All educators help shape their students’ worldview–and self-image–with the narratives they hold space for in their curriculum. As an English teacher, I am especially aware of the stories and perspectives I validate through the books I assign and recommend to my students. This Pride Month, I have been considering how I use literature to broaden my students’ understanding of gender expression and sexuality. Though I teach 8th grade English and so am primarily interested in young adult novels, I’ve accumulated a list of some wonderful LGBTQ+ books across the K-12 range!
In high school, I was a quiet, serious student. I worked hard to get good grades so that I could reasonably apply to top-tier colleges. As high school graduation got closer and closer, I began realizing that I was attracted to women. My plan shifted from getting into the most academically rigorous college to getting into the most queer-friendly (and still academically rigorous) school I could find.
When an LGBTQ teenager walks into a therapist’s office, the therapist needs to keep certain basic truths in mind. Even though things are getting better for LGBTQ adults in our culture, they are not necessarily better for teens or children before they come out.
I caught my breath and looked down at Justin, who was staring at me with intense curiosity. We were standing with the rest of his preschool classmates in the stairwell outside of the classroom, waiting for the head teacher to open the door. All twelve of the jostling, chattering three and a half year olds stopped and turned to look at me. They knew me and accepted me as another teacher at their school—I had been to their classroom several times that year: to build block towers with them, to help them paint, to scaffold their play and their interactions. No one had wondered aloud about my gender until now. I hadn’t had to answer this question yet.
School policies and practices must send a message that all students are safe and free to bring their “whole” selves to school, that every student can safely explore the many varied aspects of their identity, and that harassment and bullying are never acceptable by or toward any student. The best practices do not simply make schools safe and affirming for trans and gender-diverse youth; they make schools safe for all students—lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth; youth whose gender expression varies from what is considered normative for their birth-assigned sex; gender-expansive or gender-creative youth; youth whose gender identity and/or expression goes beyond the binary; and cisgender, gender-conforming, straight youth.