Four States Require LGBTQ History to Be Taught in Schools Starting July 2020


June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month. This is traditionally a month-long celebration of achievements and activism in the LGBTQ+ community. There are usually festivals, parades, shows, and parties. COVID-19 has resulted in most of the usual events being postponed or canceled for 2020. Since it occurs in June most schools are on summer break. Therefore, the history of Pride Month isn’t often discussed with students. In fact, it’s still against the law to discuss LGBTQ history in schools in some US states.

Four US states will now be teaching LGBTQ history in schools, while 6 states still prohibit it

Illinois was the 4th state to pass a bill requiring public schools to teach LGBT history. It goes into effect in July 2020. The law states “the teaching of history in the United States shall include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country.” Textbooks purchased with state grant funds must “include the roles and contributions of all people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.” California, Colorado, and New Jersey were the first states to require LGBTQ history to be included in schools.

While four states are taking action toward a more inclusive curriculum, six states still prohibit schools from discussing LGBTQ people or topics in a “positive light.” Those states are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. These policies are commonly referred to as “no pro homo” laws. Research shows LGBTQ students in these states are often lacking support and resources from teachers and administration, including being more likely to hear homophobic remarks from school staff, being less likely to have bullying and harassment problems handled effectively from school staff, feeling less supported by teachers, and having few or no LGBTQ resources available at school.

Why the LGBTQ history should be discussed in school

The history of Pride Month and the Stonewall Riots is rarely discussed in schools, despite it being an important historical event with lasting impact. Teaching Tolerance says it is important to talk about Stonewall so students understand the violence, discrimination, and inequality LGBTQ people faced at that time. Showing affection towards someone of the same sex or wearing clothes deemed “gender-inappropriate” often resulted in jail time varying from three months to life. It helps students see beyond the “cis lens.” It also allows LGBTQ students to see people like themselves fighting for justice and creating change. 

According to the Trevor Project, 1.8 million LGBTQ students seriously consider suicide each year. Supportive adults can reduce that number drastically. Talking about LGBTQ history, Pride Month, the Stonewall Riots, and other issues related to equal rights is one way to make students feel seen. Learning about significant events in history is beneficial for all students.

History of Pride month

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Pride, an important chapter in recent US history most of us didn’t learn in school. As more states begin requiring schools to include LGBTQ history, Pride will start showing up in curriculum. Here’s a brief overview.

Police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City’s West Village, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. “Gay behavior” was illegal in NYC at the time. This included kissing, hugging, holding hands, or dancing with someone of the same sex. The state also had “gender-appropriate clothing” laws. Police raiding gay bars and arresting staff and patrons was a common occurrence.

The police were very aggressive with patrons and employees of the Stonewall Inn that night. A police officer hit a lesbian over the head while shoving her into a police van. Then the crowd started fighting back. This became known as the Stonewall Riots and went on for six days.

The riot started with a couple of hundred people, but thousands joined in over the next several days. It sparked the political movement for LGBT rights and gave birth to several gay rights organizations. The first Pride occurred in 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots. The City of New York named the Stonewall Inn a historic landmark in 2015. President Barack Obama declared it a national monument in 2016.

Stonewall Inn is where the history of Pride Month began.

Keyplayers in the Stonewall Riots

While thousands were involved in the Stonewall Riots, three of the main players were people of color.

Marsha P. Johnson was a Black transgender woman who was a well-known activist in the gay community. She was celebrating her 25th birthday at the Stonewall Inn. Many say she threw the first punch when the police raided the club. 

Marsha P. Johnson was a keyplayer in the history of Pride Month.

Stormé DeLarverie is the other contender for throwing the first punch. She was a biracial lesbian and the only woman in the Jewel Box Revue. This was the period’s only racially integrated drag troupe.

Stormé DeLarverie is an imporant player in the history of Pride Month.

Sylvia Rivera was a transgender Hispanic woman and activist. She and Marsha P. Johnson worked together after the Stonewall Riots to fight for transgender rights and to help house homeless LGBTQ youth.

Sylvia Rivera was an important player in the history of Pride month.

Why the Stonewall Riots are especially relevant in 2020

The Stonewall Riots were the driving force to start conversations and political activism. It led to changes in laws that discriminated against LGBT people. It was a long road and the fight isn’t over, but it started with those riots. Many LGBTQ people are now marching and protesting for Black Lives Matters. The Stonewall Riots showed proved standing together to say “no more” can lead to positive changes. And it’s the 50th anniversary of Pride, which is an important milestone.

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Four States Require LGBTQ History to Be Taught in Schools Starting July 2020

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She’s been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga.
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