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How can LGBTQ+ voices be lifted through inquiry curriculum?

Representation in education is not just about visibility; it's about authenticity, student empowerment, and the opportunity to see one's own experiences reflected in the broader narrative. The matter of representation is particularly important in connection to Queer Studies and LGBTQ+ history. 

The LGBTQ+ community continues to be virtually absent from formal curriculum, state standards, and textbooks. Instead, according to scholar JB Mayo, “[o]ften, students who identify as queer never encounter examples of other LGBTQ people in their school lessons. For many, in fact, only negative stereotypes are presented as part of their daily existence at school.” 

Learning social studies through the lens of gender and sexual orientation—central concepts to gender and LGBTQ+ studies—provides a valuable pathway for understanding citizenship, as well as justice and discrimination. Despite the opportunities for inclusion, the LGBTQ+ community remains generally absent in curricular resources, with the current politicization of diverse peoples being, likewise, a hindrance to authentic inclusion. 

To that end, our recent inquiry module on LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality, designed for upper elementary students, demonstrates one pathway for bridging LGBTQ+ content into curriculum authentically and meaningfully. 

What makes “equality” equal?  Though a simply-worded question, it is rich with meaning—particularly for communities whose “equality” in the United States has regularly been denied. Created in a co-design process (with Cam Lloyd and scholar Michael Bronski), this question frames students’ exploration of the advocacy for, and public response to, marriage equality in the United States. By investigating the question, students problematize the concept of equality to consider a more nuanced definition that considers both legal equality (de jure equality) and social reality (de facto equality). 

Through this resource, we wanted to center the LGBTQ+ community in such a way that aligned with state and national frameworks, but also sought to normalize inclusion of these histories within larger national narratives. In other words, the impetus for this inquiry had much to do with normalizing the LGBTQ+ community’s experiences as being a part of civil rights movements. We believe this approach to centering is novel, but incredibly important in authentic representation. Rather than positioning LGBTQ+ voices as standalone or distinct, the community’s struggle for civil rights is framed as an example of the United States’ larger rights struggles. 

One of the key components of our approach was the intellectual preparation of teachers. We recognize that many educators feel ill-prepared to teach LGBTQ+ content, often due to a lack of professional learning opportunities and the politicization of the topic—the community’s very existence is often the heart of political controversy. 

To support teachers, we developed resources that provided foundational knowledge and analytical lenses to facilitate rich engagement with the content. We anchored our preparation on key suggestions from scholar Paula Greathouse (and colleagues) for incorporating LGBTQ+ topics into the curriculum. These suggestions included teachers acquiring a deep understanding of the content and its significance, knowledge of local policies, and creating a plan to defend curricular choices.

The current moment leaves teachers in the crosshairs of larger political culture wars. But the responsibility for inclusive learning is not on their shoulders alone! Much responsibility falls on curriculum providers to demonstrate authentic and meaningful ways to support inclusion and represent students’ diverse communities.

How do you incorporate LGBTQ+ voices? Let us know!  Contact us


Works Cited:

  • Paula Greathouse et al., “When Inclusion Meets Resistance: Resources for Facing a Challenge,” English Journal 110, no. 1 (September 1, 2020): 80–86,

  • Mayo, J. B. (2019). Engaging Two Spirit Knowledge as a Means to Deconstruct the Gender Binary. Social Studies Journal, (39)1 (2019): 7.

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