The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion provides a guide to educational professionals on how to create LGBT+ inclusive schools that benefit all students, families, and staff, and affirm LGBT+ identities.
Can you briefly outline your background?
I earned my Bachelor’s of Science at The Ohio State University in Human Development and Family Sciences. I focused on how an LGBT+ identity impacts individuals and their families. Then, I earned my first Master’s degree in the field of Social Work at Barry University, focusing on mental healthcare for LGBT+ people, their partners, and their families. After recognizing the absence of inclusive information in schools, I earned my second Master’s degree in the field of Education. Here, I chose a specializion in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governor’s University. My work focused on updating and creating inclusive curricula for K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and adult learners through instructional design work.
I have also earned certifications in online instruction from Columbia University. This allows me to teach learners of all ages through online learning platforms and hold social work licenses in the states of Ohio and New York. Currently, I’m working on my doctorate in Educational Leadership from University of the Cumberlands. My focus remains on guiding leaders in schools, business, and communities to become more LGBT+ inclusive personally and in workplaces.
I travel the US as a consultant, educator, and corporate trainer, as well as appearing at conferences as keynote speaker. Due to my 26+ years of experience in the field of LGBT+ inclusion, I have become the go-to “Leading LGBT+ Expert” for The New York Times, Cosmopolitan Magazine, CNBC, Huffington Post, various Parent and Business magazines and websites, and by a wide variety of professional organizations. In addition, I am currently a Teaching Associate at Columbia University and an Adjunct Professor at Brandman University.
What was the inspiration behind The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion?
My education began with recognizing that the beginning of life is where many self-worth struggles occur. This led me to earn my bachelor’s degree at Ohio State in Human Development and Family Sciences. Simultaneously, I was spending much of my time volunteering with LGBT+ organizations. Over time, my volunteer work grew. My experiences led me to consistently hear the struggles many in the LGBT+ community face(d) due to rejection by loved ones, in school, or by being forced to remain closeted for decades, thus creating internal chaos and a lack of self-love because they lacked acceptance by those whom they loved. This realization sent me into my first master’s degree program, where I focused my studies on LGBT+ issues. As years passed, though, I remained bothered by how often textbooks still lacked representation of minority groups. This inspired me to go back to school to earn my 2nd master’s degree.
My work now focuses on the needs of the LGBT+ community, teaching and training schools and businesses how to become more LGBT+ inclusive. I work as a Lecturer at Columbia University and an Adjunct Professor at Brandman University. Also, I write articles, book chapters, and books that focus on acknowledging and celebrating minority populations too long left out. I truly believe (and research proves!) lack of representation correlates to a lack of self-acceptance and self-love. Furthermore, when we show achievements and potential for people of all backgrounds and identities, we can better appreciate one another.
The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion simply acts as a guide through the process of learning necessary information to recognize our individual power to support and affirm others. Which, in turn, makes the world better for us all!
We have to know, why the tie dye on the book cover? It’s quite unusual!
I’ve loved all things tie dye for my entire life; the unplanned colorful chaos during the process always results in a beautiful surprise when finished. Because it is my favorite thing, I wear it often enough that others began to associate it with me. My work in the LGBT+ space (known for its rainbow flag) became a rainbow tie dye theme throughout my work. The background of my presentation slides, my business cards, my website ThisIsKryss.com all include rainbow tie dye.
Hundreds of event attendees have told me the tie dye tells them that, though the topic is important and serious, the learning experience will be approachable and fun. When we discussed the book cover, I never had an image in mind– except it would include rainbow tie dye! Just like the events I provide, I present the information within this book as easy to understand, approachable , and inviting. Plus, I hope that the tie dyed book spine helps the book to stand out on bookshelves, making it easier to reach for regularly to consistently use as a resource!
How could teachers and other educators, including parents currently tackling home schooling, use The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion in an educational setting?
The intention of this book isn’t to override or dismantle what is currently working in schools and in the home. This is not a platform to encourage every parent and every educator to scrap every aspect of their educating process! Instead, I designed it to inform the reader about updated terminology, what can be harmful to learners, and then how to both identify these moments and to fill the gaps with appropriate accepting information.
At a time when many feel overwhelmed, overloaded, and overly exhausted, this book helps people expected to deep dive into all research, learn new information from a zillion sources, and then to personally figure out how to utilize all of the newly attained knowledge. It’s a one-stop-shop for anyone from anywhere who recognizes that our differences make us better and our kids are best prepared for life when they are taught about the reality that we all have value!
Overall, we are seeing an increasing amount of schools work towards more inclusive settings. Do you have any advice for teachers and administrative staff who are just beginning this journey?
I wrote The Educator’s Guide to LGBT+ Inclusion to allow readers a deep breath of relief, especially those at the start of this process. Most are incredible educators who have perhaps been too overworked to begin sooner or afraid to accidentally harm children by making a mistake. Now that research continues to show the importance of inclusivity in school settings, everyone has to get on board. This book is written using approachable language and is meant to be empowering, not to require a dictionary to understand. Furthermore, it offers direct guidance so that no one has to reinvent the wheel; they just follow the step-by-step process!
In addition, some use this book as the starting point of their team’s, department’s, school’s, or even their district’s journey. The book was written to work independently or in groups or as a collective. This can be a great bonding exercise as everyone learns together. I am also able to come in person or virtually for those who prefer a more hands-on approach with the use of the book to supplement the experience!
What are some important lessons young people can take away from your book?
Young people are incredible! They are growing up in a post-9/11 time, experiencing active shooter drills, and now they are learning during a pandemic. That’s a lot! Young people’s minds and hearts, though, are wide open to absorb whatever they are given access to learn. As a result, many will find great opportunities to deep-dive into different aspects of the book.
Some may enjoy the bibliographies and stories of some of the leaders in the LGBT+ movement. Others may get excited to virtually tour locations where the Stonewall Riot or the Compton Cafeteria Riot occurred. Still others may love the science and math behind how our world struggles to quantify impacts of homophobia and transphobia. Visual learners may watch seasons of “I Am Jazz” to learn about the life of a transgender teen. Audio learners may prefer to listen to the audiobook version. This is the opportunity for them to make the information fit their interests, using this topic area as a gateway to learn far more about diversity, equity, and inclusion than they may have had the time for in a typical classroom setting.
For those who identify as LGBT+, I hope that this book not only lets them recognize that they are not alone, but also that so many adults are working to learn, grow, and become better allies. With the high rates of suicidality in LGBT+ youth, I hope this helps them to know that they are wanted, they are valid, and they matter. I have no doubt they will grow up to do incredible things, we just need them to stay here long enough to reach adulthood and let their brilliance shine!
Are there any additional resources you would recommend for parents and teachers looking for further resources or advice to create an inclusive classroom?
The book has a lengthy “Additional Resources” section in the back, including websites and locations divided by category. It also offers “Recommended Readings” divided by reading age group and topic area for learners of all ages and stages with all types of interests. From board books for infants to graphic novels for teens, from autobiographies for middle schoolers to in-depth histories for adults, there are so many incredible ways to keep learning about the LGBT+ population!
Any final thoughts?
There is research that indicates that, for each and every homophobic or transphobic experience an LGBT+ person has, they are 2.5x more likely to self-harm. I know that everyone is busy. I know many may think this is a small population and therefore worth a small amount of attention or time. With so much going on, I truly do get it. However, if someone told you that your student’s or your child’s self-harm risk increases 2.5x each time you got it wrong or didn’t help them when someone else got it wrong, would you make the time to get it right? Research also shows that even just one person affirming and supporting an LGBT+ person lessens that person’s risk of suicide by 40%. Taking the first steps and learning to be a better ally saves lives.