Gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students hear anti-gay slurs about 26
times a day, or every 14 minutes. (National Mental Health Association, 2002)
An estimated 160,000 children miss school every day out of fear of attack or
intimidation by other students. (National Education Association, 1995)
GLBTstudents, who report much higher rates of school violence and harassment than
heterosexual students, are more than twice as likely as their peers to skip school
because they don’t feel safe. (Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2001)
Just a little bit of research (or of thoughtful observation of the climate at your school) suggests that LGBTQ youth are at high risk for bullying and emotional distress. What can a compassionate and supportive art teacher do to make school safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ youth? How can art teachers educate all students about the need for tolerance and respect?
I wrote the article There's Something Queer About This Class to share some answers to these questions from my own history as an art teacher thinking about LGBT culture and the experiences of LGBTQ youth. Below is a list of suggestions for art teachers to create a safe space for LGBTQ youth and suggestions for educating all students about diversity. For the full text of the article (which gives many specific examples of art curriculum content and styles of talking to students), click on the pdf at the bottom of the page.
Strategies for a Queer Art Classroom
* Clean up classroom language.
* Design your space to silently send a message about who is welcome in this class.
* Refuse to suppress difference that is routinely noted in serious critical art discourse.
* Reclaim information about queer culture in art that was not foregrounded in your art education.
* Include relevant gay artists when constructing thematic units.
* Introduce ways in which your personal cultural history intersects with gay culture (even if you are not queer).
* Let students know that it’s cool to have a diverse group of friends.
* Let students know that it’s not cool to be homophobic.
* Include discussions of sexual imagery in the art curriculum so that students develop a comfort level with discussing such material.
* Deconstruct gender stereotypes in traditional art during art history lessons.
* Create studio projects in which students investigate the construction of gender identities.
* Create studio projects in which students investigate factors that have shaped their personal and group identities.
Why spend time doing this? Because the world in which we live is interesting and complex. Our students can become interesting and complex citizens of that world–accepting themselves and each other, joyfully engaging diversity and possibility–or they can become fearful and judgmental, isolated and angry people.
Do you think all students need queer curriculum?
Adapted from There’s Something Queer about this Class by Olivia Gude
by David Wojnarowicz