TED Ed Kids' Videos Show Welcome (and Unexpected) Inclusion of Same-Sex Couples

As a lesbian mom, I'm always on the lookout for children's books and media that are inclusive of same-sex relationships. I was thrilled, therefore, when I discovered two such videos from TED Ed, the educational branch of the organization that puts on the thought-provoking TED Talks. One of them was particularly unexpected.

TED Ed produces a plethora of short, animated, videos on a wide range of subjects. They're aimed at students (roughly older elementary and above), but informative enough to capture adult interest, too. My 10-year-old son and I have gotten into the habit of watching them on my iPad over breakfast (which is why we know where to go in a zombie apocalypse). 

They recently posted a five-minute video by Alex Gendler on "The History of Marriage" that is wonderfully inclusive of same-sex couples. It discusses the evolution and varieties of marriage across time and around the world, and could be a great resource for educators building an inclusive curriculum, same-sex couples wanting to ensure their kids that their parents' marriage has precedent, parents of LGBT children, and any parents wanting to give their kids a broad understanding of human relationships.

For an organization to be inclusive of same-sex couples when talking about marriage is perhaps not so surprising these days. But for an organization to include same-sex couples when talking about non-family-related topics, just because we're part of the world, too, shows a rare depth of understanding.

That's exactly what TED Ed did in its science video (also by Gendler), "Why do we cry? The three types of tears." The video stars an anthropomorphic eyeball, "a girl named Iris." One day, the narrator tells us "she meets a girl named Onion." It was love at first sight: "Iris is immediately smitten. Onion looks gorgeous in her bright purple jacket, and she smells terrific, so Iris invites Onion to her house for dinner."

Then things get dicey. Onion removes her jacket, and Iris can't refrain from bursting into tears. These are "reflex tears," we learn — ones that occur when our eyes need to wash away harmful substances (as opposed to the "basal tears" that are constantly present to moisten our eyeballs). Alas for our two heroines, "They know they can't continue their relationship if Iris is going to hurt and cry every time Onion takes off her jacket." They break up, causing Iris to weep the third kind of tears, "emotional tears."

It's a sad tale, but has a hopeful ending (with a not-so-subtle reference to the It Gets Better Project). The narrator soothes Iris by telling her, "Don't worry, as long as you have all three kinds of tears working to keep you balanced and healthy, it will get better." (I'd like to think Iris will find a nice eye-friendly carrot and settle down.)

I've embedded the videos below, but do be sure to check out the pages for them at the links above, where you will also find discussion questions and resources.

Bravo to TED Ed and Gendler for showing us how to include same-sex couples in the curriculum even when discussing topics that aren't "about" same-sex couples, but could be about any people. That's true inclusion.

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