Jason Bucklin, a recently-hired LGBTQ education specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, called for teachers to discuss nonbinary identities with preschoolers in an unearthed 2019 public lecture.
Bucklin, who is involved in LGBT activism, called for children to learn about sexual orientation and nonbinary identities as young as pre-school and recommended projects for older students to learn that gender is a social construct. He now plays a major role in promoting LGBT curriculum and policies in schools throughout the state.
“A couple assumptions that get sometimes made when I’m talking about Out4Good, people might assume it’s a relatively new program and that the work is primarily for high schoolers. We really see the work as starting as early as pre-K,” he said at a 2019 EDTalks lecture.
The talk was part of a series on “inclusive classrooms” put on by Achieve Twin Cities, a local educational organization. At the time, Bucklin was the LGBTQ program director for Minneapolis Public Schools, according to his LinkedIn, a role that was tied to Out4Good, a program run by MPS to support LGBT students, staff and families.
A job listing for an LGBT education specialist with Minnesota that closed shortly before Bucklin started the job offered about $99,000 annually for a position that involved “[helping] schools create LGBTQ school inclusion policies and practices using a racial equity lens to create a safer and more affirming learning environment for LGBTQ students.” The position also involves implementing the policy initiatives of the LGBT activist group, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), including “comprehensive policy, educator support, student-led clubs and inclusive curriculum.”
Bucklin promoted several LGBT-themed children’s books during his lecture, including one on nonbinary gender identities.
“We’ve been having questions about how do we explain nonbinary identities to our preschoolers? If a teacher doesn’t identify as a boy or a girl, how do we explain that to preschoolers who are just learning that there’s only boys and girls,” he said, promoting children’s books about the subject as a solution.
He complained that teachers don’t discuss sexual orientation with children when they’re in kindergarten and miss the opportunity to correct children who use “gay” as a pejorative.
“I find it interesting that we wrap someone’s performance of masculinity to their sexuality … and we start doing that, I’ve heard reports in the schools as early as kindergarten and pre-school,” he said. “Sometimes as adults and educators, we get afraid to actually intervene and talk about what that word means. So what the result is, is for six years, until we think it’s developmentally appropriate to talk about it in a certain way, for six years they get to develop a negative connotation between the word ‘gay’ meaning something bad. And then in sixth grade we’re supposed to untangle that … we’ve let them for six years learn a negative connotation between gay and something bad unless we interject.”
Bucklin also recommended a project for middle and high school students that would help them learn that gender is a construct.
“I think about in middle school grades or high school grades what a fun project it would be to have people research and explore different social constructions of gender across the world and throughout time, ’cause you would see so many examples that don’t look like how we structure it here in America. Some cultures have 13 words for gender. Here in America we’ve had two for a really long time and we’re just now starting to tease that apart. So what a great way to normalize the idea that societies construct gender in their own way.”
Upon leaving his role with Minneapolis Public Schools, Bucklin called his decade with the Out4Good program “life-changing and life-affirming” and shared pictures of the Out4Good program marching in a parade with rainbow accessories and a rainbow Pride flag in a Facebook post.
“From LGBTQ student groups to events like Q-Quest, to some of the first gender-inclusive policies in the state, we’ve been able to do extraordinary work together, and that work will undoubtedly continue,” he wrote. “I look forward to what is next for LGBTQ students both in Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota.”
Q-Quest is an LGBT youth conference.
Bucklin is currently the organizing chair of the Queer Equity Institute, an organization that helps queer people participate in civic and social engagement and political candidacy, according to the group’s website. The group’s executive director, Leigh Finke, is a transgender state legislator who proposed a bill to make the state a “refuge” for transgender minors seeking cross-sex medical interventions that are illegal in their home states.
Bucklin did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment. A spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Education declined to comment and declined to share contact information for Bucklin, but agreed to share the DCNF’s inquiry.
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