Education

L.A. Public Schools to Teach Queer History

The new curriculum makes Los Angeles the first US city to implement such a program.

Photo Credit: MilaK via Shutterstock.com

As soon as next year, history classes in Los Angeles public high schools will begin teaching LGBTQ history.

In celebration of the 25th annual National Coming Out Day this past October, Los Angeles United School District, or L.A.U.S.D., announced several gay-friendly initiatives, including a new LGBTQ-inclusive history curriculum.

This new curriculum makes Los Angeles the first city in the United States to implement such a program, recognizing the historic contributions of Queer Americans and their fight for civil rights.

High school history classes will begin covering LGBTQ history from 1940 to the present at various points throughout the year. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives and Project SPIN (Suicide Prevention Intervention Now) have teamed up to produce and implement the curriculum, free of charge, thanks to funding from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

The lesson plans will arrive more than two years after California’s legislature passed the FAIR Education Act in 2011, mandating that state public schools teach LGBTQ history. The act set a controversial national precedent, causing some parents to pull their students out of public schools in a “gay panic.”

Project SPIN’s involvement in the project highlights the importance of outreach to Queer students, many of whom may be bullied, harassed and at risk of suicide. LGBTQ-inclusive history classes will help make those students feel safe and accepted, and promote tolerance and understanding to a generation of young people.

No further details have been released about the content of the curriculum. Although an official L.A.U.S.D. press release included “Q” in “LGBTQ,” no statement has been made regarding the usage of “queer” or its functional definition in classes. There is a high risk that more rigid, traditional definitions of “gay” and “lesbian” will be stressed in lesson plans, reinforcing a binary of sexual identity and further marginalizing Queer folk, and other intersecting identities.

Education has unparalleled impact on our future, and L.A.U.S.D.’s welcome decision provides hope for that future. However, generalizations and stereotypes hurt even when well intentioned. Students should be taught a truly inclusive history, acknowledging the fluid nature of sexual and gender identity.

This article originally appeared in OutWrite, a student publication at the University of California, Los Angeles that receives funding and training as a member of the Generation Progress journalism network.

Evan is a fourth year Art History major and Philosophy minor at UCLA. He is Editor-in-Chief of the interdisciplinary arts journal GRAPHITE and Director of Community Engagement for UCLA's student government.

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