The objective of Pride is to show just that, pride! If you’re a part of the queer community, you’re celebrated, and if you’re an ally, your job is to educate yourself and others, respect the person’s identities, and accept them for who they are. This starts with understanding the basics of what the LGBTQIA+ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Ally. Gender identity is a large part of the queer community, and sometimes that gets overlooked.


For more information about various identities and the difference in sex versus gender, check out the Human Rights Campaign’s glossary.


If you’re incorporating these lessons in your curriculum, you’re educating yourself as well as your students on important LGBTQIA+ topics, so you’re off to a great start! You can show respect by asking a new student or colleague their pronouns and their preferred name—many times the assumed pronoun or name isn’t the one listed on our roster. You could also put your pronouns in your email signature which shows you’re open to a conversation about preferred pronouns. Instagram added this option on profiles in spring 2021 and had rave reviews in favor. Once you know their pronouns and preferred name, use the correct ones—that shows acceptance. Acceptance is the only pathway to fully spreading allyship during Pride and every day in our classrooms.


In the book Beyond the Gender Binary, author Alok Vaid-Menon speaks about an encounter they had at a grocery store with customers around, always silently judging or coming up to ask their gender or other questions. In this particular excerpt, the man’s question of why they dress like they do, is not as malicious as Vaid-Menon thought it would be.


When I finally reached the grocery store, I still couldn’t relax.

The thing about being visibly gender nonconforming is that we are rarely, if ever, defended by other people in public. Everyone thinks that since we “made a choice” to “look like that,” we are bringing it upon ourselves. The only reason people can fathom why we would look this way is because we want to draw attention to ourselves. They can’t even consider that maybe we look like this for ourselves, and not for other people. We are reduced to a spectacle. And when you are a spectacle, the harassment you experience becomes a part of the show.

As I checked out my groceries, the person next to me in line approached.

Oh dear, here we go again.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

I started to walk away.

“Why do you dress like that?”

I stopped in my tracks. This felt like it could be genuine curiosity and not something more hostile.

As I prepared to exit the store, they came a little bit closer. My heart beat a little faster. They lowered their voice.

“It’s just that…I used to wear skirts and dresses when I was younger.”

“What happened?” I asked.

They laughed, but their eyes told another story. There are some questions that have no answers. How do you express pain when you can’t even locate the wound?

It’s like when you let a balloon loose into the sky. You don’t know where it goes, but you know it went somewhere.

Far away. (Vaid-Menon 12–13).


Download the lesson below for instructions on how to have a class discussion on identity and acceptance using the above excerpt.




Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.