One of the biggest of the many things that make Berkeley High School (BHS) unlike other high schools across America is the African American Studies Department and Chicanx/Latinx History Department. By next year though, BHS could be renowned for another unique elective: Queer and Trans Literature. This possible English elective will be offered to juniors and seniors as they chose their classes for next school year. It will be taught by Jenn Hartman, a gender non-binary teacher who currently teaches English at BHS in Communications, Arts, & Sciences.
Hartman came up with the idea for the class last year. “I was thinking ‘oh it would be so great if we had an LGBTQ+ literature class,’” Hartman said. “I didn’t think about it a whole lot, and then realized that I might have room to teach it next year, and stopped daydreaming and started to make it a reality,” they continued.
The class would cover memoirs, including graphic novels, poetry, speculative fiction, and an oral history unit. All of these topics would be by or relating to LGBTQ+ authors, poets, and filmmakers.
“There are a lot of us at Berkeley High,” said Hartman. “This a really special place in that there is space for this class here, and there is space for as many folks to be out as they are, but I also know that it’s easy to get a little isolated at Berkeley High if you are a queer or trans person. I think having a space during the school day to learn about our history and our experiences would be a really powerful thing,” they said. The class would be the first and only Queer and Trans literature class in any public school in America.
“This is the class I wish that I could have taken in high school, I can’t even imagine this class when I was in high school,” Hartman said. “I think for me, as a non-binary teacher, I feel so lucky I get to make this dream into a reality. I just hope that enough people sign up for the class.”
Because this kind of class has never been heard of in public high schools across America, it’s sure to start to blaze a trail. Hartman thinks that “this class is meant to be a resource for queer and trans folks, or those who think they might be queer or trans. I hope the rest of the Bay Area, the state, or even the country sees it as the same thing: a resource.”
Alix Abrahams is a junior, and co-president of BHS’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Abrahams plans to take the class next year if it gets enough sign ups. “I always feel more fulfilled and happy when I am in a queer space that’s specifically made for queer people by queer people. To have a space like that during the school day, that would be really cool,” Abrahams said.
Whether you take the class or not, this idea is revolutionary. Abrahams and Hartman left the same message; if you have any interest at all in the course, please sign up so that the LGBTQ+ students who really need the class have the oppertunity to take it.