Voices of Pride

The LGBTQ Experience in Schools
50 Years After Stonewall

By Shumway Marshall and John Rosales

So much has changed since a group of outcasts fought back against police brutality 50 years ago at a bar in Greenwich Village. We’ve lost more than 700,000 people to AIDS. There is currently an out lesbian in the U.S. Senate and a gay man is governor of Colorado. Marriage equality is now the law of the land. We see diverse, rich stories of LGBTQ characters in film and TV.

But how much has changed at our nation’s public schools?

After all, the vast majority of LGBTQ students (87.3 percent) experienced harassment or assault based on personal characteristics. Lesbian, gay, and bi youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared with their heterosexual peers. Even more alarming, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. Nearly all of these individuals (92 percent) said they attempted suicide before age 25.

We asked six educators to share their stories of being out in the classroom and how they are continuing the lessons of Stonewall. Their answers are as diverse as the rainbow flag is colorful. 

What’s clear from these essays is that actions both large and small can have an indelible mark on the lives of LGBTQ students and educators. The protesters at the Stonewall Uprising had little idea how their actions would echo through history. Similarly, your actions and those of all educators can change the trajectory of a colleague or student’s life.

Champions for Self-Identity

By Eric Brown

Fighting for who our students can become is the greatest reward.

Bruised Apples: Why LGBTQ Educators Need Allies, Too

By Kelly D. Holstine

My experience as an out, gender nonconforming lesbian taught me the importance of being myself as a teacher. But it came at a price.

Step Out into the Light

By C. Scott Miller

Even today, coming out at work can create a bright rainbow of emotions both gratifying and terrifying.

Welcome to the Club of True Selves

By Sonia Fortin

Gay Straight Alliance Clubs support students at a critical point in their lives.

More than a Law, Equality

By Frank Burger

The Equality Act is critical for educators and students nationwide, not just those who are LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ, Immigration Issues Cross Paths in our Nation’s Public Schools

By Saul Ramos

The president’s immigration rhetoric and policies cause increased anxiety for LGBTQ+ immigrants.


NEA EdJustice 
Resources and stories for creating safe, affirming schools for LGBTQ students.

Take Action: Tell the Senate to Pass the Equality Act
More than half the states in the U.S. lack fully inclusive non-discrimination protections, leaving millions of people subject to potential discrimination in their daily lives.

NEA’s Read Across America Calendar
Educator-recommended, age-appropriate titles that explore identity and can blend effectively into existing classroom activities and units of study.

NEA Center for Social Justice Trainings
Designed for all NEA members, particularly those committed to addressing bias around sexual orientation and gender identity, this program teaches school personnel how to create a safe school climate for students and staff.


HRC’s Welcoming Schools Program
The nation’s premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying, and support transgender and non-binary students.

The national organization championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education since 1990.

GSA Network
LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains queer, trans and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities.