LGBT Educators

How do you address students saying “that’s gay” in class?

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GLSEN has a a whole campaign called ThinkB4YouSpeak with an educator’s guide with support and steps you can take to address this issue in the classroom. https://www.glsen.org/article/thinkb4youspeak-guide-educators-grades-6-12 The Human Rights Campaign also has a short two-pages on how to address this. https://hrc.org/welcoming-schools/documents/Welcoming-Schools-What_Do_You_Say_to_Thats_So_Gay.pdf

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My public answer is like those above, however in practice I get a bit more involved. As a gay man English teacher I have the opportunity to talk about word choice and connotations, sometimes my response will go something like this, "Alex, when you say 'that's gay' what do you mean? Because part of me feels that you mean lesser or something equally troubling and then I worry about how you may have the same feelings about me as a teacher." It's a classroom rapport thing ultimately, but I always try to tie harmful language to the people it actually hurts.

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I definitely have a similar conversation. I also typically try to tie it into what about all of the students here who have LGBTQ family members- how does it make them feel when we use certain language? I feel like this has worked for me because almost everyone has at least one queer aunt/uncle/cousin/sibling. I've found this leads to kids being able to open up to say like "I think my brothers gay". Then we can talk about how to support their family member.

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Treat it like any other derogatory phrase students use in class.

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For sure!

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I usually respond with something like, that is not an insult. It actually seems to work after a while.

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Yes, as an LGBT teacher I respond with there is nothing wrong with being gay. And I make a big deal about it. I had a few students thank me after a student made a scene trying to say someone was “being gay”. Or “that’s gay”

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I'll second the first comment. I just treat it as any other insult a student might make and give them the appropriate punishment. I do make it clear it to my entire class that such remarks are not to be said at all, period.

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if I'm feeling spicy and I get along with the class, I'll say, "Hey! That's MISTER Gay to you!'

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