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Eliza Byard to Participate In LGBT History Discussion
GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard to Participate in
National Park Service Discussion on LGBT People, Places and Events in U.S. History
LGBT Heritage Theme Study to Recognize and Honor History of LGBT Americans
Digital Communications Assistant
NEW YORK, June 10, 2014 – GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard is among the 18 historians who will advise the National Park Service on a groundbreaking LGBT Heritage Theme Study to incorporate LGBT people and events in the parks and programs of the National Park Service.
Byard, along with other prominent LGBT scholars and historians, will participate in a roundtable discussion today in Washington, D.C. to inform the trailblazing initiative, which is sponsored by the Gill Foundation. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Ambassador John Berry will deliver opening remarks.
“The momentous role that LGBT people and events have played in shaping our nation is mostly absent from our national narrative,” said Byard, who has a PhD in history from Columbia University. “The LGBT Heritage Theme Study will help to shed light on the often forgotten icons like Bayard Rustin who left an indelible mark on American history. I am honored to collaborate with the Gill Foundation, the exemplary group of distinguished experts and the National Park Service on this critically important project.”
Goals of the initiative include engaging scholars, preservationists and community members around the stories of events in LGBT history; encouraging national parks to explore the LGBT events associated with different locations across the country; identifying and nominating LGBT historical sites as national historic landmarks; and increasing the number of LGBT-affiliated properties in the National Register of Historic Places. The study is expected to be completed by 2016.
In addition to its crucial role in telling the full story of American history, acknowledging and affirming the importance of LGBT history contributes to the safety and well-being of LGBT students in K-12 schools.
Students in schools with LGBT-inclusive curriculum heard fewer homophobic remarks and felt more connected to their school community, according to GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey. Fewer than half (43.4%) of students in schools with an inclusive curriculum felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, compared with two thirds (67.5%) of other students.
However, GLSEN research also found that only 16.8% of students were taught positive depictions of LGBT people, history and events in school. GLSEN recommends that educators incorporate age-appropriate information about LGBT people, history and events into lesson plans, making classrooms more inclusive spaces for LGBT students and giving the entire class deeper knowledge about our shared history.
“Curricula should serve as both a window and a mirror for students, reflecting their own experiences and strengthening their understanding of the lives of others,” Byard said. “Absence and exclusion damage the individual sense of self and the communal understanding of reality. LGBT youth who learn about LGBT people and events have healthier and more enriching school experiences, but all students benefit from a better understanding of what happened in United States history and why.”
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.