A Buried History: LGBTQ+ Narratives Erased


Devin Garcia

On Aug. 14, 2019, the Trump Administration made plans to grant federal contractors the ability to use “religious exemptions” as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workforce and urged the EEOC to undo the workforce protections of LGBTQ+ employees that were administered in the Obama-era.

I was 11 the first time I heard the word gay. It was considered a bad word, an insult to someone being affectionate. Needless to say, it wasn’t something I was able to understand as normal – at least until recently.

I realized I liked girls in middle school, but I tried to deny it. I grew up with half my family expressing homophobic views, all my female friends liked boys, as far as I knew, and being gay was treated as a shameful secret.  But it’s not bad or weird, it’s just the way some people are, and that needs to be addressed in schools.

I have never encountered anything that has shed a positive light upon the LGBTQ+ community in all of my 13 years of American schooling. It isn’t addressed in health class, there aren’t any books about it or even any books written by people in the community, and history class never once mentioned our rich, and sometimes horrifying, history.

It’s likely you’ve never heard of Marsha P. Johnson, leader of the Stonewall riots, or the fact that German soldiers placed in concentration camps on account of their sexual orientation were imprisoned even after the end of WWII to “atone for their sins.” In fact, Alan Turing, a mathematician who contributed largely to the end of WWII by cracking Nazi codes and furthering computer science, was prosecuted in 1952 for “homosexual acts” and eventually died as a direct result of government persecution. 

You probably haven’t heard of conversion therapy either, which is a pseudo-science supposed to “cure” homosexuality through methods of mental and physical torture. The practice has been condoned as ineffective and cruel by every major mental health organization, and yet it’s still legal in 32 states. 

 Furthermore, in the United States, approximately one third of all transgender people who were seeking medical treatment were turned away, 70.1% of students in the community faced discrimination from their peers, 29 states allow employers to fire their employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and approximately 1 in 30 LGBTQ+ youth are left homeless and without help due to rejection from their families. In fact, according to the Human Rights campaign, about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+. Perhaps most suggestively, President Trump has recently legalized faith-based discrimination towards the community. And none of this compares to some other countries where LGBTQ+ people can be sentenced to death or subjected to cruel punishments, like being stoned, if anyone even suspects them of homosexuality.

It often seems like all of these issues are avoided by the education system because they don’t want to address the distinct otherness they seem to believe this community brings. They think it will confuse the children and that we don’t deserve to be accepted openly. But they’re wrong.

If I had been properly educated, I wouldn’t have hated myself for so long for liking other girls, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as wrong because I couldn’t imagine myself as the dutiful wife for a boy like I was told I should and would be, and I definitely wouldn’t have thought that I couldn’t be gay until I at least tried being with a boy. Only my sister and friends helped me see differently. 

If the education system had properly taught my parents, and generations before them, I wouldn’t have had messages like “Gays are the reason the world’s messed up” or “the only role you’ll have when you grow up is the perfect housewife to your husband” drilled into my head. Even now, I sometimes feel guilty because I won’t be able to meet the expectations I’m held to.

Teaching children about the LGBTQ+ community won’t harm them or somehow turn them gay. If those tactics worked, I would have been straighter than an arrow, given all the heterosexual media and lessons I grew up with. No. Teaching LGBTQ+ history will save youth and adults years of denial and self-hatred. It will help prevent students from hating people different from themselves, and one day stop them from continuing the cycle with their own kids. The only thing that educating students about the LGBTQ+ community will do is create a more tolerant, less hate-filled society, where young people know that they, too, have the right to exist.

And in all honesty? I’m just sick of the paradox of being hated for love.