LGBTQ+ youth and sense of belonging in a school community
A psychological sense of belonging to a school community is an important factor in the academic success and wellbeing of youth. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, and other sexuality and gender non-conforming (LGBTQ+) youth face significant barriers to belonging in school communities. Using Goodenow’s (1993) definition of belonging as “the extent to which students feel personally accepted, respected, included, and supported by others-especially teachers and other adults within the school social environment” (pp. 60-61), this phenomenological study explored the sense of belonging of LGBTQ+ high school students in school communities in the Comox Valley. Qualitative data collection was done through student-created art, creative writing pieces and/or semi-structured interviews. Three participants created visual art pieces and completed interviews, one participant did a creative writing piece, and two participants took part in interviews only. Thematic data analysis of the transcribed interviews and written piece revealed five main themes: acceptance, identity as important words in the definition of belonging, and Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), friends, and supportive adults as important factors in belonging. This study suggests that LGBTQ+ students feel they most belong when they attend a GSA, when they have supportive adults and friends around, and when they can express their true identity without being judged. The study supports the need for continued support of comprehensive LGBTQ+ policies and practices in school communities.