Welcome To The Bitchery

So I’m a middle school teacher. All 7th grade teachers have to teach an advisory class in addition to their academic classes. We do units on college, nutrition, study skills, stress, etc. We also do a unit every spring on sex/sexuality/puberty/healthy relationships. Traditionally, we split the kids out of their normal co-ed advisory groups and have pairs of women teachers teach groups of girls and the male teachers/counsellors teach the boys. In the past, the whole mechanics of sex and puberty is actually minimal (they’ve gotten this already) and let each group of kids choose their own focus. The girls typically spend a lot of time talking about dating issues (with boys and other girls), body positivity, and self respect. Every year something really important comes to light — an abusive relationship, serious bullying, sexual harassment in our school — and can then be addressed. The girls rave about how important this experience was for them. The boys (I think) talk mostly about what it means to be a young man of color, society’s expectations of them, how to find strong male role models, etc. I don’t know how queer-friendly the boys’ groups are in practice though they are in theory (and the girl groups are in practice too).

This year, as a school we have talked a lot about how to support our trans and non-binary kids (all gender bathrooms, etc.). We are trying to limit the whole splitting-along-gender-lines when possible. This year we also have a 7th grade student who identifies as non-binary — a first for our grade. We are trying to make sure our curriculum supports them rather than excluding them, and it has always been in the back of my mind that gay boys might not be psyched about how this unit has traditionally gone down.

So. How to preserve the really valuable space for our kids who do identify as boys/girls, while making all kids comfortable? I’ve asked the members of the gay straight alliance which I run, and they adorably are all “DESTROY THE BINARY COMPLETELY!!” which is lovely but not realistic. The student in question is not super articulate in general and is sort of like, I don’t know. My LGBTQ colleagues are stumped. My best idea is to give kids a slip ahead of time which asks them if they want to be in a space to talk about girls’ issues in adolescence, boys’ issues, or a third space. However 7th graders are assholes and half the boys will pick the girls’ issues one. If we do a “kids identifying as girls/boys/third space” one we will have only one student in that third space. I don't know how to word this! Help!!!! Also any and all other ideas welcome!

Share This Story

Get our newsletter