5 LGBTQ-focused resources for K-12 educators

How can teachers foster safe and inclusive environments in schools? These handy resources can help.


From gay-straight alliances to washroom access for transgender students, legislation and policies affecting sexual and gender minority youth in Alberta schools have been a much-discussed topic in the past few years.

Earlier this year, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen asked the province’s 61 school boards—including Catholic, public, private and charter—to draft policies meant to ensure safety, respect and inclusion for LGBTQ students and staff in schools. (Read Alberta Education's Guidelines for Best Practices.)

So, how do teachers address the topic of sexual and gender identity in age-appropriate ways and help to foster safe, welcoming, inclusive and equitable environments in schools? Here are five handy LGBTQ-focused resources for K-12 educators.

1. GSAs and QSAs in Alberta Schools: A Guide for Teachers (2nd edition, 2015)
Published by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and written by Kris Wells, assistant professor of educational policy studies in the Faculty of Education and faculty director with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), this guidebook provides basic information for teachers who are initiating gay-straight alliances (GSAs) or queer-straight alliances (QSAs).

The guide covers topics including sexual and gender minority terms and definitions (What does cisgender mean? What is transphobia?), an overview of important guiding legislation and policies, and a list of 10 steps to start a GSA or QSA in your school.

There is also a section about the importance of creating positive school environments to help students “grow into resilience,” written by André Grace, professor of educational psychology at the U of A and faculty director with iSMSS. Grace is also the author of Growing Into Resilience: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada (2015), published by University of Toronto Press.

2. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Recommended Fiction and Nonfiction Resources for K-12 Schools (2nd edition, 2014)
The materials in this resource list support Edmonton Public Schools’ sexual orientation and gender identity policy and administrative regulations, and meet Alberta Education’s criteria of presenting diverse points of view to achieve the programming and curricular needs of all students by recognizing diversity and promoting respect in the K-12 program of studies.

The introduction states that, “A concerted effort has been made to include high quality age-appropriate materials for a wide variety of students and learning styles. We have also placed emphasis on newer releases, landmark resources, and as much Canadian content as possible.” Bonus: Many of the resources listed—ranging from books to documentaries and feature films—can be borrowed from the Edmonton Public Library and the U of A’s H.T. Coutts Education Library. Below is a trailer for one of the recommended documentaries, Valentine Road (2013).

3. LGBTQ Studies Subject Guide: U of A LibrariesThis interdisciplinary online guide is described as a “starting point for exploring sexual minority resources and research available in the University of Alberta Library collection.” It also includes a list of databases that can be used to find academic research on LGBTQ issues in education and a list of LGBTQ-focused teacher resources.

4. Graphic Guide to YA Novels with LGBTQ CharactersLooking for a list of young adult books for older students that feature LGBTQ characters? This list is for you.From tearjerkers to graphic novels, memoirs and dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction, this visual guide was compiled by a librarian member of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.

5. 2016 Rainbow Book ListAlso compiled by the ALA, the Rainbow List is described as “a bibliography of books with significant gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning content, and which are aimed at youth, birth through age 18.”The Rainbow Book List is released every January. Books on the list are published within the assigned calendar year or between July 1 and December 31 of the previous calendar year. The list is intended to help youth in selecting high-quality books and to assist librarians serving children and young adults in collection development.

Note: This story was originally published in Illuminate, the online magazine from the Faculty of Education.