All my friends remember hearing me rant sophomore year about our AP US History Textbook. Quite frequently I’d rant about the lack of inclusivity in our “comprehensive” education. Queer representation was boiled down to a single paragraph and a picture on one page of an 800+ page textbook. There was a single sentence about the Mattachine Society and one sentence about Stonewall followed by a sentence stating that AIDS in the 1980’s slowed the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. The part that bothered me the most was the sentence about Stonewall: “A brutal attack on gay men by off-duty police officers at New York’s Stonewall Inn in 1969 proved a turning point, when victims fight back in what became known as the Stonewall Rebellion.” Stonewall was not an attack on gay men, it was an attack on TRANS. PEOPLE. OF. COLOR.
That experience reinforced the idea that if I wanted to learn about my history it would be on my own time, on my own terms, outside of school. While that was helpful for me, I know the majority of the students gearing up for the AP US History exam aren’t thinking that way. I think that’s unfortunate because queer history, especially Black queer history, IS American history. So all Americans should learn it. That’s why I think the #QueeringBlackHistory campaign is so important. I wanted to highlight the women and femmes I look at as role models and wished I learned about in school.
-Ose Arheghan, GLSEN’s 2017 Student Advocate of the Year.
Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson is one of the most famous queer women of color in the LGBTQ community. In partnership with Sylvia Rivera, she founded STAR (the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) which was an organization that helped homeless or runaway trans individuals. Johnson also worked with the Gay Liberation Front and was an integral part of the Stonewall Riots.
Abigail Hollis is one of the 11 original members of University of Missouri Concerned Student 1950. CS1950 was a student response to racism on campus and pushed for leadership change within the university.
Cece McDonald is a trans activist bring attention to the problems with the American prison industrial complex. McDonald was assaulted in a racist and transphobic attack and retaliated in self-defence. She made national headlines in 2012 when she accepted a 41 month plea bargain for second-degree manslaughter and was housed in a male prison. Her story shone light on violence and discrimination against trans women of color.
Audre Lorde was a lesbian, Civil Rights activist, and poet laureate of New York. Her poetry brought attention to the struggles of black people, women, and members of the queer community. She continuously called for and encouraged others to call for the liberation of minority communities.
Brittany Ferrell is a 28-year-old activist who led protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting on Michael Brown. Ferrell, along with her wife, led a protest that shut down Interstate 70 in the town and were both arrested. Ferrell also founded organization, Millennial Activists United.
Laverne Cox is an actress and advocate for the trans community. In her breakout role as Sophia on Orange is the New Black, Cox became the first openly trans person nominated for a primetime Emmy in the acting category. In the last 3 years, Cox has become the first trans person to do things like star in a broadcast TV show, have a wax figure in Madame Tussauds and win a daytime Emmy for directing.
Sekiya Dorsett is a queer filmmaker who has had work shown at film festivals all around the world. She has produced content for LOGO TV, USA Network and Oxygen. Recently, her documentary Revival: Women and the World followed the lives of five queer women of color who traveled the country sharing their story through music and poetry.
Dr. Rev. Pauli Murray was a Civil Rights leader, lawyer, women’s rights leader and one of the first African-American female Episcopal ministers. As a lawyer, Murray’s work set legal precedent for both Brown v. Board of Education and Reed v. Reed, both cases integral to the Civil Rights and women’s rights movements. As a women’s rights activist, Murray work alongside Betty Friedan to co-found the National Organization for Women.
Hunger Games and Everything, Everything actor Amandla Stenberg made headlines when they publicly came out in Teen Vouge’s Snapchat as bisexual. Stenberg is an outspoken activist who advocates for women, African Americans, members of the queer community and young people.
Angelica Ross is a leading figure in the movement for trans and racial equality. She tackles everything from boardrooms, to film sets, to the White House. She is the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, which empowers trans and gender non-conforming folks in the workplace. She also created the series Her Story which centers two trans women in LA.
Angela Davis is an American political activist, academic, author and a self-identified lesbian. Her work continues to focus on the intersections of race, gender, and economic justice. She emerged as an activist in her work with the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. She continues teach as a professor and author books about the resistance including her most recent book, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement.”
I want to see #QueeringBlackHistory turn into plain ‘ol #QueeringHistory because our contributions should not be erased and our voices should not be silenced. I think it’s important for us as students to be represented in the school curriculum for it to actually be considered “comprehensive.” I hope one day that’s reflected in AP curriculum, Common Core, and local school district initiatives.
Ose Arheghan is GLSEN’s 2017 Student Advocate of the Year.