There are many reasons to support the inclusion of LGBTQ+ Studies in school curriculum, and well as general inclusivity in curriculum. Many of these reasons centre on the concept of student safety.
Safer School Environment
When schools have LGBTQ+ inclusive anti bullying policies and curriculum, many studies report that students feel safer at school and that the rate of bullying motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity decreases. However, when the anti bullying policies did not explicitly include a section on homophobic and transphobic bullying, these types of bullying did not decrease significantly.
LGBTQ+ students reported feeling safer in their schools with the presence of a gay-straight alliance, and the rates of victimization of LGBTQ+ students dropped significantly (Greytak, 2013). Having a safer school culture for LGBTQ+ students benefits their emotional well being and that helps lead to their future success.
Decreases Mental Health Issues
LGBT+ students are currently at a higher risk than their cisgender heterosexual peers when it comes to displaying negative health behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse (Heck, 2011). This is frequently because of higher rates of bullying and lack of general social acceptance from peers, teachers, parents, and healthcare professionals. Having a support network in schools decreases these health risks and improves students’ mental health.
Surveys of many LGBTQ+ students found that when LGBTQ+ studies were offered or there was an option of joining a GSA, these students suffered less from depression, substance abuse, and mental health issues (Heck, 2011). By giving students access to curriculum that teaches about them in a positive and supportive way, it allows students to feel seen and encourages them to find someone they can open up to about mental health challenges.
Increases Academic Performance
Incorporating LGBTQ+ studies into the classroom can have a positive impact on the academic success of LGBTQ+ students because of increased interest leading to students attending more classes that they had not been before, and students feeling safer, which makes for an environment more conducive to learning. Learning about something personally relevant helps students remain interested and invested in subject matter and increases academic success.
Inclusivity in science classrooms fosters an interest in science, a field that has historically not been kind to LGBTQ+ people (Dzurick, 2018). This concept of inclusivity increasing student interest can also be applied to all subject areas. Increasing the interest of marginalized students in science will encourage more queer students to pursue careers in the sciences, eventually increasing diverse perspectives in scientific fields, and allowing for scientific advances that would not otherwise be made without the input of diverse groups. When more people have access to knowledge, greater progress can be made, and everyone can benefit.
Transgender Students Benefit
In a study of trans and cis LGB students, researchers found that attendance of the trans students was greatly improved by GSAs and inclusive curriculum. It also found that these things being in place decreased how frequently trans students were victimized because of their gender identity or expression, and had even more of a positive impact on trans students school lives than on their cis LGB peers (Greytak, 2013). This study noted that trans students became members of GSAs more frequently than cis LGB students. This study demonstrates how inclusivity is vital to the health and academic success of transgender students.
In an article from transgender health, the author states that inclusive curriculums should be across all subject areas, and that teachers should not assume that students are necessarily cisgender or heterosexual (Dowshen, 2016). The article focuses on increasing care and support for gender non conforming teens, particularly trans and nonbinary teens. A comprehensive LGBT+ inclusive curriculum increases acceptance of trans students by their peers as well as their teachers, and it can assist them in having more places to turn for assistance in finding resources relating to transitioning or passing as their actual gender. Access to these resources helps the mental health of trans people and improves their quality of life.
Increases Teacher Knowledge
Not all teachers currently have the resources to help their LGBTQ+ students with any LGBTQ+ specific problems that they may come across. By having a curriculum that teaches LGBTQ+ studies, it requires teachers to learn about the struggles that a portion of their students may be facing, therefore increasing the support network available to LGBTQ+ students. When students feel that they have a supportive teacher, they have more confidence, better attendance, and greater success in school. LGBTQ+ students having a positive relationship with their teachers is a strong indication of how successful they will be in school (McCabe, 2008), so it is important that teachers are all educated in a way that makes them both supportive and sympathetic.
Why not just a GSA?
Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that the presence of gay straight alliances in schools reduced risk factors for LGBT+ youth. However, this harm reduction will only be available for those students that join the GSAs, which is a problem because they are optional clubs. Not every student will be in a position to join a GSA. This can be because of potential safety issues caused by the possibility of parents finding out about their participation in a GSA, or students either not yet accepting themselves or not yet realizing that they might be LGBTQ+. It can also help to correct the attitudes of students who have already picked up negative opinions of LGBTQ+ people and would therefore not be interested in joining a GSA. Including LGBTQ+ themes and information in curriculum across all disciplines will have benefits to students throughout the school system, and inform those who would not be able to or would not want to join a GSA.