Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Department of Educational Foundations & Exceptionalities


Stephanie Wasta

Katya Koubek

Kristen Kelley


Within the first few months of 2022 more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in states across the country (Human Rights Campaign, 2022). Many of these bills, some of which are now laws, discriminate against transgender students or restrict instruction and materials related to LGBTQ+ topics in schools. Gender and Sexually Diverse (GSD) students often do not feel safe in schools (Kosciw et al., 2020). Using a phenomenological approach, this qualitative study sought to identify the factors that helped GSD students feel the most supported in high schools in order to assist educators with actionable ways they can support students regardless of their own or overarching conservative social and political policies. By interviewing college students and a recent college graduate, participants were able to reflect on their high school experiences. These four GSD students felt most supported by their protective friendships, accepting peers, connections to the arts, and affirming adults who were direct and intentional with their support. The participants suggested that educators, regardless of their own or overarching conservative beliefs or policies, should at minimum ask for and use students’ preferred names and pronouns. The data suggest that to be supportive of GSD students, educators should be knowledgeable of GSD identities and school and community resources, create safe spaces by building relationships, and be direct with their support. Ultimately this study contributes to insight on how to support GSD students in high schools, even those with conservative social and political policies.



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