LGBTQ Diversity Toolbox for Teachers - Introduction

Many educational groups are concerned about how best to meet the particular needs of students with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. District and school leaders plan for educational opportunities and teacher education that respond to the learning needs of all students. However, not all districts and schools have leaders and teachers with backgrounds in gifted and talented education who also know how best to address the particular needs of gifted students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning (gifted LGBTQ).             

Due to the limited information available about gifted learners with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, NAGC convened a task force of administrators and educators to develop tools that classroom educators can use to inform themselves and leverage as the starting point for advocacy and implementation of services for gifted LGBTQ students.

The materials in the toolbox address:

  •  the rationale for gifted LGBTQ support services
  • the critical elements of gifted LGBTQ education programming
  • suggestions for addressing gifted LGBTQ student social-emotional needs

NAGC believes in supporting the success of all gifted students. Factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, level of English proficiency, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientation, and gender identity should not become barriers to opportunities for gifted students. The purpose of this toolbox is to supply information specific to enabling gifted LGBTQ students to participate and thrive in school. NAGC recommends that educators demonstrate understanding of these students and support them in maximizing their potential.

Changing the historical trend of discrimination against gifted LGBTQ students and the lack of role models in curriculum and educational resources requires a commitment to long-term, systematic evaluation of curriculum and program improvement. They may not only feel different from other youth because of their gifts, but may also feel isolated due to their sexual orientation and/or gender expression (Cross, 2013; NAGC, 2015; Sedillo, 2013; Treat, 2008, 2016; Whittenburg & Treat, 2009). Interventions are necessary to support unique psychosocial needs of gifted LGBTQ students (Friedrichs, 2012; Peterson & Rischar, 2000; Treat, 2016; Whittenburg & Treat, 2009).  Administrators, teachers, and counselors require specific, ongoing professional development to understand the needs of gifted LGBTQ students (NAGC, 2015; Sedillo, 2013; Whittenburg & Treat, 2009).  To ensure success for gifted LGBTQ students, NAGC recommends these areas of focus:

  • Curriculum, Instructional Strategies, and Planning
  • Professional Development

Before these two areas of focus are addressed, there is statistical information that provide support and/or rationale for the recommendations contained in this toolbox.     

Statistical Information

LGBTQ students in American schools continue to face aggression and negative environments on a regular basis. (GLSEN, 2016):

  • +98.1% LGBTQ students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “That’s so gay”) at school; 67.4% heard these remarks frequently or often, and 93.4% reported that they felt distressed because of this language.
  •  95.8% of LGBTQ students heard other types of homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”); 58.8% heard this type of language frequently or often.
  • 95.7% of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”); 62.9% heard these remarks frequently or often.
  • 85.7% of LGBTQ students heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, like “tranny” or “he/she”; 40.5% heard these remarks frequently or often.
  • 56.2% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 63.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff. 

These statistics inform educators and parents about the experiences of LGBTQ students in school. When the element of giftedness is compounded with gender/sexual minority status,  the students are, in the view of classmates, teachers, and administrators, twice other. This dual status makes these youth even more vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse at school than either giftedness or gender/sexual minority status would on its own (Manzella, 2012).