I want to use design to make a difference
I’m a designer, thinker, story writer, coffee drinker, book reader, avocado toast maker and sex ed advocate.
How would you describe your design style?
What is your favourite typeface?
I wish the entire world was set in Baskerville.
What do your parents think you do?
I always say “everything is design” so they probably have no clue.
How would you describe the colour yellow to someone who has never seen it?
Bright, sunny, happy, warm.
What Is A Boy?
When I was about eight years old I was watching a movie on tv with my mom. I noticed that the audio went quiet sometimes. I asked my mom why that was happening and she told me that the station took out the bad words so they could play the movie on tv. Then one of the characters said the word “sex” and I asked my mom why they didn’t take that word out. My mom said, “Sex isn’t a bad word.”
This moment was so insignificant that my mom doesn’t even remember it happening, but it’s something that has been with me ever since. It really set the stage for my lifelong passion for sex education.
As I got older I learned more about sexuality, and I asked my mom if she would still love her children if they were gay. Of course she said yes.
However, this openness about sex and sexuality was a stark contrast to the society around me; including my education. I was raised in a very narrow minded community, and the sex education that I received was strictly clinical, with no mention of emotion or relationships or sexuality.
Even with the new Ontario sex education curriculum, the concepts of gender and sexuality aren’t discussed until grade 7, which is well after the time that children start to develop their sense of the world around them as it’s influenced by society and their peers. This huge gap in the curriculum can lead to intolerance, misunderstanding, and hate, all because of the misinformation that spreads in the school yard that isn’t addressed by the school itself. This means that the responsibility of promoting love and acceptance lies solely on the families. Which unfortunately means that many children miss out on these lessons, and that children like me are often exposed to contradictory beliefs about topics that are complex and confusing, and aren’t talked about enough.
This is why I decided to create something that could be used to education children about the concepts of gender and sexuality at a young age with education that is based on facts and personal narratives. This took the form of activity books and comics to present a curriculum for grades 1-3
I first started by deicing what would be covered in each year. Then I looked at existing activity books for each grade, and used that to design the activities that I would be using.
The style of the illustrations is simple and childlike, and the production is crude and cheap, to make them inexpensive to reproduce and accessible for schools.
Grade One: What Is A Boy?
First grade discusses gender, because gender is broad and affects everyone, and without a strong understanding of gender, it’s impossible to understand sexuality. I continued to use these genderless monsters to illustrate that gender doesn’t really matter. If this fluffy monster wants to wear a dress, and this smiley monster wants to play soccer, then you can play with dolls. Children can look at a creature without assigning a gender to it, whereas with human figures, even six year old have already made connections between appearance and gender.
The first activity book covers interests, colours, clothing, pronouns, and careers, all to show that gender doesn’t play a role in what someone likes, wears, does, or wants to be called. This book is activity heavy, with a few comics to supplement the education and put the learning outcomes into context.
Grade Two: I Love My Moms
The second grade book discusses sexuality in the context of families. Because children in the second grade likely haven’t had much experience with their own sexuality, it’s easier to put it into the context of adults. I decided to use human characters, because gender is relevant when talking about sexuality and it makes it easier to relate to the real world.
This book is more character and story driven rather than activity heavy, as by the second grade, children are more empathetic and have a greater capacity for reading comprehension. This grade covers gender queer parents, same sex parents, non-binary parental names, as well as different family structures such as single parents and grandparents as guardians, all while promoting acceptance and love, ending with a family bingo that gamifies meeting people with different families to make it exciting rather than scary and weird.
Grade Three: Can I Play With You?
The final book for grade three is a longer from comic books with two storylines, one about gender, and one about sexuality. By this grade it is expected than children are able to be able to retain information from a longer form story and reflect on what they have read while relating it to the world around them.
The first story is about a young boy, Hayden who doesn’t fit in with the other boys and the girls don’t want to play with him. He finds a friend Ira who is non-binary. Hayden admires Ira’s ability to be himself without fear.
The second story is about Arielle, who is in high school, and finds herself attracted to her friend Mackenzie. She struggles to accept that she wants to be more than friends with Mackenzie. This is the first book that I introduce colour, and I use warm and cool colours to separate the stories from each other to the reader can follow. At the end of the comic there are a few reading comprehension questions that both assess the retention of information from the student as well as offer an opportunity to think outside of the scope of the story.
Why Is This Important?
I continued well into my teens to routinely ask my mom if she would love her children if they were gay. She continued to say yes. I was confused. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I came to accept that I myself am bisexual.
I don’t want anyone else to have to struggle the way that I did, and that many other people did. As much as this project is about education all children about these topics to promote acceptance and love towards others, I’m mainly thinking about the lgbtq kids who could benefit from understanding and accepting themselves.