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LGBTQIA+ History Month 2022

The LGBT+ History month logo, showing a rainbow and a hand painted in the trans pride colours of blue, pink and white, holding a paintbrush which has painted the rainbow. The text says LGBT+ 2022, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans + History Month.

For LGBT+ History month 2022, I thought I would look back on progress in the ELT industry. Ten years ago, Tyson Seburn wrote a post (which involved lots of research, thank you) called Considerations of the LGBTQ in ELT materials. So I thought I’d use this as a foundation to look at some of his findings and see if they were still true today.

I was shocked (although, was I, really? Really?) to see some of his research had thrown up questions on gay issues which were out there as materials and resources to use. So, I thought, ten years later, surely these won’t still be available.

How wrong I was.

One popular website still has a lesson on gay marriage – as Tyson notes in 2012, in Canada it isn’t an issue anymore as gay marriage was legal; in the UK in 2014 and most US states in 2015 – should this still be a discussion anymore? (This is exactly Tyson’s question ten years ago, so why do we still need to ask it now?). There’s one exercise which questions whether a gay bus driver ‘should be allowed’, a gay doctor, gay rights (questioning whether we should be allowed rights???) and even gay ‘bashing’. Would it be OK to question whether straight people should be allowed … to be? The copyright for this website runs up until 2019, but that is only 3 years ago.

Right, so it can’t be worse than that, can it?

I clicked on another page to see a list of conversation questions including:

In your opinion, can a gay be a religious person?

This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, a gay? A gay? I am a human. Gay is an adjective, I am a gay man. To me, it is offensive to say ‘a gay’, so you can stop with all that rubbish. Secondly, why is this even a question? Are we encouraging students to question someone’s personal beliefs? Or even their existence?

Do you believe gays and heterosexuals have the same rights? Do they have equal duties?

OK – equal duties? What are these? Do I get less to do because I’m queer? Am I banned from sweeping up for being gay? This is a pointed question, devised to demonstrate that there are fundamental differences between a woman who is a lesbian and a woman who is straight – whereas, in fact, they are both women and human. We don’t need to highlight any differences between being gay and straight, as we face enough homophobia/lesbophobia/biphobia/transphobia already.

Is AIDS a major problem for homosexuals only?

This is one that Tyson picked out from the same website. As he states, these are very opinionated questions – and to be honest, why are we even talking about AIDS like this nowadays – it’s 2022. If a teacher wants to have something on HIV and AIDS, how about this – Undetectable viral load and transmission. Or this from Terrence Higgins Trust here.

My one question here is ‘Why are these resources still available in 2022 and why haven’t they been removed or updated?’

Tyson’s observations on images of LGBTQ+ people in ELT course books I don’t this has progressed. In the materials I’ve seen, I think the three points he makes are still true, ten years on – There are no explicitly LGBTQ characters or images throughout the texts; The images of LGBTQ are marginalised in one unit; The images of LGBTQ are as close to straight and clean-cut as possible. As far as I can see, not much has changed. I know there are rumblings of changes within publishers, but until I see something concrete and for sale, I have to assume that it remains the same.

I definitely take Tyson’s point that by isolating LGBTQ+ as a separate topic, it has attention drawn to it – I quote:

… like it is something special that needs to be discussed. It may exemplify the attitude that gay and lesbian (and by extension, bisexual, transgender and transsexual) relationships are unusual and different from them, when in fact, the purpose of the conversation is to help them feel that it is not so. Tyson Seburn, 2012

He’s completely right, and of course, some of the materials I’ve produced directly contradict that, but I do believe that LGBTQ+ should come up naturally in class discussions and in course books. In fact, it would be liberating to be able to work on a course book (either as writer, editor or both) that actively encourages LGBTQ+ conversations to come up naturally in the book as part of every day life – because if we don’t do this, then how are we able to communicate to students that it is perfectly OK to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. Publishers, both big and small, when is this going to happen? Writers / editors, perhaps we should create a cohesive course book where being LGBTQ+ comes up naturally, just like any other person.

Thank you to Tyson for his work ten years ago and his continued work in this area.

As well as my own resources, here are some others you should check out.

LGBT+ History month 2022 website has a whole host of resources – all free and easy to download.

Schools Out UK also has some incredible resources shared on its website. In conjunction with The Proud Trust, Schools Out UK has produced the LGBT+ History Month 2022 resource pack for secondary, which I’m sure can be adapted for ELT classes.

Black Pride UK is a stunning website with lots to read and digest – check out the featured content too.

LGBT Traveller Pride seems to have kickstarted their blog, and this could be very useful for discussion ideas.

Twinkl also have some nice resources for a range of ages.

– Finally, the British Army have lessons – this is something I’ve only just discovered. These are for non-ELT students, but I think can be adapted.

Do let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any important resources.

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