Helen Bowell: Celebrating LGBT+ History Month With Poetry

February is LGBT+ History Month in the UK, an annual moment to reflect on the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, ace, questioning and queer people. (If you’re not sure of what any of those terms mean, why not find out now?). So I thought it would be a good moment to share some LGBT+ children’s poetry suggestions for teachers, parents and curious readers.

Why mark LGBT+ History Month through children’s poetry?

According to Stonewall, half of LGBT+ children are bullied at school. By openly talking and reading about LGBT+ lives, we can normalise a variety of gender identities, families and sexualities, and let those children know that whoever they are is okay. LGBT+ History Month offers the lifelines of community – of knowing they’re not alone – and history. And it’s helpful for us all to remember that, though people haven’t always had the language to describe themselves as such, LGBT+ people have always existed. Some of our greatest poets, from Sappho to Rumi, William Shakespeare to Wilfred Owen, wrote about loving people of the same gender as them.

If you’re not sure where to begin with LGBT+ authors, poetry is a great route in. Poems are short, so you can hear from a diverse range of perspectives in a single lesson. Why not read a poem a day throughout this month, or throughout June for Pride?

Suggested poems

NB: these aren’t strictly children’s poems – but they don’t contain strong language or graphic/triggering imagery of any kind and can be shared with anyone of any age.

Suggested books

  • Age 5+: Wain by Rachel Plummer re-tells Scottish folklore in a beautifully illustrated book that make the queer subtext the text.
  • Age 10+: Rising Stars isa children’s anthology of marginalised voices including work by Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Ruth Awolola, Abigail Cook, Jay Hulme and Amina Jama.
  • Aged 13+ PROUD is a YA anthology of short stories, poems and art about pride. Find teaching resources based on it here.

Suggested writing activities

  • Using whatever magazines and newspapers you have lying around, create found poems, erasing any gender stereotypes (etc.). Make them into zines and hold an exhibition!
  • Gender Swapped Fairy Tales simply swaps the genders in fairy tales. Can you write poems that do the same? What surprises occur when the gender changes but the story stays the same?
  • More writing prompts here.

Suggested resources

The Poetry Society’s resources

Happy LGBT+ History Month!

Helen Bowell

Helen Bowell is one of The Poetry Society’s Education Officers, and runs both Young Poets Network and Poets in Schools. In her spare time, she is a co-director of Dead [Women] Poets Society, resurrecting women writers of the past, and a poet published by Bad Betty Press.

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