We are very mindful of the fact that this unit only provides students with the most rudimentary introduction to the history and experiences of LGBTQ+ people in this country. Our core text provides students with a window into the life of one agender person (and their friends, who have diverse gender, romantic, and sexual identities). For their final project, students will have the opportunity to spend time studying an LGBTQ+ American more closely. But one of the strengths of this community is its diversity; students must leave this unit understanding that while LGBTQ+ Americans may share some common history and experiences, the community is anything but monolithic.
As always, it is essential that teachers ensure that their classroom is a safe space for all students, with a particular focus on supporting students who may experience this unit as more of a “mirror” than “window.” You may have students who are out as LGBTQ+ in your classroom, but it is equally important to teach this unit with the knowledge that you very likely have LGBTQ+ students in your classroom who are not out. There are many fantastic resources available for supporting LGBTQ students and building awareness of queer issues and history in your classrooms. Here are just a few:
- Developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Classroom Resources (GLSEN)
- Safe Space Kit: A Guide to Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students in Your School (GLSEN)
- Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention: Model Language, Commentary, and Resources by Christine Moutier, M.D., Doreen S. Marshall, Ph.D., Jill Cook, M.Ed., CAE, Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, Ph.D., NCSP, and Sam Brinton (The Trevor Project)
- Creating an LGBT-Inclusive School Climate: A Teaching Tolerance Guide for School Leaders by Teaching Tolerance (Learning for Justice)
- 10 Tips for Building a More LGBTQ-Inclusive Classroom by Joe English (Education Week)
We recommend letting parents know that you will be teaching this book and discussing sexuality and gender identity in the classroom. It is also important to let school support staff know so that they are aware of what will be addressed.
This text raises a number of very important issues about race and class in the United States. While students will regularly engage with these topics within lessons, our overarching focus in this unit is on gender and sexual identity. If you have the time and flexibility within your schedule, we encourage you to supplement this unit with texts that dive more deeply into the American criminal justice system, and the way it intersects with race.
A note on terminology: We have made the choice to use the acronym LGBTQ+ in this unit. There is no perfect acronym or word to use that encapsulates the entirety of this community, but we have chosen this acronym because of its inclusion of the “Q” (for queer, an umbrella term that a growing number of people prefer) and the “+,” which is an (admittedly imperfect) acknowledgement of the diversity of people included in the community.