Why Everyone Should Be Learning LGBT History
Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Christine Jorgensen, and Bayard Rustin.
How many of those names did you recognize? If it was only one or two, or even zero, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Today, only one state (California) requires its students to learn LGBT history. As we approach the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall riots — a protest that’s largely considered to mark the beginning of the gay rights movement in America — many are still left wondering why LGBT history hasn’t been brought into the classrooms yet. Below are just a few reasons why, regardless of age, gender, or sexual identity, everyone should be learning about prominent LGBT figures and events.
Especially in school, LGBT teens can feel isolated and alone. Learning about people who are like them and went on to do great things helps them feel more included. But LGBT role models aren’t just reserved for LGBT students. Their sexuality was just one part of who they were and what they fought for. A straight boy with political aspirations can feel empowered by Harvey Milk’s story, while a young girl may look up (literally!) to Sally Ride, the first woman in space.
There’s no way to change what’s happened in the past, so why is it so important that we learn about it? As George Santayana now famously stated, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Learning about LGBT history will show us where we as a society went right and where we went wrong. When you learn about your past mistakes, you can also learn how not to repeat them.
To sum it all up: LGBT stories matter. Members of the LGBT community are still all too often marginalized and made to feel like the “other.” Sharing stories about prominent LGBT figures can help them to feel less isolated. It can also help to inform others about the contributions LGBT people have made, and can help the community gain much-needed allies.
But like we said earlier, moves are being made in the right direction. Though California-based LGBT groups had a few problems with the initial textbook drafts (set to be distributed to students in 2018), they’re currently working alongside publishers to create a dozen new, all-inclusive textbooks.