Activity 7


What Can We Do?


In this activity, students listen to the concerns of real teenagers dealing with homophobia or read testimonials from gay and straight students and teachers about dealing with homophobia. All of the stories illustrate how homophobia contributes to a climate of hostility, making adolescence especially hard to navigate. The activity concludes with a discussion of what can be done to make schools less hostile to gay and lesbian youth.


  • To put a human face on the issue of homophobia and its effects on gay and straight students
  • To consider how to create an environment that respects all persons regardless of sexual orientation

Age Level: High school to adult

Time: About 45 minutes

Materials: Handout 1: Testimonials

Subject Areas: Social studies, English, health


Testimonials are a way to put a human face on the issue of homophobia and the resultant isolation, fear, depression, and anger that its victims report. By hearing the voices and stories of real people, homophobia is moved from the intellectual to the personal domain, and it becomes increasingly difficult for compassionate human beings to ignore or discount the need for anti-homophobia education in their schools. Ideally, you should gather a panel of people from your local school or community who can speak directly about their experiences with homophobia. Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is an organization with groups in many communities in the United States that may be able to assist in putting together such a panel. Allow panel members to speak about their own experiences and follow up with questions and answers from students. You may want to discuss possible questions with the students ahead of time.

If you are unable to bring together a panel, students should read Handout 1: Testimonials for homework or in class. Ask them to highlight a word, phrase, or passage that particularly moves or strikes them as they read each story.

Begin class by asking students to write for five or ten minutes about the meaning of their highlighted text. Ask students to share their writing.

Use the following questions to continue discussion:

  • In what ways do these young people experience isolation and loneliness?
  • In what ways are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teenagers "invisible?" To each other? To their friends? To their parents? To the community?
  • What role do parents play in their children's acceptance of self?
  • What role do other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people play in the acceptance of self?
  • What role do friends play in the acceptance of self?
  • Who else plays an important role?

To move the discussion toward responsibility for creating a positive school environment for students--both gay and straight--facing homophobia, ask the following questions:

  • In what ways do these stories describe what could happen to a student at your school?
  • What could be done to make school a more positive place for the students telling these stories?
  • What could you do to make school a more positive place?

Encourage students to follow through on suggestions for promoting tolerance at school. Possibilities might include:

Not laughing at homophobic jokes

In this case, students could role play how they might respond the next time they hear an offensive joke. What would they say to the person telling the joke?

Supporting a LGBT friend

Again, students could act out skits of how they might respond to someone coming out, or they could write an entry in their journal about what they would do.

Providing information for LGBT students

Books about homosexuality are hard to keep on school library shelves. Many students, too embarrassed to check them out, take them instead. A group of students could talk to the school librarian about good books for gay and lesbian teens. As a class project, students could raise the money necessary to buy these books for the library.

Promoting dialog between LGBT and straight students

Some schools have gay-straight alliances that work to promote tolerance. Organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) can provide more information about forming such a group.


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