Creating Inclusive Spaces: Tips for Students and Educators During Pride Month and Beyond

With LGBTQ+ Pride Month coming up in June, it is a time to celebrate each other and to look at ways in which students and educators can create and maintain safe, inclusive spaces. This is not only for Pride Month but can be applicable all throughout the year.

We’ve put together some support for trans-inclusive spaces in universities in the past, and we hope this article helps create discussion and genuine, positive action that can be used to create a welcoming safe space for all at university and beyond.

A person making a hand heart in front of a pride flag

What is Pride Month?

Pride is celebrated every year in June, which is when the Stonewall riots took place in 1969. It was an important protest in the history of gay rights and changed the world in many ways.

Pride has been a celebration every year since, where people of all backgrounds and identities come together to celebrate how far LGBTQ+ rights have come over the last 50+ years and also to fight for greater inclusion for all and to work on areas where there is so much still to be done.

people marching for pride month

Anxiety and depression in the LGBTQ+ community

There is a higher rate of instances of anxiety and depression in the LGBTQ+ community than for straight or gender-conforming people, and there are many reasons why this is the case.

There is no single answer that solves this statistic, but there are certain things that need to be improved. Creating inclusive spaces for students in higher education and maintaining them, is a vital part of the long-term improvement for the community as a whole.

Girl stressed lying on the sofa

The importance of safe, inclusive spaces in universities

A safe, inclusive space is where a person (or category of people) can feel confident that they will not be exposed to criticism, harassment, discrimination, or any other type of physical or psychological harm.

As most LGBTQ+ people are not born directly into an existing community just like them, they will seek other people during their lifetime. This is why higher education institutions must be proactive in creating safe, inclusive spaces, and also support the growth of professional LGBTQ+ communities.

young man smiling in front of pride flag

How to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students

A commitment to diversity and inclusion must be genuine and honest to have any hope of success, and there must be action against any instances of harassment.

This could include a dedicated LGBTQ+ space on campus where students understand that there is somewhere where they will 100% be safe, as well as an online service with important resources for students to access and to talk online with other members of the community.

Every person comes into their own at their own speed in all walks of life, but with so many LGBTQ+ students hiding their identity when first going to university, there must be a proactive approach from universities and the students’ union to ensure that they have a safe place.

A group of students talking

Tips to overcome anxiety as a student

There are a few general things that you can do to try and help overcome your anxiety and stress at university, and some specific things if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

  1. Stop to breathe – If you are struggling with anxiety, take a step back and take a deep breath. Breathing in and out slowly and deeply helps to settle your body down and bring down your heart rate, which helps to prevent panic from taking over.
  2. Talk to someone – speak to your close friends and family about how you are feeling, and how your anxiety is manifesting. If it is having a detrimental impact on your daily life, talking to someone you trust can make a big difference.
  3. Plan ahead – people in the LGBTQI+ community are naturally more attuned to understanding where and when they are safest. By planning ahead, you can take control of your anxiety and carefully plan how and when you are going to travel to different places, whether it is to an inclusive, safe space, a university lecture, a job, or a social event.
  4. Look for support – luckily, we are living in a time where there is a greater level of support than ever before for young people who are coming out as LGBTQ+ at university. It is important that you know you are not alone and that there is student support for the LGBTQ+ community at universities and through country-wide charities.
  5. Find your community – whether you have recently come out as LGBTQ+ or you are just in a new place without your support network, going out and finding your community is a good way to embrace your new university life, make new friends, and build a support network that will be there for you over the next few years of study and beyond.
  6. Take time out for yourself – although you shouldn’t just avoid new things because of anxiety, it is also very important to take time out just for yourself. This can be to just sit with a book, to listen to music, meditate, or just relax however you like to. We all need time to relax, settle into comforting things and to look after ourselves.

A girl comforting another girl

We are always looking at ways to help students feel safe and welcome wherever they are, as the mental health and wellbeing of students is very important.

Finding new ways to ensure this is the case is important, especially when it comes to celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month in June this year.

There is plenty to celebrate in all of us, and alongside the parades, the workshops, and the celebrations, it brings about a great chance to begin and continue the discussion to ensure inclusivity is one of the top topics in any discussion about the LGBTQ+ community and the wider student population.

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