Curriculum Connections Unheard Voices: Stories of LGBT History In This Edition

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In This Edition

In response to the lack of representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in school curricula and disproportionate incidents of bullying and violence against LGBT youth, ADL, GLSEN and StoryCorps have collaborated to create Unheard Voices, an oral history and curriculum project that will help educators to integrate LGBT history, people and issues into their instructional programs.

At the core of the program are brief audio interviews with individuals who bore witness to or helped to shape LGBT history in some way. Each interview is accompanied by a backgrounder with discussion questions and activities for educators, and a student reading with biographical information about the interview subject and historical background on the era.

In addition, several lesson plans are included for middle and high school students that explore broad themes – such as silence and invisibility, inclusion and exclusion, and name-calling – as well as specific topics related to the interviews, such as marriage equality and gender identity. One or more oral histories are integrated into each lesson plan.

According to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey, less than a fifth of the seven thousand students surveyed (17.9%) reported that LGBT-related topics were included in their textbooks or other assigned readings. When asked whether they had been taught about LGBT people, history or events in school, a vast majority (86.6%) of students reported that these topics were not taught in any of their classes, and only about a tenth (11.7%) of all students were exposed to positive representations of LGBT people, history, or events.

The consequences of this invisibility can be devastating for young people. The survey cited above indicates that 84.6% of LGBT students were verbally harassed and 40.1% were physically harassed at school in the past year, three-fifths (61.1%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and about a third (30%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe. In such environments, all students are restricted by rigid sexual and gender norms and narrow conceptions of humanity.

Conversely, the GLSEN study indicates that in schools with positive representations of LGBT topics in the curriculum, LGBT students were less likely to report hearing homophobic remarks or experiencing victimization at school, and more likely to report that school personnel and their peers intervened when homophobic remarks occurred. Less than half (42.1%) of LGBT students in schools with inclusive curricula felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, compared to almost two-thirds (63.6%) of students in schools without this resource. Consequently, less than a fifth (17.1%) of LGBT students with inclusive curricula reported missing school in the past month compared to almost a third (31.6%) of other students.

Understood within this context, the resources in Unheard Voices can serve as a lifeline for LGBT youth and a potent bullying prevention tool. More generally, LGBT inclusive curricula can help educators to create more honest and accurate instructional programs, as well as safer and more affirming environments for all youth.


Unheard Voices:
Stories of LGBT History
In This Edition
  • A Note About Language (pdf)
  • Partner Organizations
Story Corps
 • Listen to the interviews
 • Read the interview transcripts
 • Read the background materials
Lesson Plans
  • The Invisibility of
LGBT People in History
  • The History and Impact of
Anti-LGBT Slurs
  • The Exclusion of LGBT People from Societal Institutions

Winning the Right to Marry

  • Understanding Gender Identity
  • Entire Unit (pdf)
  • Standards Alignment (pdf)
Additional Resources
  • LGBT Terms and Definitions (pdf)
  • Resources on LGBT History (pdf)
  • Discussing Same-Sex Marriage with Students (pdf)
ADL Programs
  • ADL Online Catalog: Resources for Classroom and Community
  • A CLASSROOM OF DIFFERENCE Programs and Resources
  • Combat Bullying
  • Anti-Bias Study Guide (Secondary Level)
  • The Miller Early Childhood Initiative
  • Holocaust Awareness and Remembrance® Institute
  • Combating Anti-Semitism
  • Making Diversity Count Online Professional Development Program
  ©2010 Anti-Defamation League