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Straightlaced - How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up

by Debra Chasnoff and Sue Chen

How gender pressures impact all youth - straight and LGBT

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With a fearless look at a highly charged subject, Straightlaced unearths how popular pressures around gender and sexuality are confining American teens. Their stories reflect a diversity of experiences, demonstrating how gender role expectations and homophobia are interwoven, and illustrating the different ways that these expectations connect with culture, race and class.

From girls confronting media messages about culture and body image to boys who are sexually active just to prove they aren’t gay, this fascinating array of students opens up with brave, intimate honesty about the toll that deeply held stereotypes and rigid gender policing have on all our lives.

Straightlaced includes the perspectives of teens who self-identify as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning and represent all points of the gender spectrum. With courage and unexpected humor, they open up their lives to the camera: choosing between “male” and “female” deodorant; deciding whether to go along with anti-gay taunts in the locker room; having the courage to take ballet; avoiding the restroom so they won’t get beaten up; or mourning the suicide of a classmate. It quickly becomes clear that just about everything teens do requires thinking about gender and sexuality.

Coming of age today has become increasingly complex and challenging; Straightlaced offers both teens and adults a way out of anxiety, fear and violence and points the way toward a more inclusive, empowering culture.


quoteIf I was King of the World I'd have every parent, teacher and teenager in America see this documentary so that as many hearts and minds as possible would find more compassion and understanding, and take more initiative in protecting our young people, our future.
Donald Schwartz
full review

quoteBrilliantly illuminates the distorted messages about gender that constrict and sometimes destroy the lives and dreams of high school students across the nation. This documentary is also the most impressive example of ethnography I have seen in 20 years in academia.
Margaret Waller, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Humboldt State University

quoteHeartfelt, fast-moving and fully multicultural . . An honest, smart, respectful, and nearly comprehensive treatment of gender in teens' lives with the potential to inspire nuanced, spirited conversations.
Megan Honig
School Library Journal
full review

quoteWatching Straightlaced rekindled both the outrage and the hope that came with bringing Harvey Milk's story to the screen. This new documentary is a rare gem that provides a forum for young people to speak eloquently about the courage it takes to break out of the box, live authentic lives, and stand up for justice. I think Harvey would be proud of the kids in Straightlaced, and I urge young and old alike to support GroundSpark's campaign to get this film screened in schools and communities across the country.
Bruce Cohen
Producer, "MILK"

quoteSupport[s] sociological, feminist, and queer theories that have moved beyond a simply social construction of gender and sexuality to a more complex reading of how gender and sexuality only come into being during the very act of doing.
Susan M. Alexander, Professor, St. Mary's College
Teaching Sociology
full review

More Reviews


  • Best Documentary  Baltimore Women's Film Festival

  • Winner! Cine Golden Eagle

  • Audience Choice Award  Western Psychological Association 

  • Frameline—San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

  • OUTFEST—Los Angeles International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

  • London International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

  • NEWFEST - New York International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Resource Web Sites

appleStraightlaced Curriculum Guide and Companion Curriculum DVD Disc

Straightlaced comes packaged with a 160 page curriculum guide to enhance the use of Straightlaced in school, community group and professional development settings. 

“An excellent complement to the film and an invaluable resource!” —National Education Association

What's in the Guide:

The guide is designed as a companion to the film—to support users to open important conversations and create change in classrooms, schools, or community groups. The guide includes:

Critical background information on a wide range of issues related to teens, gender and sexuality—and the ways these issues connect with race, culture and class

Preparation tips for bringing Straightlaced to your school or community

Youth-friendly warm-up activities to help introduce the film

Strategies and questions for creating dynamic Straightlaced discussions with middle and high school students

A variety of theme-based activities to extend and deepen the conversation on specific topics, such as: media messages, gender identity, stereotypes and social disparities, gay and lesbian experience, gender and race, and healthy relationships

Engaging tools for assessing school climate and taking action

Additional resources to help continue the dialogue

The curriculum is designed  to be used with a companion 2nd DVD that includes film clips for the activities, as well as electronic copies of all handouts and materials. The guide and the companion DVD are packaged wtih the full film in a two DVD set.


appleOnline discussion guide


We also offer these online Straightlaced Discussion Guides which provide streamlined more abbreviated support for sparking dialogue about the complex gender-based pressures affecting today’s youth. Three versions are available to customize the conversation for your specific context.

• Discussion Guide for high school youth

• Discussion Guide for middle school youth

• Discussion Guide for professional development contexts


Resources to Download

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Visit the official website for Straightlaced - How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up

Straightlaced - How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up

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Appropriate for: Middle School High School College/University

Special Deal:

Host a Screening

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Straightlaced is on ScreeningHQ! Click here to visit this film's ScreeningHQ page if you're interested in hosting a screening.

Special Features:

Closed captions

Spanish subtitles

Producers' interview about the making of the film

Two DVD set includes PDF of 160 pp curricululm and resource guide, and selected excerpts that correspond to classroom extension activities. 

All orders, except for public libraries, also receive a hard copy of this highly acclaimed printed guide as well. 

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