One of the most untold treasures of our world’s history is LGBTQ+ history. The rebellious nature and secrecy woven into the community’s past creates history that not only teaches us lessons but reveals to us the lives of humans that overcame social barriers. The lessons it teaches us are so vast and beneficial that it leads many to wonder why is LGBTQ+ history not taught or properly honored in schools? Why is it that most students cannot name one historically significant person who was a part of the LGBTQ+ community? Before we can truly honor this wonderful part of history we must be educated.
An interview with San Marcos World History teacher Ms. Jacobson opened eyes to see how far our system has come and how far it needs to go to be fully inclusive and to teach the truth of history.
“We all in the social studies department have been encouraged by the fair act (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act, also known as the FAIR Education Act (Senate Bill 48)) to integrate groups that have been marginalized in history, and LGBTQ+ community certainly falls into that category,” said Ms. Jacobson. “I don’t know about my colleagues that are teaching US history, but I know there has been more emphasis on US history teachers to integrate that into their discussion, especially civil rights to make that a component of the case studies that look at beyond race but also disabilities and LGBTQ.”
When asked if she thought students could name a member of the LGBTQ+ community who had historical significance, she replied with a simple no. To put that to the test, I surveyed many different students asking them to name someone from the LGBTQ+ community that they had learned about in a history class. Out of the students that were surveyed 95% said that they could not name someone they had been taught about in history.
“I think that if you look beyond Europe for most of history queer people were apart of culture and were celebrated and excpeted in a lot of places, but those were often the places that get left out of eurocentric teachings of history, in the first place.” said Senior Roz Borah. Roz has taken two history classes through San Marcos, World history and US history. She stated that they could recall two instances from her world history class were LGBTQ+ member with historical significance were mentioned, and zero times in their US history class.
“I cannot name one which is a terrible reflection on our textbooks because the LGBTQ community is so important to our society.” Said Freshmen Ellie Monson.
If you take a look in our history textbooks they often seem outdated and non inclusive. You would think that there would be a simple solution to this, buy new textbooks, but Ms. Jacobson explained that it is not that easy.
“I think that it takes a long time for those narratives to fall into history curriculum and in large part because it is a political process. Meaning when there is an adoption of a textbook, that text book has to be presented to the community, and the community has the right to object and that really makes it difficult for textbook publishers who are trying to make their profits, so certain narratives do tend to get less play because of it, or tend to be kind of white washed. It’s the democartic process but I think that we are really moving in the right direction. I think of the last few years we’re seeing a resurgence of voices saying we need to be heard and we’re seeing that on the streets today.“
But even without an updated textbook we have creative teachers that find ways to stretch our students’ minds and make them realize that sometimes the people who are of the most value are kept behind a curtain because they did not fit the hero prototype.
“I always do this exercise with my students early in our studies together about who makes history, and the bottom line is that we all make history, and I have them make a list about who they think is historically significant. For a long time the list was almost exclusively men, dead men. Usually United States presidents with the occasional Martin Luther King but now it’s changed. I’ve noticed that the students do integrate living and dead history makers and people of color so I do see a change and I think that over time it will change so that there are more household names. But I think they’re not really in the history textbooks in the same way we would expect.”
Nearly all of the students interviewed said that they wished they were being taught about those aspects of history. Until the curriculum catches up with students’ need to learn about the LGBTQ+ community, our San Marcos librarian has a large selection of books by authors who are a member of the LGBTQ+ community. This is one way to honor LGBTQ+ history month yourself!
Check out an LGBTQ+ Book from the Library!
The San Marcos library has about 90 fiction books written by LGBTQ authors and about 30 non-fiction books (mainly memoirs) about LGBTQ history.
When asked why there are less LGBTQ author’s book’s on the library shelves Ms. McMillian said,
“I think that it’s easier to find LGBTQ books that are for older teenagers than younger teenagers, although that’s changing because there are authors like Alex Gino who wrote the book George (George is a book about a transgener fourth grader. George was born in a boy’s body but knows that she is a girl. The book follows George through her journey), so that’s written basically for fifth graders, or maybe grades five to eight, and Alex Gino is making more books. So there are more and more authors that are writing for younger students.”
Some other book recommendations from Ms. McMillan are “Pride; the celebration and the struggle” a nonfiction book about the history of pride parades, pride celebrations, and pride month. Ms. McMillian also recommends the graphic novel “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me” by Mariko Tamaki, a highschool romance about an on-again-off-again relationship. Ziggy, Stardust & me is a novel by James Brandon that takes place in the 1970s when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. It follows two boys as they fall in love against all odds. Ms. McMillan highly recommends this book to all students.
To check out books:
“You go to our San Marcos library web page. The easiest way to find it is visit our San Marcos website, you must type in smroyals.org. You go to academics and then choose library and the library website is right there. When you get to the library website you press the catalogue and that’s where all of our books are listed, and you have to log in but now you can log in with google. Then you search for your book and press hold it, and we send you an email when it’s ready.”
The San Marcos library is doing a top notch job getting students books in the safest way possible. To pick up a book you must make an appointment and go before school, after school, or during lunch.
“Students who are interested in LGBTQ books, what you can do is press catalog and then press resource list and then you’ll see the LGBTQ resource list with all the books.” said Ms.McMillian
For all other marginalized people’s heritage month’s our library does an exquisite job of sharing the knowledge kept in their pages by promoting their books. LGBTQ+ history month is no exception. Go to their library website and check out a book about LGBTQ+ history to celebrate the wonderful past of the LGBTQ+ community.
As a final word, Ms. McMilllian said, “The library is for everyone in our school and everyone should feel welcome.”
While reading both fiction and nonfiction books about the LGBTQ community is one way to honor this historic month, you can do more with one click of a button.
Attend the San Marcos GSA on October 16!
Attend San Marcos’s GSA to honor LGBTQ+ history month! On October 16 at 11:50 the GSA will be hosting an LGBTQ history Kahoot, that will have a prize and lots of fun!
“We’re going to do the queer history kahoot and talk about some, specifically Latinx and LGBTQ historical figures, because we are at the tail end of Latinx heritage month, and we want to highlight them. It’s also National Coming Out Day so we are going to be talking about that at that meeting as well,” said GSA president and senior Roz Borah.
You can find the Zoom link on the San Marcos website under the clubs tab or get the Zoom link from the San Marcos GSA’s instagram page. Attending the GSA is a terrific way to celebrate LGBTQ+ history month as well as a way to educate yourself in a fun environment!
So SMHS history teachers, the librarians, and the GSA would like to formally invite you to celebrate this month. Celebrate it with learning, and books, and games, and celebrate it with appreciation and respect for those who came before us and those of us who will go on to recreate it. This month is about so much more than pumpkins and ghosts, it is about LGBTQ+ history and the amazing battles they fought that are unjustly not told. Remember, it is our job to tell those stories and to honor this month.