Reflections on Reclaiming LGBTQ History
In January, members of GLSEN’s National Student Council (NSC), our student leadership team, attended the 2016 Creating Change Conference, a gathering of activists committed to the movement for LGBTQ justice.
At the conference, the NSC gave a workshop on reclaiming LGBTQ history – a history that is often erased. In fact, only 1 in 5 LGBT students reports that they were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history, or events in their classes. In the NSC’s workshop, the students spoke on how to remember those who have made LGBT history and how youth can make history today.
After the workshop, the students reflected on their experience:
“We built a giant LGBTQ timeline and went over the impact that it had on everyone. After building the timeline, we broke into small groups to narrow our discussions. My small group topic was gatekeeping history. Here my group discussed who has the right to filter history, and how we can break down barriers to where history can be all-inclusive of LGBTQ people.” -Zayne
“Our workshop space was intergenerational, which allowed for a variety of perspectives, and let the group hear from people who have seen our history recorded over the decades. Also, it was exciting to have a youth-led workshop that was actually youth-led. I loved having the chance to bring in my perspective as a queer southerner who does a lot of work in education policy.” -Nick
“Overall, the workshop we led was amazing, I didn't expect such a big turnout. I led the discussion group that focused on legacy. It was really cool getting to hear other perspectives on the importance of leaving lasting impressions of LGBTQ people on the earth.” -Cici
“The LGBTQ History workshop far surpassed what I ever could have dreamed of it being. Not only were we able to engage in wonderful group conversation with an audience that spanned all races, ages, identities, and experiences, but also our small groups provided zones where attendees felt safe enough to explore and share personal narratives and give us insight into their own histories.” -Peter
“In the discussion group I led on erasure, we discussed a variety of themes: the superficial framing of marginalized people in history, the emotional labor of educating and unlearning past trauma, and ways to tell the stories of people of color without being exploitative. Most importantly, we came to the conclusion that telling our own story is a revolutionary act and that being authentic and vulnerable is enough.” -Matthew
“So often, the media tries to tell our stories for us. By speaking up for ourselves we ensure that our authentic stories are told, and that protects a lot of our history. Mainstream media is getting better about representation. However, there is undeniably still a bias about what stories get told and which ones get forgotten. There are so many identities within the LGBT+ community, all of which deserve to have their stories highlighted.” -Lindsay
For the NSC members, it was also their first time experiencing the Creating Change Conference as a whole, and all of the unique opportunities to engage that it makes possible:
“I expected Creating Change to be revolutionary, and I left the conference transformed.” -Matthew
“Spaces like Creating Change provide me with so much hope. They remind me that I’m not alone.” -Lindsay
“It was amazing getting to be surrounded and validated by so many people that were just like me.” -Cici
“All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better weekend, and certainly couldn't have asked for better souls to experience it with. The NSC and GLSEN advisors never cease to amaze me. Each time we are together, every interaction drives deeper my longing to learn who I am, and more importantly dream of who I will become and the change that I will create.” -Peter
Overall, the students enjoyed the workshop and the conference as a whole, and they’re excited to continue presenting workshops that make school climates more positive for all.