As America’s students settle into a new school year, they’ll also be returning to their social studies classes — courses ostensibly about teaching students about history and how it applies to civic life. But when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) contributions to our history, these stories are often not only missing but mocked.
Imagine being Bryan Blaise, a student of Florida social studies teacher Jerry Buell, who advocated allowing gays to serve in the military — so that they could be the only ones on the front lines of battle. What was Buell teaching his class about gay people? One imagines it was nothing positive; this is the same man who responded to New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage by posting on his Facebook wall that the vote almost made him throw up and by calling same-sex marriage a “cesspool.”
There are many remarkable stories that Buell is likely still not teaching, like that of the daughter of migrant workers, Lupe Valdez, a Latina, lesbian Democrat who was elected Sheriff of Dallas County, Tex. Or Atlanta’s Alex Wan, who’d endured bullying for being Asian, a geek and gay, and who became the first openly gay Asian American elected in the Deep South.
Why do these omissions matter? First of all, excluding one group makes for incomplete, and therefore inaccurate, history. That should be reason enough. But since it isn’t, California passed a law that ensures that contributions by LGBT people are included — a law that simply joins the existing ones that already ensure that their schools teach about more than white, heterosexual men.