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!
My summer reading has begun with This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel. I chose this book for two reasons; I am a parent trying to raise gender-aware and sensitive kids and also an academic, a sociologist who studies gender. These are two roles that often overlap but at times can be difficult to negotiate. I want my children to express gender in whatever ways they see fit and yet I am aware of the constraints of social structures on gendered bodies. This novel is a wonderful depiction of how and in what ways a family deals with gender. Frankel tells the story of a family, made up of two-heterosexual, cis-gender parents that have four kids, all boys. However, the last child, Claude, struggles with his gender (boy) and sex (male) identity. The story follows how and in what ways the family influences, reacts to, and shapes the transition of the young child.
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.