When will LGBT themes be granted their rightful place in textbook accounts of U.S. history?
In 1629 and 2003, and throughout the centuries between, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have been discussed and debated in our nationís courts, the media, and in varied community forums. But you will find little evidence of this in classroom curricula. Over the course of U.S. history, the challenges facing LGBT people have had profound implications for the way that all of us live, love and express ourselves. The first scenario above, for example, reflects the rather remarkable precedent of the legal assignment of a person to a special gender category that had not previously existed, while the latter addresses the critical questions of privacy and the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law. But you will find little discussion (if any) about this in U.S. history textbooks. There may be at least 2.8 million LGB students in K-12 schools and 2 million lesbian and gay headed households with children in the U.S. Yet their existence is rarely acknowledged in the lessons we teach and their histories are all but imperceptible in the instructional materials we count on to describe the world.
We have learned from African and Native American communities, womenís communities, and other traditionally underrepresented people that invisibility is a dangerous and painful condition. It denies marginalized groups the pride and sense of heritage that comes from seeing oneself reflected in history and culture, and deprives everyone of the opportunity to fully understand and appreciate the diverse spectrum of people and experiences that configure the world.
The consequences of this invisibility are devastating for young people. The lack of legal protections against anti-LGBT discrimination from above conspire with the absence of inclusive curricula on the ground to create a toxic educational environment for many LGBT youth, who endure harassment, isolation, and fear on a daily basis with little hope of intervention or affirmation from either their peers or the adults charged with their well-being. In such environments, all students are restricted by rigid gender role norms and narrow conceptions of humanity. Schools that perpetuate silence around LGBT issues can be breeding grounds for the fear and ignorance that fuel teasing during the early grades and violent hate acts by the time students reach high school. In a 2001 National School Climate Survey, 80.6% of LGBT students reported that there were no positive portrayals of LGBT people, history or events in any of their classes. 83.2% reported that they had experienced some form of anti-LGBT harassment or violence in school and 68.6% reported feeling unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation...
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