Guidelines to Help School Personnel Respond to GLBT Students When They Disclose Their Sexual Orientation.

1. Do not act surprised when someone "comes out" to you, i.e. telling you that they think they ARE homosexually-oriented or bisexually-oriented. They have tested you with a series of "trial balloons" over a period of time and have decided that you can be trusted and helpful. Don't let them down now.

2. Deal with feelings first. Most gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (glbt) teenagers feel alone, afraid, and guilty. You can help by listening, allowing them to unburden uncomfortable feelings and thoughts.

3. Be supportive. Let glbt youth know that they are okay. Explain that many people have struggled with the issue of homosexuality. Acknowledge that dealing with one's sexuality is difficulty. Keep the door open for further conversations and assistance.

4. Assess the student's understanding of homosexuality or gender identity (for transgender students) issues. Replace misinformation with accurate knowledge. Do not assume that glbt teens know a lot about human sexuality. We have all been exposed to the same myths and stereotypes, so it is helpful to provide clarification.

5. Use nonjudgmental, all-inclusive language in your discussion. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues from students. Do not label or categorize.

6. Respect confidentiality. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender teenagers who share their identity withyou have established a sacred trust that must be respected.

7. Anticipate some confusion. Many glbt teenagers are sure of their sexual orientation by thei time they enter high school. Others will be confused and unsure.

8. Examine your own biases. You need to remain a neutral source of information and support.

9. Be informed. Most of us are products of a heterosexist/homophobic society that has been paralyzed by misinformation and fear. You cannot be free of it by just deciding to be free; read reliable resources and talk to qualified persons.

10. Know when and where to seek help. Know the referral agencies and counselors in your area. Gay and lesbian hotlines can provide access to professional persons and agencies that are qualified to help

Besner, H. F., & Spungin, C. I. (1995). Gay & lesbian students: Understanding their needs (pp. 110-111). Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.