Promoting Inclusive Classrooms: LGBTQIA+ Ally Guide

It is critically important to demonstrate inclusion and solidarity for LGBTQIA+ students. This emphasizes the welfare and safety of others in our campus spaces. This brief guide includes some key suggestions for faculty members and staff to act on allyship in the classroom and online. 

Setting the Tone in the Classroom

Syllabus Statements

Include the statements below or use this as a guide to creating your own, to set the tone of LGBTQIA+ inclusion and direct students to appropriate university processes. 

  • UO Non-Discrimination Policy: The University of Oregon affirms and actively promotes the right of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment at this institution without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other consideration not directly and substantively related to effective performance.
  • Using Chosen Name and Pronouns: Fostering a respectful classroom environment enables us all to participate fully. If you use a name different from the name listed on Canvas, I encourage you to email me or to visit me after class to update your roster. If you use a name different from your Legal Name you may update your Preferred Name on DuckWeb, which updates grade rosters and Canvas class lists. Visit LGBT Education and Support Services for more information. I will be creating space for sharing pronouns in class; however, sharing pronouns will never be required. I am open to being corrected and correcting students when misgendering occurs, if you would like support with this please reach out to me. 

Hint: If you put a statement in your syllabus about respecting chosen names and pronouns, you are committing to using a student’s chosen name/pronouns, practicing, being open to student feedback. 

Getting to Know Your Class

Your students may use a different name than listed on your roster, how do you create room for this?

  • Avoid using your roster for verbal rollcall during the first week of class. An alternative might be a sign in sheet.
  • Remind students they can update their Preferred Name on DuckWeb so this is updated in Canvas.
  • If you print out a class list from Canvas, remember to check Canvas for any changed names throughout the year. 
  • Have students share their names and pronouns aloud or by writing them in the chat (online). Never require students to share their pronouns.
  • Use a questionnaire at the beginning of class for you to capture this information, such as a notecard or survey.
    • I.E. What is your name? What name would you like me to use in class? What are your pronouns? Are you comfortable with me correcting others on your pronouns, in public or private? How can I support you this year? 

Sharing Names and Pronouns

Provide space regularly in class for students to share their pronouns without requiring sharing. Pronouns and names may change, so it is good practice to encourage sharing the beginning of each class or the start of an activity. 

  • Normalizing Pronouns: Model sharing pronouns by introducing yourself with your pronouns regularly. For example: “My name is Taylor and I use she/her pronouns. I invite you to share your own pronouns during introductions, although you are not required to share.”
  • Asking for Pronouns: You are welcome to ask what pronouns someone feels honored by to know how to refer to them. It is important not to put someone on the spot or unintentionally “out” someone, so consider asking privately or normalize the option of sharing pronouns. For example: “What pronouns do you use?”
  • Practicing Pronouns: Just like learning a new topic or skill, practice is imperative. If you are unsure how to use pronouns in a conversation, use some of the strategies below. 
    • Practice they/them pronouns daily by using they/them to refer to people whose pronouns you do not know. 
    • Ask a trusted colleague or friend to practice with, and to correct you when you make a mistake. 
    • Practice not gendering strangers. The only way to know someone’s gender or pronouns is to ask. 
  • Alternatives to Pronouns: When you do not know someone’s pronouns, you may use these strategies. This is not a substitute for learning someone’s pronouns or practicing pronouns.
    • Use student’s names in place of pronouns or use they/them as a gender inclusive alternative. For example: “The student had said they completed the assigned homework” “You can ask Sam about Sam’s thoughts on the assignment”
    • Student, scholar, or colleague are all great alternatives to using pronouns. 
  • Accountability when Misgendering Happens: Everyone can make mistakes and learn from them. Follow and practice these steps when misgendering happens:
  1. Apologize or thank student for the feedback. 
  2. Correct yourself. 
  3. Do not explain your intent. 
  4. Do not dwell on this moment. Do not explain your intent. Move on. 
  5. Take this an opportunity to reflect on and practice your allyship.

For example: “She had previously taken this class – sorry, they had previously taken this class...”

“He asked a question... she asked the question about the midterm exam.”

“Thank you for correcting me, he recently left to print his poster in the library” 

Hint: Repeat these steps during every class. Mistakes happen and should be avoided. Show accountability when mistakes are made by being open to feedback, briefly correcting yourself, and moving on. 

We are all part of creating a culture of support: According to a recent study, when transgender youth ages 15 to 21 allowed to use their chosen name at school, home, work and with friends

  • 71% experienced fewer symptoms of severe depression
  • 34% decrease in reported thoughts of suicide 
  • 65% percent decrease in suicidal attempts 

It does not matter if you understand why someone may use certain pronouns or identify differently than you. It does matter how you show respect and dignity to others to create a culture of support and inclusion. 

Support Classroom Participation: Gender Inclusive Language 

Names and pronouns are not preferences. Names and pronouns are individual truths. Try not to say “preferred name” or “preferred pronouns,” because under the pretense of preference these may be undermined, ignored or dismissed by others. 

Avoid binary gendered language in your course instruction. This ensures you speak to all students in your class, and prevents trans and non-binary students from feeling alienated in class. A little change goes a long way. 

Using inclusive language shows that you respect the person you’re speaking to.

  • Binary Gendered Language:
    • Boys and girls
    • Sir or Ma’am
    • Ms. or Mr.
    • Daughter/son, Mother/father
    • Ladies and gentlemen
    • Guys, you guys
  • Inclusive Alternatives:
    • Students
    • Everyone
    • People 
    • Ducks
    • Folks
    • Y’all or You all

Hint: This requires practice, being an ally includes practicing inclusive language. 

Inclusive Honorifics

If your class uses honorifics (Ms. or Mr.) it is important to normalize alternatives. 

  • Mx: Pronounced “mix,” this is an alternative to common gendered honorifics such as Mr. and Ms. It is often used by trans and non-binary people, or those who do not wish to be referred to by gendered honorifics. I.E. Dear Mx Ann...
  • Last Name: Use last name only as a non-gendered alternative. I.E. Rosales, what do you think? 

Show Responsibility for Mistakes: How to Apologize

Practice supportive apologies to prepare when mistakes are made. As we connect across differences, it is not a question of if we make a mistake, rather when we make a mistake. 

Practicing ways to apologize and move on, is an important tool for LGBTQIA+ support.

  • Misgendering or Misnaming: In conversation if you make a mistake, correct yourself and move on. Refrain from explaining intent or over apologizing for making a mistake, as this creates a burden on the person harmed to provide comfort. For example: “Jamie said he discussed… they discussed… the class reading yesterday”. 
  • Thoughtful Apologies: To make a thoughtful apology listen and validate the person who is hurt, claim your behavior, and apologize. Make this an opportunity to reflect and practice. If you find yourself making repeated mistakes it is up to you to commit to practicing to change your behavior. 

Online Education: Using Chosen Names and Pronouns

Preferred and Name Change at UO

  • Preferred Name Option on DuckWeb: Encourage students to update their Preferred First Name  through the “UO Preferred Name Change” on DuckWeb, which updates lists, photo lists, grade rosters, grade change pages, and Canvas class lists. To use a first name that is different than your legal first name Name Change on Academic Record: Students may update name and/or gender identity on all University of Oregon documentation through the LGBT Education and Support Services or Registrar.

Canvas

  • Class roster and student names: Student names are updated through DuckWeb “Preferred Name” option. students may change their preferred name at any time. Note when these changes are made to ensure you are using student’s chosen name. 
  • Pronouns Enabled on Canvas: This feature is enabled at UO for all canvas users. Encourage students to select their pronouns and to observe their peer’s pronouns. 
    • Do not require students to list their pronouns, as this may unintentionally “out” LGBTQIA+ students. Model pronoun use by listing your own pronouns and encourage cisgender allies to normalize pronouns by listing their own.
    • Note: If we ask for pronouns, it is important to use this feature personally. Use the ally tips below for more information.

Zoom

  • Update Name on Zoom Profile: Encourage students to update their chosen name through Zoom “Profile Settings”. Your Zoom profile allows you to update your user information, including your name, personal meeting ID, email address, and more. Some of this information is displayed to other users in the account, such as your name, department, and job title.
  • Use Pronouns on Zoom: Add your pronouns to your name on Zoom, and encourage your students to participate without requiring.

Teams

  • Update Name on Teams: Students must change their “Preferred Name” to update their name on Teams. For support, you may submit a ticket through the IT Portal.

Support Classroom Participation: Address Bias in Virtual Settings

As an ally, it’s your responsibility to interrupt potentially hurtful ideas and conversations. As an ally, it’s your responsibility to interrupt bias.

Prepare for interrupting bias by practicing phrases out loud. Interrupting bias real-time in classrooms affirms value for LGBTQIA+ students, and fosters a connection with students who may feel isolated or hurt. 

Common phrases for bias intervention:

  • What do you mean by that?
  • What point are you trying to make?
  • That offends me.
  • This does not align with our class values.
  • In this class we respect students of all genders and sexualities. 
  • I don’t find that funny.
  • I’m surprised to hear you say that
  • Did you mean to say something hurtful?
  • Talking like that doesn’t help others feel safe and accepted.

(Willoughby, 2018)

Steps to interrupt bias:

  1. Interrupt bias
    1. Take time to stop what you’re doing
    2. Interrupt early or in real-time with a firm clear intervention
  2. Question the commenter during the moment of bias
    1. What are the underlying messages?
    2. “Tell me more.”
  3. Educate and redirect
    1. If context is appropriate educate on the misinformation or assumption that was made.
    2. Encourage change and growth from mistakes 
  4. Tie the moment to university policies or values
    1. UO Non-Discrimination Policy:

The University of Oregon affirms and actively promotes the right of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment at this institution without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other consideration not directly and substantially related to effective performance.

Remember being an active ally is a verb, and a choice we can make to create inclusive and accountable classroom environments.

Citations: 

Willoughby, B. (2018). Speak up at school: How to respond to everyday prejudice, bias, and stereotypes. Southern Poverty Law Center.

LGBT Education and Support Services (2021). Queer Ally Coalition Manual. University of Oregon Dean of Students.

Additional Resources

UO Queer Ally Coalition (QAC) (Safe Zone) Training: This introductory four-hour seminar provides active ally education and development for UO students, staff, and faculty. No prior education is required.

Online resources to make the classroom more inclusive to LGBT students 
University of Southern California 
A list of resources for faculty to learn more about LGBT histories, politics, and cultures. (Somewhat older and more general resources…) 

Faculty Self Assessment to make the classroom more inclusive 
University of Southern California 
A tool for faculty to assess their level of preparedness for addressing LGBT people and issues in the classroom. 

Suggestions for integrating LGBT issues into the curriculum 
University of Southern California 
Strategies for developing your own knowledge and engaging meaningfully with LGBT topics in course materials. 

Ask Me: What LGBTQ Students Want their Faculty to Know 
Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/3/15 
Perspectives from LGBTQ Students relating to their personal experiences on campus, providing safe and inclusive learning environments, and how to engage in meaningful conversations with your queer-identified students. (Premium access to The Chronicle is available when accessing this resource on campus.) 

Leaving No Trans College Student Behind 
Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/8/15 
An examination of campus policies and practices that can contribute to a more inclusive environment for trans college students.(Premium access to The Chronicle is available when accessing this resource on campus.) 

Faculty as Sources of Support for LGBT College Students  
College Teaching Journal, 2016 
This article explores the role of faculty support in promoting LGBTQ student success within formal and informal contexts. Students’ voices show how LGBTQ students interact with faculty and what kinds of interactions students experience as supportive. (Requires Duck ID login to access via institutional subscription.) 

Climate Change — Making your Academic Department More Inclusive 
Inside Higher Education, 2013 
Two STEM faculty members share strategies for creating inclusive environments for students as well as other faculty and staff within academic departments. 

Recommendations for Supporting Trans and Queer Students of Color  
Consortium of Higher Ed LGBT Resource Professionals (primarily for university staff members) 
Reflection and self-assessment questions to guide individual, departmental, and institutional practice for support trans and queer students of color. 

Sample Syllabus Statements:

  • Purdue — Provides example language on how to explicitly affirm inclusive values in the establishment of a learning environment. 
  • Portland Community College — Example language of how to affirm inclusive values. Also provides faculty the opportunity to express preferred name and gender pronouns, and welcomes students to contact faculty to indicate their own identities, pronouns, etc. 
  • Binghamton — Affirming the importance of preferred pronouns, inviting students to reach out to faculty to indicate their own identities, pronouns, etc.