The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Mira Weil



Graduate Student Dissertation Award

School or College: 

School of Public Health and Health Sciences


Dr. Aline Gubrium


Mira Weil is a PhD Candidate in Community Health Education in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. Under the mentorship of Aline Gubrium, her current research is focused on community perceptions of gender and sexuality in an elementary school setting with an intersectional awareness that these dovetail with racialized understandings. Her dissertation will investigate whether the implementation of a sex- and body-positive sexuality education program impacts student and adult inclusion of trans-spectrum and LGBTQIA+ people, and if so, how? Specifically, she is interested in the ways that the early implementation of a sex- and body-positive sexuality education program may improve student well-being.


The purpose of this research is to investigate student, teacher, and caregiver perceptions and experiences of gender expression and expectations and LGBTQIA+ identities through an intersectional lens in an elementary school that implements a liberatory sex and body-positive curriculum, with the aim of exploring environmental and cultural change in the school setting. While evidence suggests that early exposure to stigma and bullying contribute to negative mental health outcomes, there is a lack of data about the impact and possible protective factors of early implementation of sex and body-positive education for young people, particularly queer and trans youth.  Using an arts-based ethnographic approach this study will investigate shifting politics and cultural understandings of gender and sexuality in an elementary school community. This study will benefit families - children and their adult caregivers - by documenting the impact of a liberatory sexuality curriculum on students’ and adults’ perceptions of LGBTQIA+ people and associated social changes, and by providing evidence that supports expanded access to positive sexuality education.   

Student Award Academic Year: