Including All Voices in the Classroom: Teaching Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students

We might expect the classroom — the place on campus reserved for the free and respectful exchange of ideas — to provide an oasis from harassment and intimidation — and, certainly, from violence. Unfortunately, numerous studies of campus climate demonstrate that this is not the case for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students. Thus, how we college teachers address — or fail to address — issues of sexual orientation in and out of our classrooms has a significant impact on the learning environment for all students, especially for those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. By introducing sexual-orientation topics, supporting related academic inquiry, and creating a welcoming classroom for all students, faculty contribute not only to students’ academic success but also to the development of a positive self-identity. Conversely, by engaging in homophobic harassment and discriminatory behavior, we professors can perpetuate negative stereotypes, validate the hatred and violence perpetrated against lesbian and gay people, silence voices in out classrooms, and interfere with students’ learning. In this article, I describe certain characteristics of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students and the needs they have in common with all college students. More important, I recommend strategies and curricular ideas for faculty who want to improve the quaility of their teaching for all students with regard to issues of sexual orientation.