LGBTQ+ Youth Expertise on Allyship and Advocacy for Educators


  • Suraj Uttamchandani Indiana University
  • Iona Pfingston Chroma Youth Leader
  • Becca Smith Chroma Youth Leader
  • Barbara Dennis Indiana University



Allyship, Youth Educators, LGBTQ Students, Advocacy


We discuss what we have learned as youth and adult volunteers in a youth-led, community-based LGBTQ+ youth group in the Midwest United States. Based on our experiences in schools and  conversations with educators, we make a distinction between allyship for and advocacy alongside LGBTQ+ youth. We offer what we see as five important ways to promote a generative school climate for LGBTQ+ individuals. For each, we discuss what we see as the practical difference between the approaches of allies versus those of advocates. Through these ideas, we hope to engage teachers, administrators, and other youth in conversation around the importance of listening to youth expertise and experience when trying to create more inclusive classrooms and schools.

Author Biographies

Suraj Uttamchandani, Indiana University

Suraj Uttamchandani is a doctoral candidate in the learning sciences at Indiana University (USA). He has been an adult participant in Chroma and Chroma’s TC since January 2016. His research centers on political forms of learning, participatory forms of research, and discourse analytic methodologies. He teaches undergraduate courses on learning theory for pre-service teachers as well as for non-education majors. 

Iona Pfingston, Chroma Youth Leader

Iona Pfingston first joined Chroma in summer 2016 as a junior in high school and has been a part of the Teaching Committee since learning about it later that same year. They have been involved in the TC since this time working to educate youth-serving professionals of all kinds in LGBTQ+ cultural competency. They are attending Indiana University and pursuing degrees in both Spanish linguistics and mathematics.

Becca Smith, Chroma Youth Leader

Becca Smith has been involved with Chroma since the 8th grade and throughout high school, and served on the Teaching Committee ever since its creation. She works to design, facilitate, and evaluate cultural competency trainings for youth-serving professionals working with LGBTQ+ youth. She is attending Smith College and plans to pursue a degree in sociology.

Barbara Dennis, Indiana University

Barbara Dennis is a Professor of Inquiry Methodology at Indiana University. She combines activism, feminist engagements and methodological innovations to engage with people toward what matters for them. She has been involved with Chroma since its beginning.