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“The roots of sexism and homophobia are found in the same economic and political institutions that serve as the foundation of racism in this country and, more often than not, the same extremist circles that inflict violence on people of color are responsible for the eruptions of violence inspired by sexist and homophobic biases. Our political activism must clearly manifest our understanding of these connections.”

― Angela Y. Davis, Women, Culture, and Politics


  • California public schools are required to include LGBTQIA+ curriculum in grades K-12. You can learn more here about the relevant legislation. In short, this should be part of our school curriculums and culture.

  • We recommend that you use a primer that helps demystify the topic, create a safe space, and establish a common vernacular when discussing gender and sexuality in class. You may borrow from this Gender Spectrum Language Guide.

  • It is a best practice to provide affirming and inclusive language for LGBTQIA+ students when writing inclusivity statements for your course syllabus. You may find this guide and sample language useful. 

  • It is important to update our practice to continue to match the needs of the time with up to date language and awareness. We recommend seeking out LGBTQIA+ Safe Zone-type training. 

  • While it is important to respect your own boundaries and sense what is relevant to your class and community, it is okay to share your own journeys including how you have navigated issues such as race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, etc.

Key Term / Definition

Cisheteronormativity is defined as:

“a pervasive system of belief that centers and naturalizes heterosexuality and a binary system of assigned sex/gender when there are two rigid, distinct ways of being: assigned-male-at-birth masculine men and assigned-female-at-birth feminine women.” (source)

Learning Objectives

These pieces have been selected as a way for students to: 

  • Think critically about social constructs like gender and sexual identity,

  • Analyze challenging readings that offer a window for some and a mirror for others,

  • Make connections between intersectional forms of oppression, including capitalism, race, gender, & sexuality.

  • Build classroom communities that affirm and uplift LGBTQIA+ students.

Essential and Guiding Questions

  • Throughout time, how have LGBTQIA+ people and communities resisted homophobia and transphobia? 

  • What are the intersections between race, culture, gender and/or sexuality? 

  • How can we free ourselves of internalized homophobia, sexism, and heteropatriarchy? 

  • How can we better affirm and support LGBTQIA+ members of our communities?

Suggested Activities

  1. Essential, grade-level lessons and activities for short film, Bibi, are provided in great detail at Learning for Justice.  Bibi tells the story of a Latinx father and son who can talk about anything—but only in writing, in the letters they pass back and forth when conversation seems too much. And after Ben, affectionately called “Bibi” by his father, hands his father a letter that reads “I’m gay,” the two don’t talk at all. Based on the experiences of the filmmakers behind the project, the 18-minute film explores duality in a powerful way, illustrating the beauty and conflict that can arise as we move between languages, places and societal expectations. [MS, HS, CC]

  2. Biography assignment focused on notable LGBTQ individuals:    

    • To inspire & prep students, begin with a gallery walk or slideshow, of notable LGBTQ+ individuals and art, poems, and photography by LGBTQIA+ artists with significant focus on LGBTQIA+ Black, Indigenous, Latinx, API, SWANA, and other people of color. (See suggested sources below)

    • Take it a step further and invite local LGBTQIA+ leaders and professionals in your community to share their educational journeys with your students.

    • Have students choose a notable LGBTQIA+ individual to research, write about, and follow up by presenting their findings with a poster presentation, slide deck, poem, song, or other format.


 Consider the following prompt: Select a notable LGBTQIA+ individual to research.  Discuss the community/ies they belong to.  Describe your individual’s experience in that community. What characteristics, skills, or qualities does this individual have? Where do they find inspiration and joy? Consider: Who are the leaders in their community and what makes them leaders?   What are some of the issues in their community and how do they address these issues? [MS, HS, CC]


3. ​Offer a lesson on Gender Identity:

  • Share some key terms with students from Gender Spectrum’s Language of Gender and watch this 5 minute playlist, “5 Young People Share Out”.

  • Invite students to write about the videos in response to these questions: For Daria, Grace, Khalid, Isa, & Raven: What does gender expression mean or signify? How important is it to them? What are their feelings about gender expression? Then, share out and discuss their observations. 

  • Add on a personal connection piece by inviting students to write in response to these questions: What does your gender expression mean to you? When are you most conscious of your gender expression? How do you think you can be respectful of other people’s gender identity? (Allow students to always choose how much to share from these kinds of writings. Some students may not feel safe to honestly share their thoughts. Challenge by choice and setting up small discussion groups as opposed to whole-class discussion is important in these conversations. Allowing students to submit comments/share outs via notes anonymously handed to the teacher or on a platform like Jamboard can also allow for conversation while protecting people’s sense of safety.)

  • If you’d like to extend this activity, consider a longer written reflection such as: What messages have you grown up with around gender and/or sexuality? How does your family and community define different genders and/or sexualities? What are the gendered expectations people in your community have about how people should dress, act, etc? What do you imagine gender freedom might look like for yourself or others in your community? 

  • Always emphasize that one way we show love and care in our community is by respecting and affirming people’s identities, including names and pronouns. Emphasize the importance of believing people when they tell us who they are because a person’s identity is self-determined, not to be imposed by teachers or anyone. [MS, HS, CC]


4. Essential, grade-level lessons and activities for the short documentary on LGBTQIA+ rights activist Marsha P. Johnson are provided at PBS. In this lesson, students will learn about Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, a leader of the LGBTQ community in the 1950s to 1990s and an important figure during the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Utilizing video, discussion questions, teaching tips, and examination of important terms to know, your students will gain a thorough understanding of Johnson’s goals as an activist and organizer—and her lasting impact on the LGBTQ movement. Then students apply what they’ve learned from Johnson’s work and develop a platform around an issue that matters to them in an effort to organize their local community. [MS, HS, CC]


5. After completing this lesson on How to Use Gender Pronouns with students, ask students to write a short story or poem in which the main character uses they/them pronouns. After students turn in their creations, reflect as a class on how it felt to use pronouns they may not have been familiar with. Discuss how intentional and thoughtfulness go a long way to keep our communities safe and welcoming to people of all gender experiences. [MS, HS, CC]

6. As a class or in groups, have students take turns reading aloud paragraphs from “Understanding Patriarchy” by bell hooks. This is a good time to have students practice annotation and note-taking skills collectively or individually. At the end of each page, ask groups to summarize the main ideas expressed on that page. After reading the article, discuss it as a class. What stood out to your students? Could they relate to any of the information? Did they agree or disagree with hooks’ arguments?

  • After completing class discussion, ask students to come up with a list of ways that patriarchy shows up in their lives. You may want to ask them to focus on experiences they’ve had in their families and communities or even at school. Examples can include the harsh ways people speak about women, homophobic and transphobic attitudes or cultural terms, and/or unrealistic beauty standards.

  • Then, ask students to pair up and brainstorm 10 ways they can resist patriarchal beliefs and behaviors in their daily lives. When the pairs have completed their lists, discuss them as a class. Consider creating a large physical list of Ways to Resist Patriarchy as a class and hang it somewhere in the classroom where it is visible to students daily. [MS, HS, CC]

Text Selections



Whitehead, Joshua. (2020). Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction (Anthology) [HS, CC]



Reference materials for the educator, background, databases
  • Gender Spectrum offers resources and professional development for schools, communities, and families. Consider bringing them to your school/district.

  • Learning for Justice provides resources “to supplement the curriculum, to inform [educator] practices, and to create inclusive school communities where children and youth are respected, valued and welcome participants.”

  • ONE Archives from USC Libraries includes many free curriculum and text resources.

  • PBS Understanding LGBTQ + Identity Toolkit for Educators includes great English curriculum resources, including full units on Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry.

  • If you are unsure about your right to teach LGBTQ content in a CA public school, it may help to review the FAIR Act (2011) which requires the inclusion of LGBTQ + Disability people and issues in CA public school curriculum.

  • FAIR Education Act Resources: Further information on the FAIR Act (2011) and Compilation of Middle School Curricula 

  • Facing History and Ourselves PPT on Identity and Choices and how construction of the self occur in the US: My Part of the Story-Lesson 4 Identity and Choices

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