Teaching 5th graders who vs. whom in an LGBTQ+ world

Email from a 5th grade teacher to parents at our local public school (soon to occupy the most expensive, per-student, building ever constructed in the United States):

Just wanted to reach out to tell you about the conversation we had in class today. Our middle school (grades 5-8) has a group called SAGA that meets weekly. SAGA stands for “Sexuality and Gender Alliance.” Today was the first meeting of the year.

In preparing the kids for possibly joining SAGA, our conversation centered around LGBTQ+ vocabulary and terms. I am attaching the vocabulary list that was used with the students. These definitions come from Welcoming Schools. It was a good conversation and the students have a lot of great knowledge already!

The attachment (below) uses the phrase “Who you love” (contrast to Barack Obama: “No matter who you are or whom you love, celebrate #Valentines Day with pride. #LoveIsLove”). Also note that, presumably due to recent definitional problems with the word “woman”, “Gay” and “Lesbian” have the same definition. Finally, I wonder if defining “Sexual Orientation” (Merriam-Webster) by “Who you love” will cause some confusion, even if one accepts that “who” can be used for the object of a verb. Fifth graders are familiar with parents who love children. They may also be familiar with children or adults who love a dog and a dog who loves human family members. Can the fifth grader now assume that the dog is sexually oriented toward human family members or that a parent is sexually oriented toward children who are loved? If “love” and sexuality are equivalent, does that make the fifth grader’s world simpler or more complex?

[Attached] LGBTQ Vocabulary Words

Words associated with gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexuality


Cisgender: When your gender identity (how you feel) is the same as what doctors/midwives assigned to you when you were born (girl/boy or sex assigned at birth).

Gender: How you feel. Your internal felt sense of being a girl, boy, both or neither.

Gender Binary: A way of seeing gender as two distinct and opposite groups—girl and boy. This idea doesn’t include all the ways we can have a gender identity and express our gender.

Gender Expansive: Some people feel that the traditional ways of being a “boy” or “girl” do not fit for them. They live their lives showing that there are many ways to be a girl, boy, both or neither.

Gender Identity: How you feel. Girl, boy, both or neither. Everyone has a gender identity. 

Non-Binary: People who do not feel like the words “girl” or “boy” fits. They may feel like both or neither. They sometimes use pronouns such as they, them, theirs.

Sex Assigned At Birth: When a baby is born, a doctor or midwife looks at the baby’s body/anatomy and says they are a boy, girl or intersex.

Transgender or Trans: When your gender identity (how you feel) is different than what doctors/midwives assigned to you when you were born (girl/boy or sex assigned at birth).


Bisexual: People who love or are attracted to people of two genders. 

Gay: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender. 

Heterosexual: People who love or are attracted to other people of the opposite gender.

Lesbian: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender.

Sexual Orientation: Who you love or are attracted to.


LGBTQ: Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. 

Queer: People use this word as a way to identify with and celebrate people of all gender identities and all the ways people love each other. When used in a mean way, it is a word that hurts.

Update: During a minivan ride a few months after the above material was delivered, the 5th grader announced from the middle seat, apropos of nothing, “One of my [10-year-old] classmates is a lesbian.” A small 6-year-old voice was heard from the very back: “What’s a lesbian?”

16 thoughts on “Teaching 5th graders who vs. whom in an LGBTQ+ world

  1. It’s a little ridiculous that we need to, as a society, goto these lengths to stamp out ignorance. Does all this terminology seem unified or make perfect sense to me? No. But, I don’t think it’s silly. This is a struggle with many different groups trying to make sure they’re not left out. Perhaps your 5th grader will be among those who help unify and sort this all out into neat little boxes and labels. What is silly is that in 2019, people and institutions(fairy tale religions) still can’t accept simple concepts like homosexuality and transgender. Now I know what it must have been like to witness people being drug into the future during: abolition of slavery, civil rights, black and women’s voting rights. Same story, different day. This will all be taken for granted in the future, as regressive and ignorant people die off and take their backwards and wrong thinking with them.

    • Senorpablo, I see you equate “stamping out ignorance” with forcing children to accept sexual practices that many consider to be perverted. If you are serious, then tell the kids what those sexual practices really are.

      I do appreciate your usage of the word “goto”.

    • How can kids possibly have any notion of “perversion”? They can’t. It’s learned from their parents. No doubt there were kids who thought freeing the slaves or allowing women to vote was the end of the world…

    • An anthropologist looking back on this 100 years from now would likely say that Rainbow Flagism is a religion and that, like any other religion, it comes with sexual taboos and adherents of the religion saying that people who disagree are “repressive and ignorant.”

      The sexual taboos of the LGBTQIA religion include that Jeffrey Epstein having sex with a 17-year-old female (“woman” under 1970s Equality Feminism; “child” according to the LGBTQIA faithful) was perverse “pedophilia” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia for the technical non-religious definition), whereas if Jeffrey Epstein had been having sex with three 18-year-old guys in the same bed, that would have been a beautiful sight to behold and affirm.

      Three non-working people marrying one high-income person for financial security: Taboo. Three non-working people having unmarried sex with and harvesting child support from the same high-income person for financial security: Righteous.

      Marriage at 15 to an older person with a secure income and raising children together: Taboo. Getting pregnant at 15 and choosing an abortion at 23 weeks: Righteous.

      These mores cover the same territory as traditional Islam’s rules regarding sexuality, for example (albeit with more or less opposite taboo/righteous determinations). But the Rainbow Flagism faithful will say that Islam is an unscientific and false “religion” whereas Rainbow Flagism is a true and rational outcome of progressive and scientific justice.

    • What is silly is the idea that one changes identity by just “feeling”. That you can change reality by using the correct words. This, on fact, is nothing more than good old postmodernism: the very same belief into reality being a social construct which led Soviets and Chinese into massive “reeducation” efforts designed to create a new kind of selfless men content to be mere ants in a Collective anthill. Reality of human nature being stubborn, they quickly discovered that people push back, and so their notion of unreformable “deplorables” who needed to be violently suppressed was born. They ended up exterminating over hundred million “enemies of the people”. American postmodernists are at the beginning of this road to hell but they already run show trials ruining people’s lives for being not careful with words. So, not, this “correct pronoun” stuff is not innocent, and only people totally oblivious to the lessons of history think it’s a good idea.

    • Averros:

      Actually, it’s a new variant of the perennial heresy of gnosticism. They hold that we are divided into spirits (which are immaterial and pure and good) and flesh (which is dirty and corrupt and evil). Thus, the spirit can be trapped in the wrong body, and must be allowed to be free.

      The interesting thing about modern gnostics, of course, is that most of them are good darwinian materialists who, if pressed, would assert that there is no such thing as soul or spirit and that “flesh” is all there is. So in other words, you (who are only a body) can somehow be “trapped” in the “wrong” body.

      I believe my minivan is actually a Ferrari that has been trapped in the wrong sheetmetal. I demand that public subsidize the necessary bodywork to allow it to shine forth. And don’t you dare deadname my new seven seat Testarossa!

  2. Gay: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender.

    Lesbian: People who love or are attracted to people of the same gender.

    Seems a bit redundant, doesn’t it? Let’s just use ‘gay’.

    Heterosexual: People who love or are attracted to other people of the opposite gender.

    Excuse me? The opposite gender? Death to reactionary education scum!

    • This was my first thought as well.

      To me only guys can be gay and only women can be lesbian. The two groups are also not natural allies, as Modern Family taught me.

  3. NY Post editorial 2019-10-12: “Legally redefining ‘female’ as anyone who claims to be female results in the erasure of female people as a class. If, as a matter of law, anyone can be a woman, then no one is a woman, and sex-based protections in the law have no meaning whatsoever . . . a ruling that Congress surely did not intend.”

  4. To borrow from one of my favorite comments of yours, I’d like to see a coffee-table book with pictures of American students sitting attentively through various courses on fringe sexualities side-by-side with pictures of Chinese students learning calculus.

  5. In 4th grade, I remember me and my friends being absolutely disgusted by the concept of a blowjob. 5th grade sex education was a two-week farce aimed at students incapable of understanding the subject matter meaningfully.

    Kids rightfully think sex is a disgusting mess. All this crap is being driven by adults eager to corrupt the innocent.

  6. If only as much effort and rigor were put into science and math education. But hey, as you often mention, Phil, educated individuals can easily be imported in the country, why bother..

    • Grammar nazis are boring compared to the ideological descendants of the actual nazis – now running US academia.

    • I thought nowadays we were all free to choose our own pronouns. I demand that everyone always refer to me in the nominative case.

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