The University of Connecticut is committed to providing a safe and supportive working and learning environment for all members of its community. This means recognizing, supporting, and celebrating the contributions of our LGBTQIA+ community members.
Creating an inclusive environment benefits students who identify as LGBTQIA+ while simultaneously improving the outcomes for all students in your classroom. The climate, or sense of belonging, within a classroom has a direct impact on the student experience, especially for queer and trans students. The independence gained from attending college allows students to explore their gender and sexuality when many may not have been able to do so safely within their home communities. For some, college may be the first opportunity to learn about queer culture and interact with the LGBTQIA+ community.
While there is quite a bit of research on how postsecondary education facilitates identity development, it's important to acknowledge diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community and how students with intersecting identities (for instance, queer or trans students who are also BIPOC, AAPI, MENA, and/or with disabilities) may experience multiple layers of oppression. Representation around the experience of the LGBTQIA+ community is often centered on white, cisgender men and women with normative bodies, which could lead to further marginalization of people who exist outside of those identities. Consider this diversity of identities when selecting classroom materials or media that represent the LGBTQIA+ community.
It is also critical to take both local and national policy into consideration. There has been an alarming increase in harmful rhetoric and legislation targeting LGBTQIA+ people, and most specifically trans people, across the United States in the past two years. Research from 2022 illustrates the negative impact of anti-LGBTQIA+ politics on the wellbeing of queer and trans youth, and the positive effect of access to affirming spaces.
Some suggestions to create inclusive classrooms for LGBTQIA+ students:
Prioritize Students’ Safety and Privacy
- Keep deadnames, or names used previously and/or assigned at birth, private. Do not share this information without consent.
- Respect privacy if a student shares that they are LGBTQIA+ but does not wish to be identified in the classroom.
- Clarify if you may use a student’s pronouns and chosen name with everyone or if there are contexts where they should be referred to differently (for example, if they prefer another name used when speaking to their family).
- Understand protections offered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
- Familiarize yourself with campus resources like the Rainbow Center’s Creating Inclusive Classrooms and Gender-Inclusive Restroom Map.
- Provide students with opportunities to share their pronouns and chosen names before class rosters are distributed.
- Begin introductions by introducing yourself with your pronouns.
- To avoid mispronouncing or using the wrong name, have students introduce themselves or use a sign-in sheet rather than verbally calling names off a roster.
- Be clear about your expectations regarding classroom engagement and stress that hate speech will not be tolerated.
- Include pronoun information in your email signature and/or any communications or materials sent prior to the first class.
Create Affirming Syllabi & Curriculum
- Assume that you will have gender nonconforming students.
- Include a statement that all members of the class will be expected to use their classmates’ chosen pronouns and chosen names.
- Provide information on how students can update their chosen names with UConn.
- List your own pronouns on syllabi.
- Include supplemental materials on pronoun etiquette or the Rainbow Center’s Gender and Pronoun Guide.
- Identify scholars, authors, and characters with diverse identities to include in your curriculum.
- Include and use correct pronouns for gender nonconforming individuals or characters referenced in classroom materials.
- Create opportunities for students to use singular they pronouns (they/them/theirs) in writing assignments.
- Promptly and appropriately address when someone is deadnamed or misgendered, even if that person is not present.
- If you made the mistake of deadnaming, apologize briefly and correct yourself.
- Correct others and encourage your class to correct your mistakes.
- Provide language and open dialogue around addressing bias in your classroom.
- Avoid heterosexist or binary strategies—for instance, dividing the class into male and female groups.
- When you are unsure what pronouns someone uses, use the person’s name or the genderless they/them/theirs
Continue Learning and Commit to Expanding Your Allyship Toolkit
- Use your power and access to leverage support for your queer and trans students—for instance, by requesting that your class be held in rooms near affirming and/or accessible spaces.
- Support the Rainbow Center and UConn Affinity Groups.
- Show up to campus or community events supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Explore your own identity to better understand your gendered experiences and assumptions.
- Pursue further professional development.
- Educate yourself on queer and trans history, culture, and academic research.
- UConn Rainbow Center Library
- UConn Rainbow Center Creating an LGBTQIA+ inclusive environment
- UConn Rainbow Center gender and pronouns guide
- Gender inclusive restroom map (UConn)
- University of Connecticut Office of Institutional Equity: Discrimination & Harassment
- University of Connecticut Bias Reporting Information
- Recognizing microaggressions
- Creating an Inclusive and Affirming Workplace for Transgender Employees: A Guide for Employees
- Incorporating LGBTQ History in your Classroom
- NPR's Guide to Understanding Gender Identity and Pronouns
- Vanderbilt University Pronoun Guide
- Practice with Pronouns
All employees and students remain subject to the University’s Policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and related interpersonal violence, as well as the Student Code and Employee Code of Conduct. Any concerns or complaints will be handled consistent with these campus policies and utilize the University’s existing investigatory procedures.