Why Are We Still Afraid of LGBT+ History?

Fighting Fear

When we think deeply about the complexities of history, we can, generally, say that history cannot be tied up in a neat package or be understood from a vantage point of pure villains or heroes - because history does not evolve within a binary system of approach and, therefore, studying history cannot exist within a binary perspective of good or bad, us or them, right or wrong. And this is also the fascinating part of history - the nebulous grey area associated with possible motivations, societal influences, personal experiences, and resultant choices and impact.


Launching instructional equity initiatives that include LGBT+ history and people (as we label and understand today) within the status quo curriculum invites even more complex considerations, because the inherent ambiguity may be interpreted as challenging belief systems and cultural mores. The proverbial elephant in the room is a result of the collective consciousness yielding to a homophobic anticipation that presumes the inclusion of LGBT+ content is about sexual behavior. It is not. The social construction of LGBT+ individuals has been overly sexualized, and does not consider this identity as something outside the realm of sexual behavior. This is false. And this is where we need to start our conversations with peers, administrators, and parents. Another social construction is that LGBT+ history is challenging tenets of particular religions and belief systems. Again, this is false. The LGBT+ community is, in many regards, an imagined community; but, with a formed solidarity as a result of persecution and oppression.

The first consideration, then, is to discuss what LGBT+ history is not. It is not about sexual behavior, it is not about defying the parameters of belief systems, it is not about "outing" people in history.

What LGBT+-inclusive curricula is represents a more comprehensive narrative voice of who we are as a community, nation, and global society. The reality is that the progression of time is not necessarily a progression towards a more sophisticated and just world. What LGBT+- inclusive history is represents a more truthful narrative about who, and which groups, have influenced social, political, cultural, and economic aspects of our world.

Implementing LGBT+-inclusive curricula carries so much weight, and is so new, that it will never be truly educative unless these initiatives listen to, and respond to, the wisdom that years in front of students can provide. It is abundantly true (and unfortunate) that classroom educators possess a wealth of knowledge that is so rarely tapped -- as they operate within a vacuum of being in the public, performing privately, and invariably locked out of the evolution of education policy. As classroom educators begin to implement LGBT+ content, it is critical that they are given the time and space to talk with each other and learn from each other.

When discussing the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "This will not be the wrenching, traumatic change that people predicted". So, too, this is true with regard to the implementation of LGBT+ inclusive history within K-12 schools. 

All children are born innocent of LGBT+ discrimination, just as they are born innocent of race and gender bias. And today, our children are growing up in a society that is saturated with these topics in the media, legislation, news cycle, and pop culture, but with no reference to this part of their world in the classroom. What does this inculcate in their psyche? [Caution: silence can be deafening, destructive, and debilitating.]

Why are we, as a collective consciousness, still afraid of LGBT+ history?

The inexorable call of our accountability to each other requires every stakeholder in education to confront the discomfort and fear - first, from within. Once we begin to confront the roots of these, and discuss it honestly and openly, the result will be profound - releasing us all from the anticipated wrenching and traumatic change that we are afraid to discuss.

As Marcus Garvey said, "A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."

Let us all become Joshua trees.