The Ark Valley Equality Network (AVEN) primarily services areas in rural Southern Colorado; however, our radius continues to increase. Although there is mention of rural areas throughout this page, please don’t feel that the information isn’t applicable to your area. Colorado is considered a “Majority-Rural” State by the US Census Bureau, meaning that the majority of the population in a majority of the counties live in rural areas.
The information here is gathered from multiple sources and woven together to make allyship easier and thereby more effective for educators. We link all articles, images, and quotes. If you have information you would like to share, send an email to hello@goPfCA.com with your information and sources.
The Ark Valley Equality Network is a volunteer-group devoted to education, advocacy, and social support for the LGBTQIA+ Community focused on equality for all ages, races, abilities, spiritual expressions, sexual orientations and gender identities.
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Cultivating an Inclusive and Safe Environment for Youth in the Classroom, on Social Media, and in the Community
The needs for the LGBTQIA+ community in rural regions differ from more populated centers. Millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA - LGBT+) people live in rural communities and are part of the fabric of rural American life. LGBT+ people in rural communities often choose to live there for many of the same reasons that most people do: for the strength of community and connection to family, for the pace of life, or simply to be part of the place where they were raised and call home.
In a recent study, almost half of youth in the United Kingdom indicated that their sexuality is somewhere in between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual. Bisexuality is nevertheless often rendered invisible in the media and in health research.
However, the structural challenges facing all rural residents, such as access to healthcare, employment, housing, and resources can be intensified by the specific challenges facing LGBT+ people in rural and urban areas alike. We believe that meaningful and long-lasting change is possible in rural America by addressing the overall needs and challenges of the entire community, while directly addressing LGBT-specific experiences and needs.
Youth are particularly hit by these challenges. LGBT-related resources and activities for youth can help counter the negative effects of hostile school and community climates and serve as important tools in changing attitudes about LGBT+ people. Given that students in rural schools have the highest incidences of victimization, suicide, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, homelessness, isolation, loneliness, and are 3X more likely to drop out of school, they might be in greatest need of these supports. However, rural LGBT+ students consistently reported less access to LGBT-related support, resources, and/or activities.
In the Classroom
Action You Can Take To Change Laws & Policies for More Inclusive Schools
7 STATES HAVE LAWS PROHIBITING LGBTQ+ EDUCATION - KNOWN AS “NO PROMO HOMO” LAWS, THESE STATES ARE ALABAMA, ARIZONA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, OKLAHOMA, SOUTH CAROLINA, & TEXAS >> Read More
Advocate for district policies and state laws that prohibit discrimination in education based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and association.
Advocate for district-level and state-level anti-bullying policies and laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and association. Ensure that these policies take a restorative justice approach focused on healing communities and addressing the need for increased understanding.
Advocate for district-level and state policies and laws that allow transgender students to access facilities and participate fully in school activities in accordance to their gender identity.
Oppose new policies and work to repeal laws that harm LGBT youth, including:
Anti-LGBT school laws, which forbid school districts from passing anti-discrimination or anti-bullying policies that protect LGBT youth.
“Don’t Say Gay” or “No Promo Homo” laws, which restrict teachers and staff from even discussing LGBT people or issues.
Other legislation designed to restrict transgender students’ access to school bathrooms or limit their participation in school activities and extra-curriculars.
Actions You Can Take To Ensure Welcoming School Communities
Want to help your students learn about respect? Check out GLSEN’s lessons on Bullying, Bias and Diversity.
Provide age-appropriate, LGBT-inclusive school curriculum, teaching practices, and resources (such as library books).
LGBTQ History Resources (Scottish) https://www.tiecampaign.co.uk/resources
BookRiot - Creating a Queer-Inclusive Library https://bookriot.com/2018/10/11/creating-a-queer-inclusive-library/
American Library Association - 2019 Rainbow Reading List
Making Gay History, by Eric Markus, https://makinggayhistory.com
Queer America, by Teaching Tolerance, https://www.tolerance.org/podcasts/queer-america
Volunteer as an Advisor for your school’s GSA, visit one of your GSA meetings and introduce yourself, and if your school doesn’t have a GSA ask your school’s Counselor if there has been an expressed need. Many students have difficulties starting a GSA and many times have difficulty maintaining one without an active Advisor.
Regularly participate in LGBT educational events, cultural competency trainings, professional development, and community service opportunities, either in person or through webinars and virtual communities. Ensure that these trainings are also explicitly intersectional and recognize the unique experiences of, for example, LGBT people of color.
Many public health departments have knowledge of programs relating to health equity and can steer you in the right direction
Look for Safe Zone Training in your school, area colleges, and in your community
Provide and ensure students have access to appropriate and affirming mental health and social supports, such as school counselors. - Regularly students report that their school counselors are overworked and only have time to act as advisors for continued education.
Implement suicide prevention policies, given the higher risk of bullying, harassment, self-harm and suicide experienced by LGBT youth and the lower rates of supportive schools or staff in rural areas.
Ensure that school computers allow access to LGBT content. The internet may be the primary, if not the only place where many LGBT youth in rural areas can access LGBT-affirming information, but youth in rural areas are more likely to use a computer at school than at home.
87% of Colorado’s LGBTQ students were verbally harassed in school because of their sexual orientation. 73% were harassed based on their gender identity or expression, and 9 out of 10 felt deliberately excluded by their peers.
How to Be a Visible Ally
As educators, you set the tone for how your students treat each other. No, you can’t control everything, but you can do a lot to influence the climate in your schools and make sure your classrooms are places where all students feel welcome. Let your LGBTQ+ students know that you are an ally by displaying some visible sign of your support. Hanging a rainbow flag or a Safe Space Poster or Sticker in your classroom can accomplish this.
GLSEN’s Safe Space Kit points out that this kind of visibility affects students more than we might even realize. “Even if students don’t come to you directly, the kit says, “research shows that just knowing that there is a supportive educator at school can help LGBT students feel better about being in school.”
Read The Case for LGBTQ-Inclusive Education on NBCNEWS.coM
Actions You Can Take to Create a Culture of Inclusion Using Web, Social Media, and Text
Resources for Youth & Families
Sharing and Education
Telephone & Text
TrevorLifeLine for young people by phone: 1-866-488-7386
TrevorText for young people by text: Text “START” to 678678
Trans Lifeline for transgender, non-binary, and gender-questioning people: 877-565-8860
TrevorChat for young people: thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now CenterLink’s list of LGBT community centers in your state: https://www.lgbtcenters.org/LGBTCenters
Lambda Legal help desk for legal assistance: https://www.lambdalegal.org/helpdesk
Learn more about the laws and policies in your state: http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps
Resource Apps for Youth
Strappd is a mobile app that helps Youth connect to services where they can find Food, Shelter, Health, Resources and Work.
ReThink (iOS, Android)
ReThink was created by 17-year-old Trisha Prabhu to stop cyberbullying before it starts. Prabhu, saddened and frustrated by the death by suicide of an 11-year-old girl who had been cyberbullied, created ReThink to promote responsible digital citizenship in youth.
The Check-in App (Australia) (iOS, Android)
Do you have a friend who seems to be having a hard time but don’t know what to say? Designed in consultation with young people, the Check-in app helps take the fear out of having a conversation with a friend who might be struggling.
KnowBullying (iOS, Android)
Research shows that spending at least 15 minutes a day talking with your kids can build the foundation for a strong relationship, develop their resilience to peer pressure, and help prevent bullying. The KnowBullying app facilitates these conversations by providing parents with tips about bullying and warning signs that their child is bullying, being bullied or witnessing bullying, all targeted to specific age groups.
Refuge Restrooms (iOS, Android)
Everybody pees, and everyone deserves to do so safely. Navigating sex-segregated bathrooms can be dangerous and stressful for transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming individuals. The Refuge Restrooms app provides a solution: users can search for single stall and gender neutral bathrooms by proximity, add new restroom listings, and rate existing listings.
Only 13% of rural LGBT students reported that school personnel intervened always or most of the time when they heard homophobic remarks, and 11% said school personnel intervened when they heard negative remarks related to gender expression.
Creating An Online Environment
One of the fastest-growing and significant areas of study, is that of exploring, understanding and documenting the numerous ways that marginalized LGBTQ youth use social media as part of their everyday experiences in an attempt to safely navigate their lives through learning, participating, engaging, communicating and constructing identities in digital spaces.
Rural LGBT students were more likely to feel unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation (71% vs. 62% of suburban and 58% of urban school students) and gender expression (49% of rural students vs. 42% of suburban and 42% of urban students).
Don’t forget the following when you are sharing info or setting up a social media profile for your classroom:
Who is your audience?
Will you be speaking to students? Their families? Teachers? All of them? Instagram allows you to also privatize your feed so that others can’t see what you are posting unless confirmed by you.
Create a Content Calendar
Decide what you might post on a regular schedule (to help you plan more effectively).
Use social media scheduling software - there are many free options out there that let you copy text, paste a photo, and tell it when to post in a matter of minutes. If you have a plan, you can do an entire month in an hour or so.
Monitor comments! After all of your hard work, you don’t want to have a one-sided conversation. Many people feel much more comfortable talking from the safety of their keyboard vs. face-to-face or even by telephone.
Important LGBTQ+ Resources and Web Portals
Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project provides both crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ people under 25 years of age, and training to those wanting to support LGBTQ youth. The Project includes a 24-hour crisis phone line and free, confidential instant messaging for LGBTQ youth through TrevorChat, as well as the ability to text with trained counsellors.
Resources for those who would like to support youth include the Trevor Lifeguard Workshop, a free online learning module based on the Project’s in-person suicide prevention program, CARE Training, an introduction to the CARE (Connect, Accept, Respond, Empower) model of suicide prevention, and Ally Training, introducing adults to the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.
MindOut is an instant-message based service for LGBTQ youth run by trained online support workers. Confidential and anonymous, this service is open every day, including weekends. For those in crisis or in need of urgent support, MindOut support workers can listen to how youth are feeling, without judgement or forcing advice, and help youth to think about safety, identify coping strategies and explore support options, if desired.
This online support service also includes sessions specifically on issues for trans and non-binary folks, advocacy sessions that provide access to a member of the MindOut advocacy team, and sessions targeted to LGBTQ youth of colour.
GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) is an educational organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for LGBTQ students, where every student is valued and treated with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Along with conducting research and partnering with decision makers, GLSEN supports students and school staff by offering online tools such as a Gay-Straight Alliance Jump-Start Guide and resources for Ally Week, a student-led program where LGBTQ youth and educators lead the conversation on what they need from allies in their school.
Trans Lifeline (USA and Canada)
Trans Lifeline is a grassroots hotline and microgrants organization that offers direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis. The Hotline is the only service in the US in which all operators are transgender. Microgrants offer low-barrier grants to trans people for legal name changes and updated government ID documents, as well as specialized support for incarcerated and undocumented trans people.
The website also hosts a national database for information around name and gender marker changes on IDs, along with a list of ID clinics, should users require additional assistance.
People need accurate and consistent ID to open bank accounts, start new jobs, enroll in school, and travel. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, ID that does not match one’s gender exposes trans people to a range of dangerous situations, from not getting jobs to being denied housing or public benefits or being subject to harassment and physical violence. However, the name and gender change process can be complicated and expensive.
This web app is a one-stop hub for name and gender change information for those living in the United States. Here, users can find out how to get a legal name change where they live, and how to update name and gender markers on their state and federal IDs and records.
In the Community
Actions You Can Take to Make Your Community Safe for LGBTQ+ Youth
Work to improve rural communities’ familiarity with LGBT people and issues. Outreach and communication strategies and programs need to be tailored to rural communities’ unique experiences, needs, and values, rather than replicating urban-based strategies.
Build rural-based chapters wherever possible and actively participate in the local community, including on non-LGBT-specific issues, as relationship-building and familiarity require time to cultivate.
Conduct regular outreach and community building with individuals and community service organizations in rural areas, to improve the connection between rural service organizations and LGBT-competent and affirming resources.
Build and strengthen relationships with other organizations and providers (LGBT-specific or otherwise) in rural areas, to facilitate opportunities for collaboration and mutual education.
Similarly, work to improve LGBT communities’ familiarity with rural people and issues.
Intentionally present images of LGBT people in rural settings in advocacy materials, and ensure the use of diverse images of LGBT people in rural settings, such as Black transgender women, LatinX gender non-conforming people, LGBT people with disabilities, and more. Positive and diverse representation helps expand the image of who lives in and who belongs in rural areas— and in the LGBT community itself.
Ensure representation of people living in rural areas in LGBT organizational leadership positions, staff, boards, and so on.
At the state level, generally speaking, policies regarding LGBT students either prohibit discrimination or enable it. LGBT-supportive policies can explicitly prohibit discrimination in schools based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and—importantly for students with LGBT parents—can also prohibit discrimination based on “association” with someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Provide direct, hands-on assistance whenever possible, such as legal workshops or clinics. These efforts can help LGBT people in rural areas navigate existing inequalities under the law, redress illegal discrimination when it happens, and be equipped with the tools or information they may need to advocate for themselves in the future.
Conduct both research and public education about the unique needs and experiences of rural LGBT people. Update organizational offerings and efforts to be responsive to those needs.
Review events and programming to make it easier for rural residents to attend or participate (such as phone-call town halls, live-streaming events, or other ways of virtual participation), as well as hosting events in rural areas as funding allows.
Support the development of tools and resources to educate service providers about LGBT people and their needs, including the unique needs of those in rural areas. This can include supporting the development and delivery of model policies, best practices, and provider trainings to ensure that local providers are willing and able to support LGBT people, and that LGBT people feel welcome when working with rural service providers and organizations.
Volunteer & Educate
Free Mom Hugs
Free Mom Hugs is a registered non profit organization made up of affirming parents and allies who love the LGBTQ+ community unconditionally. We are dedicated to educating families, church and civic leaders, encouraging them to not only affirm the value of the LGBTQ+ community but celebrate them.
Athlete Ally is an organization founded by Straight for Equality in Sports award winner Hudson Taylor to encourage athletes of all ages to treat their teammates with respect and dignity and to combat harassment and bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity on the field and in the locker room.
GLSEN’s Ally Week
Ally Week is a project of GLSEN organized to help student groups recognize and celebrate straight allies dedicated to stopping bullying and harassment in their schools. GLSEN has a number of organizing resources available so that students can organize activities and programs.
GSA Network: Straight Allies
This is a great list from the GSA Network that documents some of the ways that homophobia affects straight people and some simple things that allies can do in their schools to help prevent bullying and harassment. You can also download a PDF version of this list to use as a chapter resource.
Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index
Get the report card for corporate America on LGBTQ-inclusive policies. Released annually by the Human Rights Campaign use this report to learn more about where your company stands when it comes to equality. The results may surprise you. You can also use it to inform your purchases and they even have a smartphone ap to help you make choices on the go.
Human Rights Campaign's Healthcare Equality Index
The HEI surveyed many hospitals looking for five main policy criteria: patient non-discrimination, visitation, decision making, cultural competency training and employment policies and benefits. This is a great place to find out what policies are in place at your hospital.
LGBT Adults Strongly Prefer Brands That Support Causes Important to Them and that also Offer Equal Workplace Benefits
This press release details a poll conducted by Witeck-Combs Communications and Harris Interactive that highlights brand preferences and customer loyalty among LGBT customers. It can help you to make the case as to why these issues are important and how inclusive policies can help your company’s bottom line. Equality is good for business.
Straight But Not Narrow
Straight But Not Narrow was founded by Avan Jogia, Andre Pochon, and Heather Wilk in order to engage young, straight, men in the campaign to end bullying and harassment. Through social media, merchandising, and collaborative campaigns with other equality organizations they are trying to positively impact the way that America’s youth feel about LGBTQ equality.
Coming Out as a Supporter
Written by The Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG National this guide was the first of its kind publication meant to engage allies. This guide outlines the right, and wrong, things to do when a person comes out to them, dispels some common myths about LGBTQ people held by the general public, and outlines some simply ways to show support.
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry
The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) provides programming and support for research to serve faith communities, the LGBTQ community and their allies, as well as religious scholars. They have recently developed the Racial/Ethnic Roundtable Project which is dedicated to working within African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino communities.
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality
GLMA's mission is to ensure equality in health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and health care providers.
The Institute for Welcoming Resources
The Institute for Welcoming Resources is a project of the National LGBTQ Task Force that creates resources, holds events and conferences, and helps to strengthen the welcoming church movement. The organization also offers trainings for faith based groups that would like to become more inclusive and developed ‘The Shower of Stoles’ collection to represent the lives of LGBTQ faith leaders from 32 faith traditions in six countries.
You Can Play
Inspired by the untimely death of Brendan Burke, You Can Play was founded by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman to encourage equality and fairness in sports. They have created a series of videos with college and professional sports teams that ensure that LGBTQ athletes feel welcome in the locker room and respected by their teammates. You Can Play has seen an outpouring of support from the NHL.
On Your Own
Send out a newsletter with your students that includes community events that might be more inclusive for families.
Attend area PFLAG or LGBTQ meetings as an ally
Take Safe Zone Training - Better yet, become a trainer
Host a book club for parents that explores diversity
Volunteer at organizations that serve youth or specifically LGBTQ+ youth
Become a Mentor