Understanding Heterosexism and How to Be an Ally

Gender & Sexism
LGBTQ People & Homophobia/Heterosexism
Stonewall Inn West Village New York
Wikicommons / InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA
Grade Level:
Middle School,
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Speaking and Listening
Gender & Sexism
LGBTQ People & Homophobia/Heterosexism

Middle and high school students, especially those who identify or are perceived as LGBQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer or questioning), often face ongoing acts of homophobia. As LGBQ students go about their everyday lives in school, they can feel unsafe, miss school, be harassed and bullied, hear anti-gay slurs and other biased remarks and experience discriminatory policies and procedures. Despite the great strides our country has made in public opinion and positive legislation for LGBT individuals—especially around marriage equality—there is still work to be done in both words and deeds.

The goal of this lesson is to contribute to making classrooms and schools more safe and welcoming for all students—including LGBQ students and increase students’ understanding of and empathy for how heterosexism manifests itself in schools and society. Middle and high school students will have the opportunity to learn more about what heterosexism is and how it manifests, read an essay about being an ally and discuss ways they can be an ally, including actions they can take on behalf of their school or community.


[1] For the purpose of this lesson on heterosexism, we use LGBQ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer or questioning. For resources on transgender identity, issues and transphobia, see ADL’s "Beyond the Binary” and Current Events Classroom “Transgender Identity and Issues.”

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