Queer Club? Yes, Please! The Power of GSAs, Pronouns, and Inclusive Curriculum
Jasper & Liz
Each day, in EL Education schools across the country, students prove that they can tackle complex challenges and contribute remarkable achievements when they have access to equitable and inclusive learning environments. Jasper, 6th grade student at The Springfield Renaissance School and member of the EL Education Student Advisory Council, joins his mom Liz to share perspectives on what educator practices can make school safe, inclusive, and empowering for queer kids.
Jasper: I feel like I belong at my school and a big part of that is the GSA. At our school, GSA means Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and is made up of allies and queer people. At other schools, the GSA might stand for the Gay Straight Alliance. The GSA is a place I can show my queer identity at school, bond with friends, and share stories and feelings with other kids. We meet once or twice a month; sometimes we talk about serious issues in the queer community and other times we just joke around.
For some kids, it’s the only place they can be really open about who they are, and that really matters. I’ve made my best friends there. When I first learned about GSA, I was like, ‘Queer Club? Yes, please!’ Being a part of the GSA, I have people I know and trust, people who are like me: my people. It feels awesome.
Jasper: My pronouns are he and him or they and them. The experience of being misgendered by a person in my school community is hurtful. It is awkward to correct a teacher because they are so much older than I am. I have also been intentionally misgendered by other students. I think people do that because they want attention and so they are disrespectful to me, but if you want to have a good relationship with someone, don’t misgender them.
Liz: Jasper’s school has been incredibly supportive to our family. If there are any struggles or anything has thrown them for a loop, we haven’t felt the ripples out here. When there was a shift in pronouns partway through the year, it was no big deal. We had a meeting with school staff who wanted to be sure they were doing everything they needed to do and that Jasper was in a good and safe place.
This year I had the luxury and privilege to work from home while Jasper was doing school from home. As a parent, one of the coolest things that I heard was an exchange in one of Jasper’s classes. The class was introducing themselves and while the students all knew each other, they were new to the teacher. The teacher asked the students, “What is your name and what pronouns should I use for you?” It was the way he asked about it and the fact that he asked every student, not just certain students. The whole way he asked about it was reflective of someone who had thought a lot about how to make an inclusive community and be respectful of the identities of his students but who also understood that those identities may look different in different circumstances.
Jasper: I have read a lot of books with queer main characters and queer sexual plots on my own and I want to see more representation of the queer community in the books we read at school. Queer history and queer centered books feel blocked off and seperate from everything else. For example, the only time we see a queer book in English class is for Pride month, the only time we learn about queer history is the end of the school year, the only time we do a queer centered project is over the summer when it’s optional. I feel like we need more opportunities throughout the school year and we don’t need to make such a big deal about it. We don’t need to shove the fact that a main character is queer down everyone’s throat, it can just be a part of the storyline and not such a big deal. The book is great because it is great.
Jasper: I’m interested in how many queer focused products are out during Pride Month than during the other months. Book stores, pet stores, department stores can really get decked out for Pride season, which I like. I appreciate products like Skittles creating an all grey pack “for the one rainbow that matters” and Converse donating to queer companies. However, I’ve also noticed transphobic and homophobic companies trying to be queer inclusive for Pride. My reaction to displays depends on the actions and ethics of the companies and whether they do more than just stick a rainbow on everything for Pride.
Click here to meet more members of the EL Education Student Advisory Council and hear their perspectives.
*EL Education is proud to host diverse voices and offer a platform for dialogue on topics impacting educators and students. Views of guest bloggers are their own and may differ from the views of EL Education.