members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, stereotypes and prejudice cost people their jobs just because they want to be themselves. It is also sadly ironic that most schools preach “be yourselves and find who you are” yet they won’t hire teachers who are following those guides.
Bias is a massive cause of underrepresentation in teachers as well. Prejudice is still present in our society in some areas and parents of students can be the immature ones that cause problems for LGBTQ+ teachers. Parents teach their kids hurtful views and then the children pass it onto their own. Parents can also tend to complain when they don’t get their way. Some LGBTQ+ teachers have even gotten fired over accusations by students’ parents. All because they didn’t want to allow their child to know about the LGBTQ+ community. Some people even believe that LGBTQ+ teachers will “corrupt” their children and make them also LGBTQ+, which isn’t correct in the slightest bit.
Luckily, most places and parents are not biased and, LGBTQ+ teachers and staff are becoming more common as the LGBTQ+ community is more widely accepted. Some younger people may not know what they want to be or who they are yet, and teachers are always needed. They are some of the most important people in many students’ lives and can even change their outlook on life. The schools – and the world – could use more accepting teachers and people in general. Hopefully, as laws change and more people feel safe to come out and be themselves, there will be more representation and safety for the LGBTQ+ youths of tomorrow.
As times change, prejudice dies out, and laws are changed. Slowly but surely, change for the better is happening. Every year, new jurisdictions are passed that help the LGBTQ+ community in many countries, and complete equality is on the way. Every little bit of help counts even if people think that it isn’t much, it is. Anyone can be part of the change and help. One of the best ways to help is by showing other members of the community that it’s okay to be themselves. Who better to be role models than teachers? Teaching may not be for everybody, and that’s okay. But for those who teach, hopefully, they can encourage their students and help them accept themselves as some of our teachers have done for us.