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About GLSEN, The Organization That Sponsors Gender Sexuality Alliance Clubs

August 20, 2022
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Have you ever visited the website for GLSEN, the organization behind Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) clubs?

The first thing you might notice is that a pop-up window tells you how to quickly leave the website, and how to clear your browser history…  presumably to hide this activity from parents.

According to GLSEN, Connecticut is one of just seven states that promotes curricular standards that include affirming visibility of LGBTQ+ communities.

But what exactly are inclusive curricular standards and how should schools promote LGBTQ inclusion, in the eyes of GLSEN?

GLSEN describes a few pathways for promoting these concepts, including Social Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons, Science and Sexual Health Education.  It is recommended that lessons start in elementary school, as early as kindergarten, by leveraging GLSEN’s Ready, Set RESPECT! guide.  

Tips in the guide include things such as making sure analogies used when teaching don’t rely on hetero-normative or gender-normative images or viewpoints, ensuring children don’t ’segregate’ themselves by gender during free time, writing math problems that feature a variety of gender expressions, avoiding terms like “boys and girls” in favor of more “inclusive” language and not separating children by gender in gym.  

By the time students reach 3rd to 5th grade, GLSEN recommends introducing the gender identity flower which offers the following guidance to explain the difference between “gender identity” and “gender expression”:

Gender identity is how you identify and see yourself.  You may identify as a girl or a boy.  If you don’t feel like a boy or a girl, you might just identify as a person.  Maybe none of these words feel like you today.  Or maybe you feel like a girl or a boy today, but later that word doesn’t seem to fit.  It’s your brain, and you tell us and the rest of the world what feels right to you.”

In middle school, educators are told to be mindful of vocabulary (e.g., which ‘pronouns’ to use in the classroom and around parents) and use visuals such as GLSEN’s Gender Triangle to distinguish between gender identity, gender expression, and bodies.  Educators are recommended to teach about biology and human bodies in ways that do not reinforce gender binaries, and that include intersex people.  GLSEN suggests highlighting how "not all people born with XX chromosomes identify as women to distinguish between sex, gender, and gender identity."  Further, GLSEN states that those who identify as cisgender are guilty of experiencing cisprivilege.

Additionally, a trans biology teacher offered six different options for making middle school science more inclusive.  This teacher likes to highlight ways that heteronormative assumptions about biology and evolution are allegedly unfounded.  He has students model the development of proto-genitals in utero using clay, and talks about how genitals are not strictly limited to a penis/scrotum or a vulva.

High school lessons focus on learning about empowerment and self-identification.  Here is an example of a case study recommended to spark classroom discussion:

Becky/Trevor identifies as a genderfluid, white, low-income, asexual, panromantic, and uses zi/ zir/ zirs pronouns. Zie changes zirs name on the daily, depending on zir presentation for the day.  Becky/Trevor has told zir counselor that zi want people to recognize zir identities by using zir pronouns, zirs right name on any given day, and zi hates being called “white trash.” Becky/Trevor also has spoken to the school during assemblies to educate others on asexuality. In the hallway, someone in passing calls zir “Confused white sex-less trash.”

School sure has a changed a lot over the last 10 years, hasn’t it?  

By the way, the extent to which lessons like this appear in Greenwich Schools remains to be seen.  The school has not yet provided documents responsive to the multiple Freedom of Information Act requests that were submitted in October 2021 on these subjects.   

GSA clubs do operate inside the middle schools (e.g., The EMS GSA) and at Greenwich High School, and the high school also features GLSEN's "rainbow library", in case you were curious. 

P.S.  The Chair of the GLSEN Board of Directors also happens to be a Senior Director at the National Education Association’s Center for Justice.  

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