Support the LGBTQ Community
Somewhere there is a young LGBTQ individual who was on the brink of coming out who may see the news and think, “it isn’t safe to be me,” and this will create a feeling of isolation with long-term effects. In addition, young people who have affirmed their LGBTQ identity will find that the events have impact on their self-esteem and belonging.
Below are some considerations for supporting the LGBTQ community.
Utilize Gender and Sexuality Alliances
Many middle and high schools have clubs known as gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs). These clubs are invaluable places of community, and if club conversations steer towards Orlando, this may be a safe place for the students to process. Encourage the young people to support one another and build a collective response. One resource is the Morningside Center which has assembled a guide to have a listening circle. Already several GSAs have responded by hosting a community speech wall or by having a guidance counselor or social worker attend this week’s meeting to host a conversation. Some GSAs have moved towards action by sending snacks and water to blood donation centers in Florida to support the influx on donations or are raising funds to support funeral expenses.
Educate the Community
Our partners at GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, have assembled a number of age-appropriate lessons on LGBTQ topics. LGBT-affirming practices should be a part of your everyday work, and you can find resources in the Ready, Set, Respect! (Grades K-5) and Safe Space Kit (Grades 6-12) toolkits, which can be downloaded at glsen.org.
Utilize School Counselors and Social Workers
Refer students experiencing particular distress to the school counselor or social worker. Some students may be open about being LGBT while others may not. This tragedy can have students, those who are out and those LGBT student who are not, feeling unsafe and isolated. We want students to have full access to counseling support in our schools.
Promote Community Resources
Young people in schools without GSAs or in addition to their GSA, may be looking for community. The Hetrick Martin Institute is a great youth center for LGBTQ young people. They host a drop-in from 3:15 to 6:30 p.m. every day, and offer art therapy, academic tutoring, social programs, and a community dinner every evening. Students can find more information on joining here.