Gender- and Sexuality-Inclusive Curriculum

Gender- and Sexuality-Inclusive Curriculum (GSIC), an ELT Initiative 
Collaboration with local professionals
Lukka Alp Akarçay and Justin Jacobs 

On Saturday morning, May 25, Gender- and Sexuality-Inclusive Curriculum Task Group (GSIC) in collaboration with SUGender launched the GSIC ELT Initiative by conducting a meeting at Karaköy Minerva Palace with local ELT professionals and graduate students. Ten attendees were present in this first meeting. The participants gathered from Bahçeşehir, Beykent, Koç, Medeniyet, Medipol, MEF and Sabancı universities. 

The GSIC ELT Initiative aims to make university-level ELT gender- and sexuality-inclusive in Istanbul. Earlier this year, the initiative invited local ELT professionals who are either doing research and working in this area or are interested in gender and sexuality topics to join the initiative. The initiative plans to have monthly meetings for a year and encourage collaboration among academics, instructors and ELT graduate students to develop materials that are gender and sexuality inclusive.

Why the need for this initiative?

The desire to do active work on queer inclusion in education, particularly in ELT, began when the task group members found common ground after a presentation on intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) that they both attended, which sparked a series of conversations on gender and sexuality, heteronormativity , personal educational experiences and histories, and the common concern for the general lack of legitimate gender and sexuality representation and inclusion in learning and teaching environments. Heteronormative constructions often present a narrow view of identity that permeates many aspects of pedagogical materials and practices. By privileging heterosexuality, heteronormativity leads to misrepresentation, marginalization, and/or an ignorance of queer identities which could have detrimental implications, pedagogically and otherwise on people who identity as queer. It is important to include explicit and complex representations of non-normative identities in order to combat discrimination and raise awareness on how heteronormativity interacts within institutional systems and creates inequalities and oppression.

Initially the GSIC task group was formed to analyze the degree to which route four materials of the foundations development year are gender and sexuality inclusive in order to determine relevant and/or explicit strategies and approaches for better inclusion in existing materials. The task group found the materials limited in  representation of a wide spectrum of identities. This catapulted the group, with a sense of urgency, to endorse better inclusion within their local context by adopting Queer Theory  as an approach following Cynthia Nelson’s (1999) guidance that proposes to utilize inquiry and problematize all sexual identities rather than assert minority identity categories in order to allow for the participation of a variety of viewpoints and an investigation of a more diverse set of experiences and perspectives. To gain a wider perspective and insight on student sentiments and perceptions, the group decided to involve route four students in the research and designed a mini-lesson on content analysis to help identify how students understand subordinated (in particular, gender and sexual) identities represented, or not, in course materials. Following Nelson (1999), the group chose an inquiry-based approach informed by Queer Theory to analyze course texts and asked students to look at the identities represented and hidden (Vandrick, 1997) or lacking in the text and the identities represented and hidden (Vandrick, 1997) or lacking as the audience for the text. Apart from GSIC task group members, some SL instructors also participated in this research and although there were other SL instructors who expressed an interest, due to scheduling constraints, they were unable to participate. 
To further extend the project to include collaborations with teachers and student teachers working or studying in ELT departments in local institutions, the group has been collaborating with SUGender on the GSIC ELT Initiative. The overall aim is to raise awareness and make ELT more inclusive. 
First meeting: aims, expectations and some terminology

We started our presentation with an introduction to the initiative’s mission and aims and shared our story with the attendees. We then invited the attendees to write down their expectations regarding the proposed monthly meetings; effectively working together as a cohesive group and attending meetings. We followed this with a whole group discussion. To provide an opportunity for some team-building and have the attendees start thinking about sexual and gender identities, we used the sample class discussion questions in Nelson’s article* (1999) for a group mingle activity. The participants shared and expressed their thoughts with one another in a lighthearted and non-threatening way.

In order to better understand and identify the needs of the participants joining the initiative, we designed a needs analysis survey. As some participants did not get the chance to take the survey before the meeting, we asked them to spend some time answering the questions. The results show that all teachers who took the survey had no training on LGBTQIA+ inclusive pedagogies/practice. They all stated that they would like to have training on LGBTQIA+ terminology, themes and issues. 66.7% said that they had not used materials that are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people, topics and issues in their lessons. Of the 33.3% who used inclusive materials before, five stated that they adapted their institution’s or outside materials while only two stated that they designed their own materials. 75% responded that they had raised LGBTQIA+ themes and/or issues in class without planning. Some said that the topics arose as a result of student initiative, while others said that they avoid heteronormative inquiry and use gender-neutral language, impart positive and inclusive thinking, raise students’ awareness of sexism and address discrimination.

We followed this with a presentation on basic terminology on sexuality, focusing on defining gender identity and sexual orientation as distinct categories. Our next topic was intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989). Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) is a helpful tool in investigating heteronormativity and systems of oppression and inequities. Elizabeth Coleman kindly accepted our invitation to give a brief introduction to Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality. Coleman shared a short definition of the concept, talked about how the concept emerged and explained it with a few examples. She mentioned that an individual may experience multiple forms of oppression and/or discrimination. She added that by taking into consideration how these identities overlap within a person, an intersectional approach helps in understanding the complex and multiple forms of disadvantages a person may face. Lastly, we talked about the importance of allyship and what defines an ally. 

Both Justin and I chose three foundational articles each as suggested reading for the next meeting in June and gave short summaries of them. We also shared with the participants our online literature folder so that everyone could have easy access to the articles and invited all to share their own articles to add to the folder for future suggested reading. We proposed summer reading and invited everyone to make contributions to the reading list.

Future meetings will begin with discussion of literature to provide everyone foundational knowledge on queer topics in ELT and inspire ideas for developing materials. We found that this first meeting was very promising and productive. We are eagerly looking forward to our second meeting in June. 

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8.
Homophobia and Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the EU Member States, European Institute of Gender Equality, 2009. Accessed May 2019.
Nelson, D. C. (1999). Sexual identities in ESL: Queer Theory and classroom inquiry. TESOL Quarterly 33(3), 371-391. 
Nelson, D. C. (2002). Why Queer Theory is Useful in Teaching: A Perspective from English as a Second Language. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 14(2):43-53 
Sumara, D. & Davis, B. (1999). Interrupting Heteronormativity: Toward a Queer Curriculum Theory. Curriculum Inquiry, 29(2), 191-208
Vandrick, S. (1997). The Role of Hidden Identities in the Postsecondary ESL Classroom. TESOL Quarterly 31(1), 153-157. 
*Guess the Question activity: We are including the activity instructions and the set of questions here for those who might be interested in using them in their classes. 
Each participant receives a slip of paper with a question to stick to another person’s forehead. The task is to mingle for ten minutes and guess the question by listening to how people are responding to their question. Some two or three part questions were separated and some were adapted to also include gender. Thus, there are more questions than those provided in the article.
●In this country, what do people do or say (or not do or say) if they want to be seen as gay [lesbian] [straight]?
●In this country, people may do or say (or not do or say) certain things if they want to be seen as gay [lesbian] [straight]. How is this different in another country? 
●In this country, people may do or say (or not do or say) certain things if they want to be seen as gay [lesbian] [straight]. How is this similar in another country? 
●Why do people sometimes want to be seen as straight [bisexual] [lesbian]?
●Why do people sometimes not want to be seen as straight [bisexual] [lesbian]?
Why do people sometimes want to be able to identify others as straight [gay] [bisexual]? 
●When is it important to identify someone as straight [gay] [bisexual]? 
●When is it not important to identify someone as straight [gay] [bisexual]?
●Is it easy to identify someone as gay [straight] [lesbian]? Why or why not? 
●Does it make a difference if a person is old or young, a man or a woman, someone you know or someone you only observe to identify them as gay [straight] [lesbian]? 
●What things can make it easier or more difficult to identify someone as gay [straight] [lesbian]?
●Are there people who think their sexual identity is more [less] important than another part of their identity? Explain.
●In this country [in this city], which sexual identities seem natural or acceptable? 
●In this country [in this city], which sexual identities do not seem natural or acceptable?
●How can you tell which sexual identities seem natural or acceptable in this country [in this city]?
●How can you tell which sexual identities do not seem natural or acceptable in this country [in this city]?
●After people move to this country, do they change how they think about sexual identities? If so, how? If not, why not?
●Are there people who think their gender identity is more [less] important than another part of their identity? Explain.
●What things can make it easier or more difficult to identify someone as trans [non-binary] [cisgender]?
●Is it easy to identify someone as trans [non-binary] [cisgender]? Why or why not? 
●When is it important to identify someone as trans [non-binary] [cisgender]? 

●When is it not important to identify someone as trans [non-binary] [cisgender]?

1) According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, heteronormativity refers to the assumption that everyone is heterosexual, privileging heterosexuality as the only natural sexuality and superior to others. Accessed May 2019.

2) Queer Theory asks for an interruption of the limiting structures and forms of thinking created by heteronormativity to broaden the experiences of perception, interpretation, representation and imagination. (See Sumara & Davis, 1999)