School is supposed to teach us about things we aren’t aware of; they are supposed to educate us on the history of our country and all the good and evil it was part of. For far too long, history has been dictated and controlled by old white men in power, but with time, we see a more diverse picture of the past and learn that most of the things we learnt at school are biased and one-sided. Queer history is pretty much inexistent in school curriculums, and most schools barely even recognized pride month as the month when queer history should be taught.
I am sure that most of you learned about the civil rights movement at school and about Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.. Still, very few of you will recognize the name Bayard Rustin, an integral part of MLK’s platform. He was the one who organized most of these civil rights events and protests but has been erased from history because he was open about his sexuality. So, come along with us and learn more about queer history, another thing that our school system has let us down on.
Why is it important?
1. To give a more accurate picture of history
The history we are taught at school is through the lens of a white man who never faced any discrimination in their life. This is why you see that they seem to be no issue depicting African American enslaved bodies as lesser than and the exclusion of anyone who isn’t cis, straight, white, or a man. The history we learn is disjointed and broken at best.
Teaching kids queer history at school will give them a more comprehensive view of the world and make them more compassionate adults who don’t judge people on who they love. Most of you have learned about World War II, and the holocaust but how many of you know that queer people were also interned and experimented on in these camps. Most of you also learnt about the cold war, but did you learn about the lavender scarce or what it meant for queer people?
The answer will shock exactly no one, but most of you haven’t learned these, and let’s not even talk about Stonewall because that’s hidden even deeper. We were not taught this in school because America was constructed on the belief that white heteronormativity is the norm and that queer people are lesser than.
2. The consequences of omitting people and treating them differently
The removal or omission of these stories is proof of the discrimination that queer people still suffer in the so-called land of the free. Side note, you also didn’t learn this at school, but I am here to tell this. More people died during the AIDs epidemic in the states than American soldiers in Vietnam, more than 450 000 individuals (most queer men) died during the AIDs epidemic, and less than 60 000 Americans lost their lives during the Vietnam war. All this show a grim picture of our history, doesn’t it?
This is why we need to learn about it so that we don’t make the same mistake again. History forgotten is bound to happen again. Ronald Reagan deemed the AIDs epidemic as the gay disease, and they didn’t lift a finger to help people until they discovered that the disease was killing straight white people. It was only after that, that action was taken to fight the epidemic.
3. Adding queer history as part of the overall curriculum and not one class that is taught during pride month
Now you might tell me there is no way to incorporate queer history in any other course except for humanities, well let me give you an example of this. Alan Turing is a name you most probably haven’t heard prior to this except if you watched Imitation Games or are a queer history nerd like me.
He is the father of modern computers and was one of the reasons England and the US won World War II against Germany. He invented the first supercomputer that was able to decode the German’s secret code but was later arrested and chemically castrated because he was gay. Queer history can be stubbly added to modern curriculum to give a more encompassing view of history.
4. To teach the past is to not repeat it in the future!
Queer history and the treatment of queer people haven’t always been rainbows and sunshine in the US or anywhere else in the world for that matter (even countries like India and some parts of Africa where queerness was seen as something valid changed their view on queerness after being colonized), and there is still progress to be made, but I’d like to believe that we are moving in the right direction.
The next logical step is to include queer history as part of the curriculum in countries like Scotland or even states like California. To quote Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” We need to face history even if it makes some people uncomfortable because we need to face and relive it in order not to commit the same mistakes twice.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us if you would have liked to have a queer history as part of your school curriculum.