Most people who have attended public schools in the United States have taken a mandatory history class, or even several of them. We are made to learn about a certain history that is decided by people in power. What I think is lacking from that story is the history of oppressed identities. Most history books pay little, if any, attention to the details of movements such as Civil Rights or Feminism. Even less give insight to Disability History, Native American History, and many others.
Coming into to LGBTQ+ community here at CSU, I quickly realized that I don’t know much about the community’s history. No one ever mentioned Stonewall in my history classes, a critical event in the history of a community that I strongly identify with. Had I learned about this and other parts of the movement towards LGBTQ+ recognition, I might have felt like I had a place in this society. The fact is I do have a place, just like every other member of the LGBTQ+ community. Sadly this place was hidden from me until I actively sought it out, which wasn’t until college. There are members of my community that will never know our history, our struggles and our strength.
The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center is doing something amazing and well overdue. They are creating lesson plans around LGBT history to be used in LA public schools. This would not be possible without California’s 2011 FAIR Education Act. I hope to see more legislation like this passed in other states because it is crucial to teach young people about history. History does not consist of what has happened to straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied men. Believe it or not, other things have happened in this country. If we are going to teach US History classes, we have an obligation to teach the history of the United States. Regardless of whether anyone agrees with the LGBTQ+ movement, it is happening, has been happening, and will continue to happen.
When we as a country are able to accept that history is not being portrayed in the majority of our classrooms, then we will be able to move forward. One story is getting told and it is not fair to any of us. Being force fed half-truths from kindergarten to 12th grade (sometimes beyond) should not be an option. Keeping the majority of our population from learning things that interest them is stifling education and producing ignorant citizens.
If you don’t think this affects you, you’re wrong. Most of us in this country are oppressed or have been oppressed in some way. Whether that be around race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, ability, religion, class, education… the list goes on. It is more than likely that we have all experienced some repression of at least one of our identities because of the way public education is structured. When one group struggles to be heard, we all struggle.
It is especially detrimental at this time in our country and our world for youth to be uneducated around LGBTQ+ issues and history. When we see a disproportionate amount of homelessness, depression and suicide (among other things) in this community, there is a problem. There is no way to correct the wrongs that have been done to a group of people. What we can do is empower them to be who they are and take pride in knowing there is a community to support them.
Education in public schools would extend even beyond this. Education leads to understanding, acceptance and unity between people of different identities.
Everyone deserves to learn about people who are like them. Providing education around LGBTQ+ identities would not only make history a bit more interesting, but it would empower people to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Michaela is a second year Ethnic Studies student who was recently inspired to build stronger communities. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.