Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

How was your Pride last month? I truly hope it was special. Back in June, we went to David’s first ever Pride Parade in Boston. Next month, we’re hoping to catch the Pride events in Worcester, where we currently call home.

I’m starting with that question because I am doggedly determined to write a happy, uplifting, peaceful article this month. Why? Because as I’m writing it, the Republican National Convention is going on. Donald Trump has just given the American people the chance to put Mike Pence a bad cold away from the Oval Office. And the nation is still reeling from gun violence. Expect articles on all of that as both situations develop – but for now, I’m focused on something else. At least for a month.
So here’s that something else, something that happened last month. The very same week I wrote this article and everything I just mentioned went down, in fact.

The California State Board of Education unanimously passed a ground-breaking LGBTQ addition to the history/social sciences curriculum. Come this fall when public schools go back into session, the history, rights, and accomplishments of LGBTQ peoples will be part of the everyday curriculum.

Starting in 2nd grade, students will learn about same-sex couples. By 4th grade, they’ll be learning about the LGBTQ organizations that came about as early as the 1950s. In middle school, they’ll move on the evolution of gender norms in the 18th-20th centuries – and the people who pushed back against them. By the time California public school students are in high school, they will be learning about the laws and struggles happening currently, like the fight for marriage equality and the anti-trans bathroom bills in states nationally.

And the new regulations go one step further – not only are the new classrooms inclusive, anti-LGBTQ teachings are banned. There’s no exception for “religious freedom” or any attempt at being “fair and balanced.” We exist. We were oppressed. We are marginalized. We continue to fight back. We continue to contribute. We matter. There is no counter-argument.

The need for this is clear. And not just because our history IS American history. But because according to a 2013 national survey, 74% of LGBTQ middle and high school students experienced verbal harassment due their orientation and identity. In schools without explicitly inclusive materials, 60% of LGBTQ students report feeling unsafe. That number drops to 30% in schools with explicitly inclusive materials.

Now, I’m me, which means I look at most things with a heaping spoonful of skepticism. I am concerned that we still desperately need a Black History Month, but the history of LGBTQ people gets fully incorporated into the daily curriculum. Will this include LGBTQ people of color? Or is there going to be a white-washing? Are transmen and –women going to be truly included? Or is it going to be the history and struggle of white, gay men – which counts and is part of the story, but nowhere near the full story.

I don’t mean to end on a skeptical note, and I am definitely excited about this move. It has the potential to be huge. So come on, California, don’t screw this up. The nation is watching, and we could really use some good news.

Until next month, take care of you – and each other.

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