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Jonathan Van Ness on How To Support LGBTQIA+ Students

Jonathan Van Ness on How To Support LGBTQIA+ Students

If you haven’t heard of Jonathan Van Ness, you’re missing out on a very significant cultural icon. They are openly non-binary, a star of Queer Eye, have their own podcast and also a spin-off Netflix show.

The podcast is called Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, and it’s honestly a source of such incredible wisdom. Jonathan has such an incredibly infectious curiosity, and a true gift of making their guests feel so comfortable with sharing their expertise. Each episode focuses on a topic that Jonathan is curious about, and they source experts in the field to share their scholarship. The episodes are light and easy to listen to, while at the same time are full of such depth and richness of knowledge. You just can’t help but get sucked in to this amazing wormhole of also, all of a sudden, becoming exceedingly curious about whatever topic they’re approaching this week.

JVN, if you or your team read this, can we please have a censored version? I honestly would love to implement this podcast as a teaching tool!

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago JVN put a call out for fans to ask questions, and they would pick out a bunch to answer on a special episode. The episode is called “What’s It Like To Get Curious? With Jonathan Van Ness”, and you can listen to it by either searching your favourite podcast streaming service, or through your web browser here.

So I answered the call out by posting my question on the Instagram page. My question was: “As a school teacher, how best can I support LGBTQIA+ high school students?”

If you jump to 37:45, you can listen to the response. I would actually encourage you to listen to the whole episode, but you can skip to that exact point if you desire.

Below is copied from the show’s transcript, and I truly feel it’s such important information for every single teacher to hear. And I mean actively hear – where you listen to it, absorb it, reflect on it, and then action it.

I don’t know if I can tell you exactly as a teacher because I’m not a high school teacher, but I can tell you that to be the best ally in my opinion, you need to do the most research on what your LGBTQIA+ students are going through. That means being a really good listener, but it also means actively seeking out research and scholarship of, like, of people who are like your students who have maybe moved on from school that can speak to what they needed or what they didn’t feel seen in.

I think it’s about understanding more, doing less.

Because you’ve got to understand what they’re up against before you go in there and start trying to be an ally.

You can also do it in smaller ways: which is, like, when you see bullying, if you see transphobia, if you see homophobia, if you see internalized, you know, misogyny in and, in and around your, your students, I think it’s important to call that out.

I was really targeted for so much bullying in my junior high and high school life that a lot of teachers and educators knew, either knew was happening directly, saw, or heard about and made no efforts to do anything about it. And we all know who, like, what bullies or who bullies are and who is kind of making people’s lives miserable.

And it’s just it’s, like, “Oh, boys will be boys. That’s what they do. They make fun of people.” Or, “Girls are catty and they do this.” And it’s, like, no, no matter what your gender is, you can bully. You can exclude. You can be mean, you can torment, you can physically harm. That isn’t. All of those things have nothing to do with your gender and they happen in all the genders.

And so if you see that injustice, call that injustice out.

I feel as teachers we all have a responsibility to actually, truly be allies to ALL of our students. We need to be active, and we need to remain learners. Unless you are part of this community yourself, you can never truly know what it’s like. But we can learn. We can seek information and resources. We can ask our student body representatives. We can work *with* our students to best support them.

But for the love of everything, I hope that we are being active in our pursuit of eradicating bullying. Homophobia. Transphobia. I hope we are creating a truly safe space within our schools.

Our LGBTQIA+ students may not have safe spaces elsewhere, and this is something we can provide for them. We can show them that we see them and accept them and respect them and care for them as they are, for exactly who they are.

Thank you so much Jonathan for answering my question. I’m going to take your advice into my school and our Rainbow Club, and continue to build up a culture of actual acceptance and welcoming for our LGBTQIA+ students. I’m going to expand my curiosity on their experiences, and I’m going to learn.


Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys sharing the real and human teacher life, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine.

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  • Melanie LiCausi March 2, 2022 at 8:58 am

    Very insightful, thanks for sharing. 😉 “We can work *with* our students to best support them.”

    • Emily March 2, 2022 at 9:09 am

      I think it’s something us teachers wish we had more control over, working *with* instead of following the prescribed content. Imagine the support we could provide!

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