A Rainbow of Change


Students analyze poems about queer identify for group discussion. Topics like queer identity are part of the LGBTQA+ Literature and History class.

Mayra Cruz Santiago, Staff Writer

  Grand Ledge High School has added a new class, which is becoming one of the most requested classes- LGBTQIA+ Literacy and History. The class is taught by Jason Westra-Hall who is also the advisor for GLHS’s yearbook as well as the advisor of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA).

  Mr. Westra-Hall joined Grand Ledge High School when students were online for the 2020-2021 school year. Since then, Mr. Westra-Hall has been striving for change in policies district-wide and trying to make his classes inclusive and welcoming to students. He has put his idea into reality by creating an LGBTQIA+ Literacy and History class, or as he likes to call it- “Queer Literature, because ‘queer’ is a more academic term”. In more recent times, the term “queer” has become less of an insult and more of a word that the LGBTQIA+ community has used to identify themselves. 

  “This is work that I’ve been doing for maybe 10 years,” Mr. Westra-Hall explained. “When I was in college, queer classes, queer curriculum and queer studies at the college level was a relatively new thing and at Central Michigan [University], they didn’t have it yet, but they had different offices and different programs that I was a part of” Westra-Hall said.

  “One of the things I got to do in my undergraduate work at CMU was focused on composition and writing for students. At that time there [were] two particular identities [that were]not studied for composition, and for better writing for students and that was for queer students and for students of faith… They weren’t doing any studies to look at how can we get queer students to write more effectively.”  

  The goal of LGBTQIA+ Literacy and History is to teach students about queer history using English components. 

  “There’s a lot of moments in history for queer people and queer history that are very influential and any history and any part of culture we just sorta ignore or we don’t learn about,” Mr. Westra-Hall explained. 

  As Mr. Westra-Hall emphasized. “In particular right now, the most recent study I have seen says that approximately 1 in 5 Gen-Z people identify in the LGBTQ+ spectrum somewhere. When we consider that, that is also considering the people who identify that way but won’t publicly say it. So you could possibly be closer to numbers of 1 in 4- 1 in 3.”

  “The bottom line is that students are increasingly queer identifying in some way… We are seeing those numbers increase and it’s not unfamiliar, but that’s part of a misconception.” Westra-Hall said

  Mr. Westra-Hall has been visiting colleges like CMU to discuss his new class and the impact he wants to make. His class is one of the first in the United States to focus on LGBTQ+ literature and history. This isn’t the first time he has caught others’ attention. 

  “I’ve been pulled to many conferences. I have gone to CMU to talk about the course and implementing these strategies and I’ve been invited back by other organizations. Other school districts are reaching out [as well] because they want to do some of these same things. We recognize this is our student population” he said.

  For the 2023-2024 school year, the LGBTQ+ History and Literature class is available for students to sign up for. Mr. Westra-Hall will continue to make changes and create a bigger and more inclusive and safe environment for queer people because, “We recognize that this is our student population.”