“First California, and now Jersey? I don’t send my kids to school to watch porn.” This was a response from a parent after hearing that Gay History would be implemented in the middle school curriculum. My response to this parent was, “The fact that when you think of the gay community your mental default is porn is the very reason Gay History needs to be taught in our schools.
I often wondered why Gay History is not taught in our public schools. After all, aren’t we supposed to give our minority students examples of those whom they can relate to or identify with? When our innovations, inventions, contributions are unknown, we are not known. When our history, sacrifices, suffering and continuous unfair treatment is not known, we are simply not thought of, considered, and unknown.
The Pride celebrations of today were born from the pain of not being able to go out for a beer after a hard day’s work without getting harassed, blackmailed, arrested, thrown in jail and when “discovered” fired, or beaten over the head with billy-clubs. Gay Pride was not born from a need to celebrate being gay, rather our right to exist without persecution. And please, don’t just take my word for it. The documentary “Paragraph 175” does an amazing job of (literally) showing our extreme persecution – if you can stomach the cruelty our community has endured.
Very few know of our talent, contributions, inventions or the barbaric mistreatment that sadly still runs rampant today. When no one knows or learns about the invisible minority we are simply, well…. invisible. It is easy to dismiss a community you know nothing of. It is not that easy to dismiss a human being. Education and history classes bring us from the metaphoric closet to the classroom where we can be seen as human.
Unfortunately, many have no idea who Barbara Gittings, Sally Ride, Harvey Milk, Troy Perry, Frank Kameny, Leonard Matlovich, Marsha P. Johnson (and countless others) are or what great contributions they made to our nation. From Bayard Rustin devising the March on Washington to Billy Strayhorn writing almost all of Duke Ellington’s greatest hits, our history has been stripped away, our contributions erased. The mere fact that you are reading this on some type of tech device is thanx to a professor in the 1930’s. Alan Turing, a genius who was governmentally castrated (ultimately dying) simply because of the way he was born.
Speaking of our innovations being erased and our contributions stripped from public knowledge (from Bayard Rustin, devising the March on Washington, to Billy Strayhorn, writing almost all of Duke Ellington’s greatest hits) the sad truth is that King and Ellington didn’t mind the fanfare these brilliant gay men brought them but had little interest in crediting or publicly associating with them simply because their personal picture of love was not their ideal.
Travesties like this happened in every area (politics, entertainment, scientific discoveries, etc) all too often in our countries history to the point that so much of our history is, unfortunately, lost forever never to have the opportunity to make a history book or the classroom. While I cannot place complete blame on King or Ellington – they were a product of the culture of their time – we can now fix this moving forward and with Gay History finally being taught, it sounds as if we are.
We NEED our beautiful/colorful history taught in schools because the masses need, and deserve to be, educated on our wonderful community that generously contributed, and still contributes, to our great nation. And yes, just like black history, woman’s history, etc. there will be some initial backlash but those with the loudest voices against our history being taught are the very ones most in need of it.
Here we are in almost 2020 and our community is still being overlooked, forgotten, erased. June has been National Pride month for decades yet absolutely no mention of it from the highest office. Do you know in over half the states we can still be fired simply for being gay? This is a direct result of not being mentioned, acknowledged or taught about. No wonder gaycist attacks are on the rise.
So, I leave you with this question; which voice are you? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?