Nowadays, the LGBTQ+ community has been growing and society has become more tolerant over the years. However, we are definitely not there yet. After doing a lot of desk research, speaking to several different people on the streets and in my own environment, and speaking to people who identify as LGBTQ+, I realized that a big issue for the last-mentioned group is labelling. That’s why I designed BearBeing.
BearBeing is an education tool used in non-religious secondary schools to introduce kids (5-7 years old) to the spectrum LGBTQ+. It is purely meant to introduce the kids to the topic and to let them know that it’s okay to be whoever you want to be, not to imply any right or wrong. An important factor is that heterosexuality will also be mentioned as part of the spectrum, so that there’s no division between heterosexuality and LGBTQ+. The main goal is to normalize LGBTQ+, starting with the new generation (and their teachers) and eventually working its way up.
Max arrives at school finds his place in the classroom. After a few minutes the teacher starts the class. She starts to explain what they’re about to do and why it is important. After this brief explanation, all kids in the classroom receive a teddy bear (all teddy bears look the same) and a box. Inside this box they’ll find gender defining clothes, accessories, make-up, wigs, facial hair and jewelry. There’s also a passport in the box – that passport belongs to the teddy bear.
When all kids have a bear and a box of assets in front of them, the teacher asks them to first put their finger on the heartbeat sensor that’s on the back of the bear. As the kids do so, they’ll see their own heartbeat inside the teddy bear. The teacher then asks them to compare their bears – through this assignment, the teacher will explain the first important message: Everyone is the same underneath the layers.
After this first assignment, the teacher asks all the kids to dress their bears however they’d like and to fill in their passports to really give their bear an identity. They are challenged to use their imagination as they do so. The teacher also dresses a bear + fills in a passport for it, to make sure there will always be a conversation starter. After all the kids are done, the teacher asks the kids to show their bears to the class. Every bear with their own identity will be discussed, and based on the bears, all different aspects of LGBTQ+ will be discussed. This is done very lightheartedly, just enough to help young kids understand what it means.
Let’s make LGBTQ+ BEARable!