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Diversity Toolkit: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Found in: Teaching Strategies

Sexual orientation is an identity based on whether someone is attracted to people of a sex different from their own, the same sex, or both sexes (i.e., heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual). Gender identity is a person's internal sense of being male, female, or somewhere else along the gender spectrum. Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from their biological sex or the sex they were assigned at birth. The acronym GLBT stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

While progress has been made since the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City (1969)widely - considered to be a pivotal moment in the GLBT rights movement - GLBT individuals still face discrimination and intolerance based on pervasive stereotypes and myths about GLBT people.

Main Issues

GLBT-related issues often arise in schools. These include bullying or harassment against students (and sometimes school personnel) who are or are perceived as GLBT; the high rates of truancy, dropout, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide among GLBT youth; controversy surrounding GLBT school events and student clubs; the right of school personnel to “come out” or identify as GLBT in school; and other issues. In many jurisdictions, GLBT school personnel still lack legal or contractual employment benefits, rights and protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


To address GLBT issues effectively, NEA members may consider taking one or more of the following steps in their schools or communities:

  • Educate yourself about facts vs. myths surrounding GLBT people, especially the facts related to health and safety of GLBT students Find ways to support your GLBT students and colleagues
  • Prevent bullying and harassment of GLBT students and colleagues through programs, training, and events   
  • Advocate for staff development on GLBT issues, diversity, safe schools and social justice in your school
  • Establish policies, rights, benefits and protections that support GLBT students and employees
  • Partner with parents, guardians and community organizations to address GLBT issues in schools or in the community
  • Stay in close communication with your administration, your building representative, your Uniserv director, and your local and state affiliate offices

Related Links

For more information, contact the NEA's Safety, Bias, & GLBT Issues Program.


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