Honoring a community

LGBTQ+ history month empowers students and staff

Isa Luzarraga, Editor-in-Cheif

Senior Sara Foley** first came out to her best friend over three paragraphs of text on Snapchat. Finally confiding in someone that she was bisexual, Foley was scared at this vulnerability. Her friend came over that day, tears streaming down both of their faces as they embraced, and Foley knew she was accepted. 

Her coming out story and subsequent acceptance of her sexuality remind Foley of the importance of LGBTQ+ history month.

“LGBTQ history is super important, not just for kids involved in the community, but also for straight allies,” Foley said. “It helps lead to more understanding, who we are and what we stand for.”

The month-long celebration was founded in 1994 by Missouri high school teacher Rodney Wilson and now honors a prominent LGBTQ+ figure every day of October. 

“Its purpose, in a sense, is to normalize talking about an integral part of the past that most of the time gets overlooked,” gay senior Jared Gerhardt said. “By providing an outlet to discuss it, LGBTQ+ history month is an amazing way to expose people to new perspectives that they previously had not been aware of.”

Gay senior Marc Hoyer said the discussion of LGBTQ+ history has become more important than ever due to continued discrimination.

“It’s easy to assume that we don’t really have to [teach LGBTQ+ history] because we are a more accepting country,” Hoyer said. “But like any minority, we pretend we’ve fixed all of the problems related to LGBTQ+ issues when the ideologies of hatred still persist.”

In the United States, there are currently four states that require the teaching of LGBTQ+ history in schools. However, according to an article from the U.S. News Report, implementation in New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado, and California schools could be slowed since individual districts can choose their own standards regarding how the community’s history is taught.

State laws regarding same-sex relationships have lead to Texas, Alabama, and four other states prohibiting the teaching or portrayal of LGBTQ+ individuals in any positive, instructional form.

“The lack of education stems from a bigger problem with the system of not counting queer people as people in general,” Foley said. “Teaching more people about our history will lead to fewer negative connotations with the community as a whole.”

Junior Ella Eckerman came out as a lesbian in 2019 and said the only exposure to LGBTQ+ history she experienced was in her Human Diversity class.

“Each and every student can benefit from learning about the history of the community,” Eckerman said. “Understanding the past and growth of acceptance for LGBTQ+ individuals is very important.

Art department head Jon Austin said his Art History class discusses the identity of artists when their experience as LGBTQ+ individuals influences their work. When introducing art made by Keith Haring, Austin discusses how his sexuality and the contextualization of the AIDS epidemic can be seen in his pop art.

 Austin said acknowledging this makes queer students feel recognized in school.

“By including LGBTQ+ history where it’s appropriate or where it comes up in curriculum, it shows students that they’re heard and understood,” Austin said. “Not only could it lessen bullying, but, when you look at suicide rates among LGBTQ+ students, those numbers could go down because they’re seeing themselves represented, they’re not being ignored.”

With this connection between education and acceptance in mind, LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and allies alike said they hope to see LGBTQ+ history month and significant historical events integrated into classrooms.

“Just understanding America and our history, it’s a piece of the puzzle,” Austin said. “The events in the past have importance. Equity in education helps students know they’re heard, they are seen.”