Beyond Differences just released its featured curriculum on Queer Visibility written by members of its National Teen Board. This dedicated group of high school students created a rich curriculum for middle schools with compelling lessons that include:
- A history lesson that highlights two mothers of the Pride Movement who were champions of inclusion.
- An activity that deconstructs common microaggressions faced by LGBTQ+ young people and presents ways to combat them to create a kinder community.
- A student leadership resource that teaches students to assess and build school policies that support representation, equity, and belonging for LGBTQ+ youth.
- An art activity that explores queer artists and gives young people ways to discuss and express their authentic identities through art.
As part of the launch of the new curriculum, Beyond Differences held a panel discussion with the National Teen Board members who created the lessons. The teens spoke passionately about their personal experiences with social isolation related to queerness, and how their curriculum was built to combat the challenges they faced, and foster belonging in middle schools across the nation.
“I wanted to have children, especially in middle school, feel like their school is a place where they can express themselves freely without feeling the burden of people judging or othering them,” explained Paarth (he/him), a rising high school junior on the National Teen Board Queer Visibility team. “We want people to be seen in their communities, in places where queerness isn’t talked about enough and in the right way.”
Matteo (he/him), a recent high school graduate who is heading to Harvard University in the fall, talked about why this curriculum is vital to educate all students who may not have had exposure to queer and trans people and may have fear-based feelings around them.
“Beyond Differences is an organization that celebrates everyone because of their differences and creates cultures of inclusion and belonging at schools,” says Matteo, who has been involved with the organization since 6th grade. “People are afraid because they don’t know what it means to be queer or trans, so I think building this awareness is really important for everyone, so people don’t have that fear and hate, which is born out of not knowing.”
Additionally, several teens were concerned about the onslaught of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in communities across the nation that make it challenging or illegal to discuss gender and sexuality in school. They highlighted the fact that regardless of where people live in the country – whether it’s a blue or red state – there will always be queer and trans students in the community.
When Helen (any pronouns), a rising high school junior, was working on the policy lessons, they asked, “How can we best make schools a safe place for queer kids?” As a teen who struggled with her own identity at school, Helen wanted to use these lessons to create cultures where students could feel comfortable in their full identity.
Rei (they/he), a rising junior, who worked on the history lesson, wants schools to learn about the little-known trailblazers who were pivotal in the gay rights movement.
“People like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson have been erased from the mainstream discussion despite the progress they made,” says Rei.
Reinforcing that these lessons were written to benefit all students, Sophia (she/her), a rising high school senior, added, “Our curriculum will also open up the eyes of non-queer students and help get policy in place.”
The Queer Visibility curriculum can be adapted and integrated into a variety of classroom and small group settings. Here are three ways:
- Clubs and Affinity Groups: Student groups are a great place for educators to implement Beyond Differences Queer Visibility curriculum and create a culture of belonging. The microaggressions lesson is a particularly powerful way for students to make the connection between what is endangering the queer community today and the legal policies of the past and present.
- Art and History Classes: This curriculum provides an opportunity to showcase the powerful stories and work of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Keith Haring, and activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera in a way to help students see themselves as changemakers and gain a better understanding of their LGBTQIA+ classmates.
- Collaboration with Student Council Officers: Teachers can work with student leaders to take action by reviewing their school’s student handbook together using the Policy Points resource. Cultures of belonging always start with inclusion.
Like all lesson plans offered by Beyond Differences, the Queer Visibility curriculum is free and can be downloaded.
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The misson of Beyond Differences® is to inspire students nationwide to end social isolation and create cultures of belonging for everyone. We envision a world where all youth are accepted, valued, and included no matter their differences. Beyond Differences® offers FREE SEL curriculum, lesson plans, and supplies’ to middle school educators all across the nation. Bring our programs to your school today!