In the nationally televised LGBTQ Town Hall, Pete Buttigieg, the second openly gay presidential candidate, said, “There is no right or wrong way to be gay, to be queer, to be trans. I hope that our own community, even as we struggle to define what our identity means, defines it in way that lets everybody know that they belong among us.”
The first three words of the United States Constitution — “We the People” — proclaim who is enacting the nation’s most important document. Yet as I progressed through my education, the “people” read about, the “people” who belonged in society, were lectured upon, revered, and who shaped the nation as I knew it, did not include people like me or Mr. Buttigeig, members of the LGBT+ community.
Since the ratification of the document 232 years ago, history lessons have missed the inclusion of LGBT+ people and other marginalized cultural groups, causing a deep, dangerous flaw in students’ world views.
I now know that all of us have not been taught an accurate portrayal of America’s story, or history in general. LGBT+ people, as we label and understand today, have always existed.
When LGBT+ youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as heterosexual youth, school systems need to respond. Some of that responsibility is showing children an honest reflection of history that mirrors a variety of identities and life experiences.
As a rising generation of students are surrounded by LGBT+ topics in pop culture and politics, providing them with balanced and accurate social studies lessons is critical.
o be sure, four states — California, New Jersey, Colorado and Illinois — are now mandated to teach LGBT+ history... Oregon and Maryland will soon join the ranks. It is encouraging to see, but policy shifts do not necessarily equate to transformed classroom practice.
For 10 years, I taught at a diverse public high school in Lowell, Mass. The lack of information about LGBT+ inclusive history became a glaring and harming gap, and the need to work towards advancing LGBT+ social studies curriculum became a dire and personal goal. I co-founded the education nonprofit History UnErased so schools would have a curriculum that presents LGBT+ history through an academic lens as diverse and complex as the world we live in.
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