Points to consider when working with LGBTIQ students

Don't be surprised when someone "comes out" to you. Be prepared for this to happen.

  • Respect your student's privacy. It is imperative that you can be trusted.
  • Be informed. It is important that you are aware of the needs of LGBTIQ students. Know the available resources on and off campus. Know when and where to seek help. Seek consultation when necessary.
  • Examine your own biases. If you are uncomfortable dealing with LGBTIQ issues and believe you cannot be open and accepting, refer the student to someone else.
  • Maintain a balanced perspective. Though important, sexual orientation is only one component of a person's identity. Most people have many important components in their identity, such as gender, race, spirituality, and so on.
  • Understand that each person's sexual orientation is unique to them. While there are some similarities among LGBTIQ people, be aware that there are also many differences between individuals in these communities.
  • Deal with feelings first. You can be helpful by simply listening to LGBTIQ individuals.
  • Allow LGBTIQ students to develop at the pace at which they feel most comfortable.
  • Use gender-free and inclusive language.

Source: Counselling Centre University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (LGBT Ally Training Manual)

When a student "comes out" to you

When a student "comes out" to you and tells you they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer ( LGBTIQ) your initial response is important.  The student has likely spent time in advance thinking about whether or not to tell you, and when and how to tell you.  Here are some helpful tips to support them.

Offer support, but don't assume a student needs any help
The student may be completely comfortable with their sexual orientation or gender identity and may not need help dealing with it, or be in need of any support.  It may be that the student just wanted to tell someone, or just simply to tell you so you might know them better.
Be a role model of acceptance
Always model good behaviour by using inclusive language and setting an accepting environment by not making assumptions about people's sexual orientation or gender identity.  By demonstrating that you are respectful, LGBTIQ people are more likely to see you as a supportive educator and advocate.
Appreciate the student's courage
There is often a risk in telling someone something personal, especially sharing for the first time one's sexual orientation or gender identity, when it is generally not considered the norm.
Listen, listen, listen
One of the best ways to support a student is to hear them out and let them know you are there to listen.
Respect confidentiality

Let them know that the conversation is confidential and that you won't share the information with anyone else, unless they ask for your help.  If they want others to know, doing it in their own way with their own timing is important.  Respect their privacy.

Source:  GLSEN "Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students"