Why the right words make a difference…

Georgia Safe Schools Coalition recognizes that the importance of choosing the least restrictive language is paramount to maintaining a safe climate, one that is conducive to learning. Such language is consistent with the concept of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), mandated under federal law when discussing Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and PL-142.

In speaking about people from the LGBTQQI&A (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Ally) communities, it is important to recognize that the terms and categories commonly used, across numerous populations and environments, are still developing. There is no uniform way that such acronyms are written; this variation has led to the reference of gay/queer acronyms as “alphabet soup.” To maintain consistency, GSSC uses the acronym LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning).

Anti-bullying programs routinely require school personnel to address incidents of prejudice and bias, but often lack the vocabulary and understanding of issues related to sexist and anti-LGBT fodder. Whether teasing/bullying is done with malice or without much thought, a lack of response by school personnel is a form of bystander assault that reinforces the message that school is not always a safe place to be. In order to create a more respectful school climate, staff and teachers must be equipped with, and have a working knowledge of, proper use of key terms associated with LGBTQQ youth.

Since verbal assaults are the most common form of bullying, it is critical that there be access to language that can open up dialogue around the harmful use of certain terms.  Sometimes, knowing which words to use can be confusing, however, a best practice is to listen to the terms used by an individual to identify or categorize themselves.  [Note: There may be negative connotations for some words that have been positively reclaimed by some individuals (e.g., “queer”); however, some reclaimed terms are not appropriate for use in the school environment].

The GSSC preferred glossary of terms recommended for use in describing people from the LGBTQQ community will continue to evolve. It is important to recognize that the terms and categories are commonly used – across numerous populations and environments, and are still developing. While there are many LGBT advocacy organizations who offer glossaries, one must carefully examine these resources and their often limiting view, keeping in mind how damaging restrictively asserted language can be. Presumably, there are terms among diverse communities that are not yet listed; we should all keep an ear to the ground as we build our knowledge of vocabulary pertinent to keeping schools a safe and nurturing environment, which is necessary for optimal learning.

Please be advised that GSSC will make revisions and periodic updates of the most appropriate glossary of terms for use in speaking about people from LGBTQQ communities. Contact GSSC as you encounter new terms that you find to be informative, derogatory or least restrictive in relation to describing LGBTQQA individuals/communities. Email Mr. Jesse McNulty, M.Ed. At Plandestiny@gmail.com ; please put GSSC glossary in the subject line.