The Senate of Illinois has recently mandated that LGBT history is included in every public high school and elementary school curriculum, following the state of California who took the same action in late November of 2017. With Massachusetts and New York following their leads, both states have set forth a national movement. The action itself is setting an example for the rest of the country while paving way for the further LGBTQ+ representation: something the community has been wrongfully deprived of. The history of itself has, many times, been blatantly erased from our textbooks. We tend to underestimate the impact a school core has on its students. The basis of generational intellect comes from its school system. Through my own experience, most of the knowledge I have acquired on the background of the brutal, oppressive, and recent history of the LGBT and queer communities have been through individual research. There was perhaps mere mention of Stonewall in my A.P United States history course, but other than that, nothing: even the teaching of such events are often times whitewashed. Though most universities offer many other classes pertaining to not only LGBTQ+ history, including lectures based in sexuality, queer literature, and gender (to only name a few I have come across in my University), this is not enough. Additionally, students should not have to wait 18 years to finally see themselves represented in their mandated classes. The public high school system sets the tone of compassion, behavior, and even comprehension to many of its students; because we are developing, we begin to see each other, and ourselves, in a different light; one that is more open and accessible. We almost become vulnerable to what our minds soon absorb. Due to the eminent susceptibility to prosperity and flourish, education and acknowledgement become the root of activism.
Essentially representation creates a sense of pride. Pride in oneself and, more so, pride in one’s community and sexual orientation. Ignoring an entire community when presenting a historical context to an entire class is simply unjust. A classroom is supposed to act as a safe space for all students; hence, it must be all-inclusive. It is crucial to recognize the avid injustice the LGBTQ+ community faced and acknowledge the ultimate reality of many members. In doing so, it becomes critical to give due representation where it is necessary. In doing so, we must pay careful attention to the people of color who curated the movement: those who are more times than not whitewashed by the media. Principally, teaching a whitewashed history is not teaching at all. One notorious example I have encountered with my own school is the presentation of the Gay Liberation Movement and the overall teachings of the Stonewall Riots; the Black trans icon Marsha P. Johnson initiated the riots, but unfortunately, this fact is not specified and almost overlooked. Once again, the education system undermining and even ignoring the achievements of a a person of color and thus, whitewashing a history. Sadly, this example is only one of many. Trans and queer people are, at most times, not allotted due credit for their involvement in the resistance as well. Even concerning accuracy in textbooks, in which many notable figures’ sexualities are ignored. We, as students, are not even given exposure to multiple communities, and that is absolutely repulsive. Our goal then becomes revolutionizing the entirety of the education system and curriculum.
Teaching this history is long overdue and should not be debated. Ignoring the struggle and inevitable danger faced by the entirety of the community promotes it further. Such history must NOT be overlooked. How else will this country acknowledge its past and move towards progress? It is through communal effort and integrity which lies true change. Modern society holds a homophobic, transphobic, and racist legacy, one that heavily regulates and influences heteronormativity and hate. Although there are actions that can be taken, both direct and non-direct, that can potentially dismantle this oppressive state. The first step is the acknowledgement of our past. In order to embrace and affirm ourselves and those around us, understanding the history of the LGBTQ+ movement is necessary. Being an ally entails a comprehension of the culture and its past. In teaching students the long, endured, and still relevant history of the community, zeal for social justice becomes expected.
It is absolutely wonderful that such actions are being taken to ensure an inclusive study, and I would even go further to say that LGBT history should be taught at an even younger age. When a student learns of a history that is taught through a narrow and even discriminatory perspective only advances a prejudiced and hate-based mindset. All in all, the young people of the Generation Z and Millennial have been avid in activism whether it be for gun reform or the current political climate. We are the future; we hold destined senators, mayors, activists and public officials whom will be in positions ready to fight the lack of inclusivity in public education and further oppressive factors continuously faced by the entire community. In acting as alma maters to many of these prospective scholars, these institutions hold the power of shaping their ethics. It is up to us to aid in creating a course of study that represents the LGBTQ+ community. In a sense, I am trying to reiterate that teaching what is long overdue should not be considered an extreme ideal; it is literal human decency. I have attached further resources down below that encompass LGBT history in children’s books, lessons, and other scholarly sources!