LGBTQ+ Column: Summer 2022

NAEA News Summer 2022

It’s 2022, and LGBTQ+ rights are going backward. What so many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought for is disappearing, being taken away, or challenged at a legal level, and our LGBTQ+ youth are facing an incredibly unsafe upbringing. The legislation happening in states such as Texas, Florida, and Alabama not only affects our students, it affects us as educators and how we’re able to teach and support our students.

So, how do we still teach in an equitable way that supports our LGBTQ+ students while navigating this harmful legislation? At the end of the day, we are teachers, and it’s our job to support our students regardless of outside forces. It can feel overwhelming when figuring out where to start, but odds are you’re already there. When including LGBTQ+ identities in your curriculum, you don’t want to pigeonhole them. The best way to avoid this while being inclusive is by working off the curriculum you already have.

Incorporating LGBTQ+ Identities

When incorporating LGBTQ+ inclusion into your classroom, the idea of mirrors and windows, a concept developed by Emily Style, should be a driving force in the way you teach. Not every student that you teach is part of the LGBTQ+ community; however, they benefit from being exposed to LGBTQ+ identities in the art classroom—these are windows. LGBTQ+ students in the room benefit from seeing themselves represented in a normalized way—these are mirrors.

We encourage you to utilize LGBTQ+ artists in units that you already teach. Showing LGBTQ+ artists validates the LGBTQ+ students in the room while normalizing those identities for the rest of your students (to see a list of LGBTQ+ artists, check out the resource box). For example, we all work on the elements and principles of design with our students. Guess what! There are countless LGBTQ+ artists that utilize these techniques in their work. You can also utilize more broad topics and big ideas that allow students to incorporate their experiences, regardless of how they identify.

Big Ideas

Students’ LGBTQ+ identities can be celebrated by doing projects involving symbolism, identity, and social justice. Again, when introducing these projects, topics, and themes, show your students artists who utilize these ideas in their work. What’s amazing about teaching units on these big ideas is that everyone in your classroom can relate to it, whether or not they are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead of making a project about a specific LGBTQ+ artist (this would be pigeonholing) teach big ideas and utilize LGBTQ+ artists when showing examples. These big ideas allow for mirrors and windows within the projects. Students that need to will see themselves reflected in the artist’s examples, and all students will have the opportunity to learn from each other’s differences.

How Guiding Questions Can Help

Well-developed guiding questions will allow space for students of all identities to think deeply about themselves and each other. If you can’t talk about an artist being part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can still use guiding questions to talk about main ideas in their work. When asked well-developed guiding questions, students have the agency to engage in conversations more organically without difficult or controversial questions coming from the educator. To see an example of a guiding questions slide, see Image 1.

As we enter a scary time for ourselves and our students, our creativity is our best way to fight against what is harming our LGBTQ+ students. If you are interested in learning more and being a part of the conversation, please join the NAEA LGBTQ+ Interest Group and follow us on Instagram @naea_lgbtq. We don’t have all the answers, but we are learning and growing every day and look forward to navigating these situations with you!

Resource Corner

Column by:

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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