In the Spring of 2022, we began a new film project with Denver Public Schools (DPS), funded by RootEd and the Twisted Foundation. The goal of this project was to invite a diverse group of LGBTQ+ students to come together in community, share their experiences in schools, and dream together of what’s possible when it comes to creating school spaces where students can thrive. In all, we had the privilege of sharing space with 16 young people on 2 glorious Saturday afternoons, as well as on an evening in April as part of a community event with educators.
What we learned from these young people is that they are ready to play offense too. While they acknowledge, as one student shared, that “there’s a lot of reasons to be upset” right now, they also played offense by complicating the damage-only narrative that seems to follow LGBTQ+ youth in schools, at the expense of honoring their joy, their wholeness. One student challenged an audience of educators by saying, “It's also really important to not just focus on…an oppression narrative only… as your only perspective on queerness. They said, “… to focus only on the negative and never on the positive or the mundane, …is incredibly limiting of just our perspectives on what the world can be and what our lives can be.” Another student followed “...just being able to express my love and my happiness and my joy is a beautiful thing. And I feel like it's one of the most important parts of queerness that, sadly, barely gets talked about.”
Students also pointed to the ways schools can be hard places to be, not only because their gender and sexual identities challenge what counts as “normal” but so do their racial identities. Several students talked about this in detail, sharing reflections like, as one student put it, it’s “hard to be like black and to be a part of the queer community because like, you just have that double standard all the time.” These narratives were deepened by students’ insights into discipline, how students of color--black students in particular--they notice, tend to be treated “more harshly” than LGBTQ+ students who are white. This, they say, is why there is friction between affinity groups. Students’ pointed to the need for coming together, making comments like, “I feel like we shouldn't have friction when we are some of the most targeted groups and kind of, I feel like we should work together instead of beat each other down to solve what is being placed on us.
This fall, we are busy editing the footage and we hope to premiere the film in 2023. Be on the lookout! This has been a project of joy, healing, and a labor of love. We feel so excited and honored to be working with a multiracial and intergenerational team of queer and trans community made up of students, graduate students, DPS staff, CU staff, and CU faculty. This film series will be used to support educators near and far through professional learning.
Our film project with DPS set the foundation for a new strand of A Queer Endeavor’s work: creating community and learning with youth. This fall, we launched Doing Intersectional Research Together (D.I.R.T).