LGBTQ+ Interest Group Column: Feb/Mar 2022

NAEA News Feb/Mar 2022

The columns for this issue of NAEA News were written prior to the 2022 National Convention. As such, you may find information about Convention sessions and references to past occurrences in the future tense.

This article is an interview with Meghann Altomare (she/her and they/them). Meghann recently graduated from Moore College of Art & Design with their master’s in art education with an emphasis in inclusive practices. This interview focuses on the findings from Meghann’s groundbreaking thesis about how cisnormative and heteronormative language affects LGBTQ+ students, specifically in the art room. With the shift in language surrounding the LGBTQ+ community drastically changing, it is imperative that we as art educators look at the language we use with our students and how it can be more inclusive for this community. Thank you, Meghann, for sharing this important and timely research.

1. What is the title of your thesis?

The Impact of Cisnormative and Heteronormative Language Use on LGBTQ+ Students in the Art Classroom.

2. Can you tell us about why you chose this topic?

First I really thought about where my voice belongs in research. What did I have the most to say about? What could I accomplish as someone without a classroom who is new to the field? It felt clear that I would focus on LGBTQ+ issues in some way, but it took some time to narrow it down. In my opinion, beneath homophobia and transphobia lie cisnormativity and heteronormativity. I wanted to discover where cisnormativity and heteronormativity rear their ugly heads in art education, which led me to language.

3. What were some of your main findings throughout the process of your research?

Art teachers desire to be inclusive and supportive to LGBTQ+ students; however, teachers do not always understand what they are seeing as homophobia and transphobia.

When asked if they witness homophobia or transphobia in their classroom, art teacher participants said no, and LGBTQ+ student participants said yes. When asked about specific examples such as “that’s so gay,” all participants said yes. That is blatant homophobia!

LGBTQ+ students hold a fear for their safety, but cisnormative and heteronormative language are not seen as violent. LGBTQ+ students consider their school environment and teachers “pretty good” or “better than most” even when experiencing homophobia and transphobia, simply because they’re not being physically assaulted. This leads to LGBTQ+ students remaining quiet about incidents of homophobic and transphobic language and art teachers remaining unaware of what is truly impacting LGBTQ+ students.

4. Based on your findings from your thesis, what advice do you have for art educators wanting to incorporate this in their classroom?

Use Google! Ask the questions you have, because they have been asked many times before. There is no way to offend a search engine. It doesn’t take any emotional energy on the part of an LGBTQ+ person to use Google.

Take the time to understand what bioessentialism is and why it’s incorrect. People often uphold systems without thinking about what they are and what functions they serve. At the end of the day, respect is the minimum. Using someone’s correct pronouns is great—but if you don’t see them for who they are, it’s almost meaningless.

Address homophobia and transphobia every time it arises. Make a plan for how to address when students use phrases like “that’s so gay” and put it in place. Make sure you know your school’s policies on discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

Toolkit Links
Creating Gender-Inclusive Schools
GLSEN School Policy Resource
GLSEN Pronoun Guide
Addressing Anti-LGBTQ+ Language in the Classroom
LGBTQ+ Terminology

Tara Rousseau, LGBTQ+ Co-President
Visual Arts Teacher, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE, University of Toronto. Email:

Jess Graff, LGBTQ+ Co-President
Teaching Artist, Curator, and Consultant. Email:

Carlos Cruz, LGBTQ+ Past President
Unified Arts Learning Facilitator, Evolutions High School, Providence, RI. Email:

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