Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselor Advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students: Intentions and Practice

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselor Advocacy for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Students: Intentions and Practice

Article excerpt

Apaucity of research exists on school counselor advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, and much of it is either anecdotal or absent advocacy (Simons, Kashubeck-West, & Althof, 2014). This is concerning given common negative school experiences LGBT students face (Kosciw, Greytak, Giga, Villenas, & Danischewski, 2016). The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has encouraged school counselors to advocate for all students, particularly those who have been historically marginalized, which includes LGBT students (ASCA, 2012). The focus of this study was examining the role of the school counselor in advocating for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) students. Given the lack of valid assessments on transgender or queer issues and the role of the school counselor and the unique experience of transgender people (i.e., the transgender experience is distinctly different in some ways from the LGB experience), we focus solely on school counselor advocacy for LGB students. Findings from this study, however, can inform future research on school counselor advocacy for transgender and gender nonconforming students because of the intersection of sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression.

School Counselor LGB Advocacy

Several articles have addressed school counselor LGB advocacy (Bidell, 2011; Brubaker, Harper, & Singh, 2011; Byrd and Hays, 2012; Pope, Bunch, & Rankins, 2010). Bidell (2011) reviewed research on Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and suggested that GSAs have been an important part of social justice and school counselor advocacy, in that GSAs are student-led groups that foster advocacy and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students and their allies. Brubaker, Harper, and Singh (2011) explored counselor advocacy at the intersection of multiculturalism and social justice for LGBTQ people during a discussion held at a national counseling conference where action plans were developed for counselors to become more socially and politically astute. They reviewed advocacy strategies developed by the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition (2009) and encouraged counselor advocates in their pursuit for social justice to: (a) learn about audiences, (b) communicate with respect, (c) identify what people have in common, (d) use language that brings people together, (e) develop primary messages supported by secondary messages, (f) reframe conversations about stereotypes, (g) challenge inaccurate information, (h) share personal stories, and (i) prepare beforehand to share with others who possess different viewpoints (Brubaker et al., 2011).

Noting that schools are places where issues of sexuality come up with LGBTQ students, Byrd and Hays (2012) examined school counselor LGBTQ competence and highlighted three tasks for school counselors in order to support LGBTQ students. First, school counselors self-reflect on early messages they received about LGBTQ people and how the messages impact them. Second, school counselors learn about how interpersonal skills are compromised when someone hides their true sexual minority status for a period of time. It is within the counseling relationship that someone who comes out begins to improve interpersonal skills, strengthens sexual identity, and improves self-esteem (Byrd & Hays, 2012). Last, school counselors provide affirmative counseling by being visible as LGBTQ advocates, intervening when harassment occurs, and using inclusive language (e.g., saying partner instead of boyfriend or girlfriend; for more resources, see Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network [GLSEN], 2017). Pope, Bunch, and Rankins (2010) recommended that school counselors promote safe schools policies, share about positive role models, become familiar with common challenges that sexual minorities face, challenge homophobia, use psychoaffective education and assessment, and learn about related ethical and legal issues.

Theory of Planned Behavior

The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been used in numerous studies over the past 25 years to understand what influences certain behaviors (Ajzen, 2015), including school counseling (McCabe & Rubinson, 2008; Shipp, 2010; Torrence, 2012). …

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