Creating Inclusive Classrooms

Why create an LGBTQIA+ inclusive syllabus classroom environment?

  • Colleges and universities, like other social institutions and society, can be very oppressive places. Connell found two problematic forms of injustice in schools: “oppression, which restricts the capacity for self-expression; and domination, which restricts participation in social decision-making… Harassment, homophobic abuse, the hierarchy of masculinities, bullying, racial vilification are examples.” Oppression and domination are premised on the exclusion of others; LGBTQ+ youth are often marginalized which impinges their self-expression and full participation in school.
  • Greater awareness and training are essential parts of efforts to systemically challenge heterosexual privilege and address homophobic harassment and gender violence in school spaces.
  • If you think “my courses have nothing to do with diversity”, there are ways to bring inclusivity into your courses. Even if your course’s content does not directly link with issues of diversity and inclusivity, these topics and dialogues can still happen in those spaces. Students learn best when they are respected and safe.
  • “Educators who lack knowledge about or are uncomfortable with LGBTQ+ issues may implicitly marginalize them in the classroom, for example, by relegating them to a single lecture in which LGBTQ+ individuals and families are simply described as alternatives to the norm.” (Allen, 1995; Campbell, 2012)
  • “Inclusion of LGBTQ+ content in higher education may promote more accepting attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people and families, and help to reduce LGBTQ+ individual’s exposure to stigma, indeed, LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff disproportionately experience harassment at U.S. colleges and universities.” (Rankin, Blumenfled, Weber, & Fraser, 2010)

Sample Syllabus Statement

This class is founded on an environment of mutual respect. All students are encouraged to share, engage in discussion, and learn from one another. Respect will be a requirement for participation in this course. In line with respecting others, we will use the names and pronouns that members of this class ask for us to use in reference to them. Please share with the professors and/or the class (as you feel comfortable) the name(s) and pronouns you would like for us to use for you, if they ever differ from information shared on the first day of class.

Resources to Help

  • LGBTQIA+ Dictionary: This tool can help you learn terms in the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Gender and Pronoun Guide: This guide reviews why people may share their pronouns, how they can be used in a sentence, how to ask folks for pronouns, and more.
  • Rainbow Center Library: If you are looking for a book or movie on the LGBTQIA+ community, check out our library! You can review the content online.
  • UConn Gender-Inclusive Restroom Map: This map and list of gender-inclusive restrooms can help you identify where the nearest inclusive restroom to your classroom is.

General Tips

  • Ask students for pronouns and their chosen name on the first day of class, and use those identifiers throughout the semester.
  • Integrate LGBTQIA+ topics throughout classroom content — you can find more ways than you think!
  • Create comfortable classroom climate
    • Make asking questions/showing of ignorance ok and use them as teachable moments, not as moments of embarrassment or shame
    • Rather than avoiding LGBTQ+ topics for fear of saying the wrong thing, acknowledge misstatements, commit to educating yourself and address student misconceptions/discomforts the following
    • Recognize that all students benefit from understanding the life challenges of persons who are LGBTQIA+
    • Be proactive in demonstrating values around inclusivity
  • Don’t make assumptions about the identities of the students in your classroom.
  • Include your pronouns on your syllabus, your nametag, your door tag, your email signature, etc.
  • Be careful not to “misgender” students. Misgendering could include not only using the wrong pronouns, but utilizing only binary language like “you guys,” sir, ma’am, policeman, fireman, and others. (Instead, use language such as “you all,” folks, everyone, police officer, firefighter, etc.)
  • Know where the nearest inclusive restroom is on campus, and recognize that if it is in a different building, some students may need to take longer traveling to the restroom they feel comfortable using. If possible, request a classroom closer to an inclusive restroom.


Video: The UConn Student Perspective