In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section LGBT Youth in Schools

  • Introduction
  • Books on LGBT, Queer, and Questioning Youth in Schools
  • Administrator and Counselor Practice and Preparation

Education LGBT Youth in Schools
Jeffrey M. Poirier, Allison Mattheis, Deborah Temkin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0190


This review synthesizes recent literature and research on students in K–12 schools who are attracted to the same gender (lesbian, gay), attracted to people of the same or other genders (bisexual), or identify as a gender different than the one they were assigned at birth (transgender). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) young people have historically experienced vulnerability in schools because of challenges such as invisibility in school curricula; peer and staff rejection, harassment, and violence; and ill-equipped school professionals who lack the competence and will to effectively address bias and foster inclusive school environments. Foundational research in the field examines this vulnerability to document the experiences and needs of this population—and to draw attention to gaps in school policy, practice, and outcomes for LGBT students. Research examining vulnerabilities and challenges for this population is also prominent in the early 21st century because many of these concerns persist. At the same time, more recent research on LGBT youth in schools is attending to these young people’s positive assets and their resilience, including their abilities to effectively navigate conflict and stress and adapt to different situations. Throughout this article, “LGBT” is used as an umbrella acronym. Although the rich diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, such as students who are queer, genderqueer, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity is important, this article aims to provide a working vocabulary to address this population of youth discussed here. This article also aligns its terminology with the content of articles. In other words, if an article examines only transgender students, then the full LGBT acronym is not used when writing about that article. Research on LGBT youth in schools is substantial, given the growth of research studying related issues during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This expanding research on LGBT youth in schools has spanned topics beyond their school experiences to include myriad issues such as their identity development within the school context; school-based policies, practices, and supports such as inclusive nondiscrimination policies; teacher practices that foster welcoming and inclusive school settings, and the benefits of safe spaces and targeted supports for LGBT students; and how school administrator and teacher preparation programs can lead to better school practice and outcomes for LGBT students. Other areas of research on LGBT youth in schools continue to emerge as the field’s understanding about diverse sexual orientation and gender identities expands, and as there is more attention given to the complexity of identity and expression including intersectionality (e.g., youth in schools who are LGBT and of color, or LGBT and immigrants).

Books on LGBT, Queer, and Questioning Youth in Schools

This collection of books listed here covers a spectrum of salient issues relevant to students who are LGBT. These sources, which are grounded in research on LGBT youth in schools, discuss the experiences of LGBT youth in schools and how educational scholarship, policy, and practice can foster safer, more supportive schools for these students. Importantly, this selection of sources combines diverse perspectives beneficial for diverse readers, from school leaders, educators, researchers and scholars as well as students in educational administration and policy, curriculum and instruction, and school counseling programs. Together these books make unique contributions, growing the body of literature specific to LGBT youth in schools and reflecting a progression in sophistication and scope of literature focusing on these issues. Russell and Horn 2017 and Meyer 2010 provide foundational works on gender and sexual diversity in schools, both with syntheses of research on LGBT youth in schools and recommendations to inform school policy and practice. Significantly, Russell and Horn integrate a range of perspectives and examples from scholars writing about schools in international contexts such as Brazil, Italy, Japan, and South Africa. Fisher and Komosa-Hawkins 2013 offers practices for creating responsive school classrooms and, like Fisher and Kennedy 2012, review recommended counseling practices. In contrast, Biegel 2010 uniquely examines education law and policy relevant to LGBT students. Wimberly 2015 synthesizes the state of education research related to LGBT students and, like Cianciotto and Cahill 2012, offers a research agenda to expand this area of scholarship. Several of these book citations will be useful for multiple audiences including educators, whereas others will be beneficial for particular audiences such as educational leaders (Koschoreck and Tooms 2009), researchers (Cianciotto and Cahill 2012, Wimberly 2015), and legal and social justice scholars (Biegel 2010). The remaining sources are especially useful for educators, other professionals working in or with schools and programs educating future school leaders, educators, and other school staff; these sources (Fisher and Kennedy 2012; Fisher and Komosa-Hawkins 2013; Koschoreck and Tooms 2009; Meyer 2010; Vaccaro, et al. 2012) offer various policies, practices and programming to create inclusive schools that support communities with diverse gender and sexual identities. Such practices include frameworks for curriculum, pedagogy, staff professional development including understanding the impact of bias related to sexual or gender identity, intervening in bullying and harassment, targeted information to support transgender students and those who are gender expansive (i.e., students who express their gender in ways that broaden cultural definitions and assumptions about gender), working with students’ families and engaging the broader communities that schools serve. Significantly, Kumashiro 2001 integrates autobiographical accounts of LGBT youth of color with qualitative and quantitative research on LGBT students, providing a valuable early work around the intersections of race and sexuality.

  • Biegel, Stuart. 2010. The right to be out: Sexual orientation and gender identity in America’s public schools. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    Reviews education law and policy relevant to LGBT students and educators. Focuses on litigation, legislation, and policies to address the legal rights of LGBT students (and school staff), curriculum, school climate, school sports and inclusive schools for transgender students.

  • Cianciotto, Jason, and Sean Cahill. 2012. LGBT youth in America’s schools. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.4656286

    Synthesizes research, practice, and policy to inform more supportive, safer school experiences for LGBT students. Organized around three sections: (1) research on LGBT youth school experiences; (2) school practices, laws and policies; and (3) policy and recommendations for a research agenda. Especially useful for policymakers and researchers.

  • Fisher, Emily S., and Kelly S. Kennedy. 2012. Responsive school practices to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students and families. New York: Routledge.

    Comprehensively synthesizes issues and practices to create safe, supportive schools for LGBT and questioning (Q) students. Covers topics such as counseling, curricula, and supporting parents—including those who are LGBTQ—and their children. Especially valuable for education professionals and students in educational leadership and practice programs. Includes CD of resources (e.g., lessons, posters).

  • Fisher, Emily S., and Karen Komosa-Hawkins, eds. 2013. Creating safe and supportive learning environments: A guide for working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth and families. New York: Routledge.

    Brings together diverse perspectives to review both theory and practical guidance important to education professionals. Includes chapters on adolescent development and intersectionality (see Identity Development for LGBT Youth in School Contexts) and a strengths-based approach (e.g., discusses resilience). An essential volume for educators and other school professionals, along with educational leadership and practice programs.

  • Koschoreck, James W., and Autumn K. Tooms, eds. 2009. Sexuality matters: Paradigms and policies for educational leaders. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield

    Combines theory and practical guidance through diverse perspectives on school policy and practice. Examines three broad areas relevant to LGBT students: (1) policy and activism, (2) curriculum and pedagogy, and (3) identity and experiences. An important resource for educational leaders, whether principals or school board members, and educational leadership programs.

  • Kumashiro, Kevin K., ed. 2001. Troubling intersections of race and sexuality: Queer students of color and anti-oppressive education. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Shares autobiographical accounts with qualitative and quantitative research on LGBT students of color, providing a valuable early work around the intersections of race and sexuality from the perspectives of these young people.

  • Meyer, Elizabeth J. 2010. Gender and sexual diversity in schools. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-8559-7

    Integrates research evidence and offers a valuable foundation on school bias associated with gender and sexuality, with practices for more inclusive schools. Clearly reviews theory, policy and practical applications for addressing gender and sexual diversity including strategies for curricula and school culture. Especially useful for educators, education scholars and undergraduate or graduate students in education classes/programs.

  • Russell, Stephen T., and Stacey S. Horn, eds. 2017. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and schooling: The nexus of research, practice, and policy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    With contributions from leading scholars studying LGBT issues in schools, combines cross-disciplinary research, policy and practice recommendations, and international perspectives on transforming schools for LGBT students. Organized around core themes related to schools including: (1) victimization, bullying, and harassment; (2) cutting-edge issues on sexual orientation and gender identity; (3) global perspectives on systemic models for change; (4) policy, organizing, and advocacy; and (5) systems of change.

  • Vaccaro, Annemarie, Gerri August, and Megan S. Kennedy. 2012. Safe spaces: Making schools and communities welcoming to LGBT youth. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

    Provides an important perspective by focusing on both schools and their communities more broadly. Addresses school practices from curricula, to staff behavior, professional development and school buildings along with school policy. Includes action steps and a unique chapter with examples and indicators for being an ally to LGBT students.

  • Wimberly, George L., ed. 2015. LGBTQ issues in education: Advancing a research agenda. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Agenda.

    A valuable review of LGBTQ education research to date, from its historical roots to themes in this body of research (e.g., bullying, achievement). Highlights challenges in conducting research on LGBTQ education issues and recommends areas for further study. Useful for education researchers and higher education students (in particular graduate students).

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