Why LGBTQ+ Education Matters

Changing narratives, curriculums necessary for inclusion in community

From “safe space” stickers on classroom doors, the large pride flag displayed directly across from the science wing entrance, to the multitude of LGBTQ+ affinity groups, our community has made efforts to make school a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks. Despite these efforts, there continues to be a distinct lack of comprehensive education surrounding LBGTQ+ topics as it is rarely woven through various course curriculums.

For instance, Florida’s House of Representatives passed HB 1557, also called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would legally ban all LGBTQ discussions in schools and prohibit students from speaking about LGBTQ family members. Moreover, if a student comes out to a teacher, or if a teacher finds out a student is queer, they would be required to tell the student’s parents. As a result, there are no opportunity for queer folks to learn about their identities in school and it puts vulnerable children at an even greater risk.

This creates an educational environment that excludes queer youth while censoring topics that students both need and deserve access to. This legislation is borne from politicians with ideals that are often embedded within the broader context of conservative, religious movements that uphold the stigmatization of LGBTQ+ youth. 

There continues to be a distinct lack of comprehensive education surrounding LBGTQ+ topics as it is rarely woven through various course curriculums.”

The first step in emphasizing the importance of LGBTQ+ education in school is understanding that LGBTQ+ history is inextricably connected to American history and should not be overlooked or separated into a single unit out of an entire semester worth of work. It seems nearly impossible to ensure that queer students feel seen and represented when their identities are pushed to the side. 

Cris Larson, Health teacher, articulates the importance of LGBTQ+ education, “I think that representation matters… it is super important for the well-being of the individual to feel like they matter and that they have value and that they are equally deserving of finding out about their health.”

Similarly, Lora McManus-Graham, the Equity and Instruction Chair, echos Larson’s emphasis on representation, stating, “[I]t is really important for students of all ages to see themselves reflected in the curriculum that they study and… for students to think that they can be anything and do anything because they see somebody like themselves.” 

Continuing, Graham explains the importance of learning about diverse historical figures in efforts to make content more engaging and relevant: “[W]e study figures who might have done something really great in their career… but they also have all these identities and when all those identities happen to also be a white man, that sends a message about the impact people have and who gets remembered in history. Even if that message isn’t explicitly stated, the implicit, subconscious messaging is equally important.” 

Subconscious, underlying societal attitudes that assume straight and cisgender identities result in the treatment of queer identities as separate from our lives as students. “[I]dentity is a real part of who we are and what we bring to the community and so we can’t isolate who you are as a student from who you are in your gender identity [or] sexual identity,” says Graham. 

Although it can feel overwhelming to tackle an entire education system, smaller acts of inclusion can have large impacts. Starting with an increased awareness surrounding language used in everyday conversations to ensure that it does not reinforce heternormative views of identity is crucial. Beyond that, working to integrate LGBTQ+ topics and history and courses will allow students to grow up knowing that their identities are seen and valued.