Downloadable posters for classroom use. Available in multiple languages. (Photo source: Emily Meadows)
Safe Space signs are used to signal that the room they adorn is a “safe space” for all people, particularly LGBTQ+ folks. These signals are important because, while many organizations and institutions claim to welcome everyone, this too often means that they welcome everyone except openly LGBTQ+ people. A Safe Space sign that explicitly names LGBTQ+ people as included can make a significant difference in signaling to gender and sexual minority students that they are part of the “everyone” schools refer to.
While these signs are valuable, the wording of “safe space” can be misleading. We, as educators, cannot guarantee that any space will be safe for LGBTQ+ children, who have a long-documented record of being targeted for bullying and harassment in schools. Indeed, to claim that a learning space is safe for all children when the curriculum, for example, does not reflect positive representations of any LGBTQ+ people, can come across as disingenuous or even gaslighting. Indeed, while our intentions may be fervently inclusive, intent and impact do not always align. As we work to build real equity, safety, and inclusion in international schools, we can also always affirm a child’s right to belong.
As we reflect on another year of learning, consider how you will start 2023-2024 in the fall. Two years ago, I created a collection of posters for international educators to welcome students with a message of belonging. Since then, the collection has grown to represent 49 different languages. The posters, featuring the Progress Pride flag, are free to download, print, and share. The posters are updated to include transgender people and people of color, with translations in several languages. I designed this poster collection initially to offer educators options for inclusive signage in their international schools. Once I published it for my Twitter contacts, it became a heart-warming community project with educators chiming in from around the world to offer additional translations for their local context or to gift translations to others, and the language options have continued to grow. Further, I have enjoyed the way collaborators overcame linguistic challenges that come with translations, working together to nail down interpretations for “belonging” to capture the sense of the meaning, even if a direct equivalent does not exist in their language.
In addition to these welcoming posters, I encourage LGBTQ+ educators and allies to seek training and resources to make their schools more equitable and inclusive. A poster is a brilliant start, but it is only the beginning.
Link to download and share the free You Belong Here poster collection.
 Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Birkett, M., Van Wagenen, A., & Meyer, I. H. (2014). Protective School Climates and Reduced Risk for Suicide Ideation in Sexual Minority Youths. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 279-286.
 Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danischewski, D. J. (2016). The 2015 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN.
Dr. Emily Meadows (she/her) is an LGBTQ+ consultant and published author specializing in international schools. She also teaches for the George Washington University graduate program in LGBT Health Policy & Practice. Emily creates an environment that is non-judgmental and engaging for her clients while taking an intersectional approach that addresses both the why and the how of equity and belonging so that school communities can effectively affirm and support LGBTQ+ students, colleagues, and families.