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Curriculum Connections Unheard Voices: Stories of LGBT History The History and Impact of Anti-LGBT Slurs
CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS LIBRARY

The History and Impact of Anti-LGBT Slurs


OVERVIEW


In this lesson students listen to the oral history of an advocate for LGBT family rights, and use her personal story as a vehicle for considering how anti-LGBT attitudes are formed.  Students explore the derivation of the words “gay,” “faggot” and “dyke” in order to better understand the long history of judgment and hate behind these words.  They also reflect on the testimony of LGBT teens about the impact of terms like “that’s so gay.”


OBJECTIVES

  • Students will reflect on the oral history of an individual involved in the LGBT rights movement.
  • Students will learn about the history of anti-LGBT slurs.
  • Students will analyze media ads about anti-LGBT language.
  • Students will identify ways to reduce their use of hurtful language.


NATIONAL STANDARDS


ABOUT THIS LESSON

Time: 55-70 mins. or two class periods

Grade Level: Grades 6 & up

Strategies and Skills: connecting past to present, cooperative group work, critical thinking, debate, forming opinions, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, media literacy, reading skills

Key Words and Phrases: advocate (n.), demoralized, heretic, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), offensive, slur


LESSON PREPARATION

Handouts/Supporting Documents: download all handouts (.pdf format)

  • Dictionary Print Ad: “Gay,” “Faggot” and “Dyke” (one per small group; middle school option only)
  • The History of the Word “Gay,” “Faggot” and “Dyke” (one per small group’ high school option only)
  • Student Voices on “That’s So Gay” (one copy)

Other Materials: Unheard Voices interviews and background materials, computer, speakers, scissors, projector/screen (optional)

Advance Preparation:

  • Reproduce handouts as directed above.
  • Prepare to play interview (see step # 2).
  • Chart questions (see step # 5, middle school option).
  • (Optional) Prepare projector/screen for viewing ads (see step # 5).
  • Cut apart the quotes in Youth Voices on “That’s So Gay.”


PROCEDURES

NOTE: The lessons in this unit explore lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues in an open and direct way.  Given the absence of this topic in the curriculum and the disproportionate rates of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment, it is important to educate students about these issues.  When discussing any new or sensitive topic, however, there is the potential for some students to react in stereotypical or disrespectful ways.  It is therefore imperative that educators carefully review each lesson, assess students’ maturity and readiness to engage in the lesson prior to implementation, and establish clear parameters with students that will ensure safe and constructive dialogue.  See Establishing a Safe Learning Environment and Talking About Diversity with Students for guidelines on building safe forums for discussing sensitive issues.


Part I: “Two Kinds of Gay” (15 minutes)

  1. Tell students that you are going to share a brief excerpt from an interview and provide the following context:
  2. Terry Boggis is an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and helped to found Center Families in 1988, a New York City based program for LGBT parents and their children.  In this interview, she talks about being a lesbian parent and the experiences of her son, Ned, at about the time he first started school.

  3. Play the Terry Boggis interview from :28 to 1:22 and discuss the following questions with students.

    • Regarding Ned’s first experiences with school, Terry observes that “the larger culture starts weighing in”?  What does she mean by this?  Does this comment relate to any experiences that you have had?
    • What kinds of experiences do you think led Ned to ask if there are “two kinds of gay people,” “good kinds and bad kinds”?
    • Why did Terry assume that wearing the rainbow rings and expressing gay pride might invite a negative response?  Would you assume the same thing about the people at your camp or school?  Why or why not?
    • In your experience, what language and/or ideas are communicated among your peers that might lead some people to believe gay is “bad”?
  4. Optional: Play the full Terry Boggis interview (2:20) if students are curious/interested.

  5. Point out that expressions like “that’s so gay” are used frequently among young people, many of whom excuse this language by saying that “it’s just a joke,” “it just means silly or stupid” and “it has nothing to do with gay people.”  Explain that regardless of intentions, terms like these convey damaging messages to others.  Emphasize that words, like people, have histories and often carry decades – even centuries – of weight and meaning that can have a greater impact than known.


    Part II: The History of Anti-Gay Epithets (Middle School Option, 30 minutes)
    Use this option for younger students or those with limited experience discussing LGBT issues; otherwise, skip to the high school option for a higher-level investigation.

  6. Tell students that they are going to explore some ads about words that are commonly used to put down LGBT people in order to better appreciate the long history of ignorance, judgment and hate that are behind these words.

  7. Divide the class into small groups of three to five students and provide groups with one copy each of Dictionary Print Ad: “Gay,” “Faggot” and “Dyke.”  Post the questions below and instruct groups to review the ads collaboratively and discuss the questions.  Allow about 10 minutes for small group work.

    • In your experience, how and where are these words used?
    • Though these terms are sometimes intended to just mean “silly” or “stupid,” is that the way they are heard or experienced by everyone?  Why?
    • How would you say that expressions like “that’s so gay” and “you’re a fag/dyke”—used regularly—impact the atmosphere or climate at school?
    • When someone tells you that they are offended by this kind of language, is it okay to just say you “didn’t mean it like that”? How else might you respond?
  8. Optional: If your students are unable to discuss the ads with respect independently, project the ads on a large screen and conduct this discussion as a large group.

  9. Reconvene the class.  Suggest that the words in the ads are often tossed around without much thought about the hate or hurtfulness behind them. Ask students what they know about the history of these words and how they came to be used as insults.  (Use the handouts, The History of the Word “Gay,” “Faggot” and “Dyke,” as references to help you provide some historical context.)

  10. Discuss the following questions:

    • Are you surprised about how these words evolved over time? Can you still use the words today based on their original meaning?
    • Now that you are aware of the history behind these words, will you continue to use them as jokes or insults against others? Why or why not?
    • Do you think people in general would be less likely to use these words as jokes or insults if they knew the history behind them? Why or why not?
    • How do you think words like these affected Terry and Ned (from the interview)?  How do you think they affect other LGBT people or families with LGBT people?
    • What can you do to educate your peers about the history and impact of anti-LGBT language?

  11. Part II: The History of Anti-Gay Epithets (High School Option, 45 minutes)
    Use this option for older students or those who are able to discuss LGBT issues with more sophistication; otherwise, go back to the middle school option for younger or more inexperienced students.

  12. Tell students that they are going to read about the history of some words that are commonly used to put down LGBT people in order to better appreciate the long history of ignorance, judgment and hate that are behind these words.

  13. Have students count off by three’s.  Tell the “ones” that they will read the handout, The History of the Word “Gay”; assign the “twos” The History of the Word “Faggot”; and assign the “threes” The History of the Word “Dyke.”  Tell students that, after reading the handouts independently, they will be grouped with classmates who have read a different handout and asked to summarize their reading.  Distribute the handouts and give students about 10 minutes to read.
    Optional: Have students summarize their reading by creating a “found poem” – selecting descriptive words, phrases and lines from the passage and arranging/formatting them to create a poem that captures the central ideas of the reading.
  14. Form new small groups and make sure that all three readings are represented within each group.  Instruct students to take turns presenting the main points of each reading to the group (or sharing their “found poems” if this option is used).  Allow 10–15 minutes for discussion.

  15. Reconvene the whole group and discuss the following questions.

    • What was the most surprising thing you learned from the articles?
    • Why do you think it’s important to know the history of words you may hear and/or use?
    • Now that you are aware of the history behind these words, would you continue to use them?  Why or why not?
    • Do you think people in general would be less likely to use these words if they knew the history behind them?  Why or why not?
    • How do you think words like these affected Terry and Ned (from the interview)?  How do you think they affect other LGBT people or families with LGBT people?
    • What can you do to educate your peers about the history of anti-LGBT language?

    Part III: Conclusion (10 minutes)

  16. Cut apart the quotes in Youth Voices on “That’s So Gay.”  Ask for nine volunteers and provide each with a quote.

  17. Tell students that they will be hearing the thoughts of LGBT teens on how expressions such as “that’s so gay” impact them.  Direct students to listen and reflect silently as each quote is read.  Ask the volunteers to stand and read their quotes in succession.

  18. Allow students to react to the quotes (e.g., which quote do you connect with the most?). Suggest that they think about these teens the next time they are tempted to use anti-LGBT words.

 






Unheard Voices:
Stories of LGBT History
  • In This Edition
  • A Note About Language (pdf)
  • Partner Organizations
GLSEN
Story Corps
Interviews
 • 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 WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute
  • 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
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